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What Is an Autobiography?

An autobiography is a personal, written account of one’s life story. The individual of whom the story is about, usually actively participates in compiling and narrating the story. This is different to a biography which is always written by someone else.

A biography often uses the third person narrative voice, gives a dated historical account and may include perceptions and opinions of the subject individual. It narrates the events surrounding someone’s life.

There are different types of autobiographies, but the main thing is that the personal account goes beyond dates, events and facts, and includes explanations about why certain choices were made and how they felt towards certain people and their reactions to events. They are usually written in the first person narrative and point of view.

Some autobiographies are co-written, meaning that the individual lacked the witting skills or the time to do so themselves. The subject narrates their life to the writer who then compiles the narrations. These autobiographies usually begin with the phrase ‘as told to_’. Some autobiographies are written by ghostwriters who do not put their name to the text.

Another type of autobiography is a memoir. Whereas, most autobiographies explain the whole life of an individual, memoirs focus on a particular time or events, explaining an individual’s feelings and experiences as captured in their memory. Facts are not really necessary, of significance is the personal experience of something. This is the method used in Holocaust memoirs. Political figures such as Hitler (Mein Kampf) use memoirs to justify their actions and offer a personal account of history.

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