Q: What’s the difference between a memoir and an autobiography? —Marty
A: In some general contexts, memoir and autobiography can be used interchangeably. In fact, Amazon.com puts them in the same category. But there’s a key difference that publishers use to define each—the timeline covered in the writing.
An autobiography focuses on the chronology of the writer’s entire life while a memoir covers one specific aspect of the writer’s life. So, if I chose to write about my complete life up to this point—including growing up in Cincinnati, my time in New York, the few years I spent in Chicago, and eventually landing at Writer’s Digest—I’d write an autobiography. If I wrote a book about the winter of my sophomore year in high school where I got my tongue stuck to an icy pole, I’d write a memoir.