Difference Between Memoir and Biography

Key Difference – Memoir vs Biography


Memoirs and Biographies are two varieties that fall under the nonfictional genre, between which a key difference can be identified. You may have read books or watched movies that have been adapted from memoirs or biographies. Have you ever noticed a difference between a memoir and a biography? It is true that both memoirs and biographies are accounts of the personal life of an individual. If so, what is the exact difference between these two varieties? The key difference is that while a memoir specifically focuses on a particular incident or experience of an individual and attempts to highlight a point of view, a biography presents chronological events from the life of a particular person without specifically focusing on a particular experience. Also unlike in memoirs where a particular emphasis is laid on individual emotions, a biography tends to be more general. This article attempts to clarify the difference between a memoir and a biography in detail.

What is a Memoir?

According to the Oxford dictionary, a memoir refers to a written account of events that one remembers. A memoir tries to capture a special experience or event that an individual undergoes and elaborates on this experience. This process of elaboration incorporates the emotional experience of the individual as well as the point of view that the individual has as well. This is one of the key characteristics of a memoir. It can present a very personal point of view which allows the reader to understand the story from the person’s point of view.

A memoir does not stress over factual details or the presentation of chronological events although it consists of a story like nature. A memoir does not always narrate the story of a famous individual; on the contrary, it can be even the voice of a lay person presenting his point of view during a historical event, or a unique experience.

Key Difference - Memoir vs Biography

What is a Biography?

A biography is an account of a person’s life written by someone else. Biographies are very factual and present details of an individual from his birth till death. In some cases, these tend to elaborate on the social climate of that particular era as well for the reader’s benefit. Biographies are mostly written about famous individuals. When the individual himself writes this account, it is known as an autobiography.

Biographies narrate the story of the individual in chronological order. These do not elaborate on the individual’s emotional experience but strictly focus on the changes that come about in life. Some of the world famous biographies have now adapted into movies as well. For example, the biography of Stephen Hawking was adapted into the movie ‘The theory of everything’.

Difference Between Memoir and Biography

What is the difference between a Memoir and a Biography?

Definitions of Memoir and Biography:

Memoir: A memoir refers to a written account of events that one remembers.

Biography: A biography is an account of a person’s life written by someone else.

Characteristics of Memoir and Biography:


Memoir: A memoir focuses on a particular experience.

Biography: A biography focuses on the entire lifespan.


Memoir: A memoir tries to bring a specific perception or point of view of the individual.

Biography: A biography does not consist of a specific perception.


Memoir: A memoir gives more space to individual emotions.

Biography: A biography does not emphasize much on emotions.


Image Courtesy:

1. Hood to Highrise Memoir – First Shipment By ChispaTruth~commonswiki (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Theory of Everything_ver2_xlg By Jorge Figueroa [ CC BY 2.0] via Flickr