Difference between Biography and Autobiography

April 10, 2017 by Editorial Team

When you read a biography or an autobiography, you read about a person’s life, right? So what is the difference between them and which type of writing should you choose when you feel up for such reading? If you are still a bit confused about the difference between biography and autobiography, read this article.

Definitions

Biography vs Autobiography
The biography of Anne Frank, written by Melissa Müller

A biography is an account of a person’s life. It is non-fictional and an objective rendering of information about everything that has shaped the individual and has made him/her famous. Biographies are usually written about famous people like writers, artists, movie stars, or people who stood up against an oppressive system. This piece of writing tries to explain the context of their lives and actions – what made them who they are and caused them to write, to act, or to take a stand. This is why the person writing a biography must be very knowledgeable and well-informed. Years of study are required.

A biography normally requires consent from the person it is about or from his/her living relatives. It is written in the third person and the information must be true and checked by the author. The account is objective and it has the purpose of informing the readers.

autobiography
“The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, an autobiography

An autobiography is an account of one’s own life. The subject and the author are one and the same person. This type of writing is usually more subjective and is filled with emotions and personal accounts, impressions, and resolutions which have led to that person’s great achievements. It must not be fictional, but it still is just one person’s opinion on a series of events which may include other people as well. It is written in first person and it is meant to inform and to present a personal point of view.

Biography vs Autobiography

So what is the difference between biography and autobiography?

The main difference between a biography and an autobiography is the author. A biography is written by another person, while the autobiography is written by the subject of the book. This results in a series of small differences that can help you decide which type of account to choose.

To write a biography, the writer will have to collect facts, usually from other people or from other written texts. The author of an autobiography, however, will tell things as he/she experienced them. The biography author is compelled to be objective, while the author writing his own account can present personal opinions.

Access to certain information may be limited to an author who is an outsider, while the author who doubles as the subject can tell you exactly what he/she felt or thought in key moments. Therefore, a biography helps to provide you with clear context, as this information is easier to access. An autobiography, on the other hand, can provide you with clear motive and situation assessments.

The biography author will write in third person, while the autobiography author will write in first person, making the account more personal.

Comparison Chart

BiographyAutobiography
An account of a person’s lifeAn account of one’s own life
Written in third personWritten in first person
Is objectiveIs subjective
Presents information collected from the subject, his/her acquaintances, or from other sourcesPresents facts as they were experienced
Has the purpose of informing and presents the contextHas the purpose of informing and of explaining the motivation and thoughts behind some actions
Has restricted access to the subject’s thoughts and feelingsOffers access to these thoughts and feelings