Biography vs. Memoir

What's the Difference?

Biography and memoir are both genres of non-fiction literature that focus on the lives and experiences of individuals. However, there are some key differences between the two. A biography is a detailed account of a person's life, typically written by someone else. It provides a comprehensive overview of the subject's life, including their background, achievements, and impact on society. On the other hand, a memoir is a personal narrative written by the subject themselves, focusing on specific events, experiences, and emotions that shaped their life. Memoirs often delve into the author's inner thoughts and reflections, providing a more intimate and subjective perspective. While biographies aim to present an objective and well-rounded view of a person's life, memoirs offer a more personal and subjective account.


DefinitionA detailed account of a person's life written by someone else.A personal account of a specific period or aspect of a person's life written by the person themselves.
AuthorWritten by someone other than the subject of the biography.Written by the person who experienced the events being described.
PerspectiveThird-person perspective.First-person perspective.
FocusProvides a comprehensive overview of a person's life.Focuses on a specific period, event, or theme in the author's life.
AccuracyRelies on research, interviews, and external sources to present an objective account.Relies on the author's memory and personal interpretation, which may introduce subjectivity.
Subject's involvementThe subject of the biography may have little or no involvement in the writing process.The author is intimately involved as they are writing about their own experiences.
ScopeCan cover the entire life of the subject, from birth to death.Focuses on a specific aspect or period, often excluding other parts of the author's life.
ObjectiveSeeks to present an objective and balanced account of the subject's life.May have a more subjective and personal tone, reflecting the author's emotions and perspective.

Further Detail


Biography and memoir are two popular genres of literature that provide readers with insights into the lives of real people. While both genres focus on recounting someone's life story, there are distinct differences between them. In this article, we will explore the attributes of biography and memoir, highlighting their unique characteristics and discussing how they offer different perspectives on the subject's life.

Definition and Purpose

Biography is a genre that presents a detailed account of a person's life, covering various aspects such as their upbringing, achievements, and impact on society. It aims to provide an objective and comprehensive view of the subject, often relying on extensive research and interviews with people who knew the individual. On the other hand, memoir is a more personal form of storytelling, focusing on specific events or periods in the author's life. It is subjective in nature, as it reflects the author's own memories, emotions, and interpretations of their experiences.

Scope and Focus

Biographies typically cover the entire life span of the subject, from birth to death, or at least until a significant point in their life. They delve into the subject's background, family history, education, career, and major accomplishments. Biographers often aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject's life, placing them within the context of their time and society. In contrast, memoirs have a narrower focus, zooming in on specific events, relationships, or themes that hold personal significance for the author. Memoirs may cover a shorter period or specific aspects of the author's life, offering a more intimate and introspective exploration.

Author's Perspective

Biographies are typically written by authors who are not directly involved in the subject's life. They rely on research, interviews, and other sources to construct an objective narrative. Biographers strive to present a balanced view, considering multiple perspectives and analyzing the subject's actions and motivations. Memoirs, on the other hand, are written by the individuals themselves or with the help of a ghostwriter. As a result, memoirs offer a highly subjective perspective, as the author shares their personal memories, emotions, and reflections on their own experiences. This subjective lens allows readers to gain a deeper understanding of the author's thoughts and feelings.

Reliability and Accuracy

Biographies are often considered more reliable and accurate due to the extensive research and fact-checking involved. Biographers strive to present a well-rounded and evidence-based account of the subject's life, drawing from various sources to corroborate their claims. However, biases and limitations in available information can still influence the narrative. Memoirs, on the other hand, prioritize emotional truth over factual accuracy. While memoirists aim to be truthful, they acknowledge that memory can be fallible and subjective. Memoirs may contain embellishments, omissions, or different interpretations of events, as they prioritize the author's personal perspective and emotional truth.

Writing Style and Narrative

Biographies often adopt a formal and objective writing style, resembling a historical or academic work. They follow a chronological structure, presenting events in a linear fashion and providing historical context. Biographers strive to maintain a balanced tone and avoid personal biases. Memoirs, on the other hand, embrace a more conversational and intimate writing style. They often employ literary techniques such as storytelling, vivid descriptions, and introspection to engage readers on an emotional level. Memoirs may not follow a strict chronological order, instead focusing on thematic connections or the author's emotional journey.

Reader Experience and Connection

Reading a biography offers readers a comprehensive understanding of a person's life and their impact on society. It allows readers to gain insights into historical events, cultural contexts, and the subject's contributions. Biographies can be particularly appealing to those interested in history, politics, or specific individuals. On the other hand, memoirs provide a more personal and relatable reading experience. Readers often connect with the author's emotions, struggles, and triumphs, finding resonance in their own lives. Memoirs can be powerful tools for empathy and self-reflection, as they offer a glimpse into the human experience through the author's unique lens.


While both biography and memoir share the goal of recounting someone's life story, they differ in terms of scope, perspective, reliability, writing style, and reader experience. Biographies offer a comprehensive and objective view of a subject's life, relying on extensive research and analysis. Memoirs, on the other hand, provide a subjective and intimate exploration of the author's own experiences and emotions. Both genres have their merits and appeal to different readers, offering unique insights into the lives of real people and the human condition as a whole.

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