Both autobiography and biography describe the life of the story’s main character, making them a work of non-fiction. However, they both follow different writing styles and formats. When you write your life story, the result is an autobiography. But when you quote another person’s life story in a book, the end product is a biography.
Defining The Two
What is an Autobiography?
An autobiography is written in the first person, making it more subjective than a biography. Since it’s written by the person the book is about, it uses words like me, my, and I. It covers a broader scope of events occurring in the person’s life from birth until the present.
Additionally, it explains the underlying motives behind one’s action that may have led to a turn of events. However, the perspective may be narrower since the writer presents information in whichever way they perceive it.
How not to confuse an autobiography with a biography? Know that ‘auto’ is a Greek prefix meaning ‘self.’
What is a Biography?
A biography is written in the third person point of view but is more formal than an autobiography. You may use words like he, his, and him, or she, hers, and her. It escalates in chronological order, covering intricate details of the individual’s life in hopes of educating the readership.
However, if not chronological, the biography can be formatted as per the topic or theme. When writing by topic, you may discuss major events affecting a person’s life in detail. A thematic biography uses the subject matter’s characteristics to tie the events back to the central theme.
Because another person writes this format, a biography requires extensive research. As an author, you must ensure the details presented are error-free. Dig into primary sources such as newspapers, journals, interviews, pictures, and videos to reveal information about the subject.
Spotting The Differences Between the Two
While both autobiographies and biographies offer an account of the person’s life, there are notably different. The authorship and point of view are undoubtedly different (as mentioned above), but did you know about the following:
A Matter of Authorization
An authorized book can only be drafted after seeking permission and cooperation from the manuscript’s subject. On the other hand, an unauthorized book doesn’t seek the same. Autobiographies are always authorized; however, a biography may be authorized or unauthorized.
Regardless, it’s good practice to seek permission from the subject as it makes the biography far more compelling. You may also be susceptible to legal action if you publish a story on the subject’s life without permission.
The Degree of Objectivity
There are namely two forms of perception: subjective and objective. A subjective point of view focuses on personal interpretation or opinion of the subject matter. It may easily be influenced by several factors and includes different biases. On the contrary, an objective viewpoint presents data-based and factual information without considering the speaker’s feelings.
An author writing autobiography bases the content solely on their recollection of the events. They don’t incorporate feedback from other sources, which makes the context biased. In comparison, a biography writer gathers information from various sources. They conduct interviews with the subject and associated people or review event records to quote accurate information. For this reason, an autobiography is subjective, while a biography is objective.
Analyzing The Two
To thoroughly analyze an autobiography or biography, you must be aware of the following:
An author may write in a descriptive style, painting a picture for the reader to comprehend each scene precisely. Secondly, they may write emotionally to evoke feelings amongst the readership. Last but not least, they may opt for a narrative style to state events with limited reference to emotions. You may even use a combination of the three, but the dominating style reflects the purpose of writing.
For example, a celebrity writing an autobiography may write in an emotional style to persuade critics. Doing so heightens emotions and gathers sympathy from the vast majority.
Analyzing the author’s choice of words or phrases is known as diction. Authors may use simplistic or advanced vocabulary depending on how formal they wish the text appears. Additionally, they may use connotative words, i.e., words associated with emotions of all kinds.
For example, using slang words in a biography about World War II will be highly inappropriate. Chances are that your audience wouldn’t take you very seriously, either. Instead, archaic words can help induce a greater feeling of time and place in the readership.
The writer’s general attitude entrapped in the context is referred to as the tone. You may write an autobiography or biography in a respectful, solemn, reflective, or humorous manner. However, it may be subject to change between the lines of the book. Identifying the tone should help you see how the author shapes facts and examples to entertain, persuade, or inform.
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