Memoir vs Biography: What’s the Difference?

Memoir vs Biography

When it comes to writing about someone’s life, two common terms that come to mind are memoir and biography. Although both are forms of non-fiction, there are significant differences between them. In this blog, we will explore what a memoir and biography are, their similarities and differences, and when to use which.


A memoir is a personal reflection on a particular aspect of someone’s life, written by the person themselves. It is a narrative that focuses on the writer’s experiences, emotions, and perspectives. A memoir can cover a wide range of topics, such as relationships, travel, family, career, or personal growth.

Memoirs are written in a subjective style and often include the writer’s thoughts and feelings at the time of the events. They also provide a glimpse into the writer’s personality, beliefs, and values. The goal of a memoir is not to tell someone’s complete life story, but rather to share a specific period, event, or aspect of the writer’s life that holds personal significance.


A biography, on the other hand, is an account of someone’s life written by someone else. It is a factual and objective representation of a person’s life, including their experiences, achievements, and events. The author of a biography typically does extensive research, including interviews, archives, and other sources, to create a comprehensive account of the subject’s life.

The goal of a biography is to present a full and accurate representation of the subject’s life, from birth to death, with a focus on the significant events, achievements, and influences that shaped their life. Unlike memoirs, biographies are written in a third-person style and often aim to provide a more impartial and objective account of the subject’s life.

Similarities and Differences

Both memoirs and biographies are forms of non-fiction that offer a glimpse into someone’s life. However, the key difference is who is writing the account and the focus of the story. Memoirs are written by the subjects themselves and provide a personal perspective on specific aspects of their lives. Biographies, on the other hand, are written by someone else and aim to provide a complete and objective account of the subject’s life.

When to Use Which

If you are writing about your own experiences and emotions, a memoir is the way to go. However, if you are writing about someone else’s life, a biography is the appropriate form.

It’s also worth mentioning that both memoirs and biographies can be written in different formats, including books, articles, or even blogs. In recent years, the popularity of memoirs and biographies has skyrocketed, with many high-profile individuals sharing their stories with the world. From famous actors and musicians to politicians and activists, the desire to share personal experiences and life stories has never been greater.

Another difference between memoirs and biographies is the level of detail included. While a memoir is more focused on the personal experience of the writer, a biography often includes extensive research and background information on the subject. This can include information on the subject’s family, upbringing, education, and relationships, as well as their major accomplishments and setbacks.

When choosing between a memoir and a biography, it’s important to consider your audience and what type of story you want to tell. If you are writing for a general audience, a biography may be a better choice as it provides a more complete and objective account of the subject’s life. On the other hand, if you are writing for a specific group of readers, such as fans of a particular person or genre, a memoir may be more appropriate as it provides a personal and emotional connection to the subject.

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Additionally, it’s essential to keep in mind that both memoirs and biographies are subject to interpretation and bias, even if the writer aims to be objective. This is because people’s experiences and perspectives are unique, and no two people will see a situation in exactly the same way.

For this reason, it’s important to be mindful of your own biases and perspectives when writing a memoir or biography. This includes being honest about your own experiences, perspectives, and limitations as a writer. It also means being transparent about your sources and ensuring that your account is factually accurate to the best of your ability.

In the case of biographies, it’s also important to consider the subject’s privacy and the impact that your writing may have on their reputation. This means being respectful of the subject’s personal life and avoiding sensationalizing or distorting the truth.

Ultimately, writing a memoir or biography is a challenge that requires careful thought, research, and reflection. Whether you’re writing about yourself or someone else, the goal should be to create a compelling and honest representation of the subject’s life. Whether you’re writing for personal satisfaction or a wider audience, your goal should always be to preserve and share important stories that are meaningful to you and others.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are many different sub-genres within the categories of memoirs and biographies. For example, some memoirs focus solely on one particular aspect of the writer’s life, such as growing up in a certain environment or overcoming a particular challenge. There are also biographies that focus on a specific period of time in the subject’s life or a particular event that had a significant impact.

Another sub-genre of biographies is the authorized biography, which is written with the cooperation and support of the subject or their family. This type of biography is often seen as a more trustworthy and accurate representation of the subject’s life, as the author has access to private information and is able to interact with the subject directly.

In contrast, an unauthorized biography is written without the subject’s cooperation or support. This type of biography is often seen as more speculative and less reliable, as the author may have to rely on secondary sources and hearsay. However, unauthorized biographies can also offer unique insights and perspectives that would not be possible in an authorized biography.

When writing a memoir or biography, it’s also important to consider the tone and style of your writing. Memoirs are often written in a more personal and intimate style, while biographies are typically written in a more formal and objective tone. It’s important to choose a style that is appropriate for your subject and audience, as well as the type of story you want to tell.

In conclusion, memoirs and biographies are two distinct forms of non-fiction that offer different perspectives and focuses on someone’s life. While both offer an opportunity to delve into someone’s story, it’s important to choose the appropriate form for the type of story you want to tell. Whether you are writing about your own experiences or someone else’s life, the goal is to create an engaging and informative piece that provides readers with a deeper understanding of the subject.

Memoir vs Biography

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