If you want to learn how to write autobiography, you should know that it is one of the genres of personal memory literature. The first mention of autobiography dates back to 1797 in William Taylor’s review of Isaac Disraeli’s book “Diaries and Self-Biographies”, where W. Taylor proposed to replace the term ‘self-biography’ with ‘autobiography’. Despite this fact, some researchers believe that this term appeared a little later, in particular, in 1809 in the works of Robert Southey.
From The History Of The Emergence Of Autobiography
Some researchers studying the question of how to write autobiography, believe that autobiographical writing originated from the writing of “Confession” by Augustine the Blessed, but despite this, there is still no clear concept of this genre. Theoretical and critical understanding of the genre of autobiography began only at the end of the twentieth century with the publication in 1956 of the article by the French critic Georges Gusdorf “Conditions and limits of the autobiography.” The author describes the autobiography as a phenomenon of Western culture, because only in it with the advent of Christianity, a new person appeared who is able to identify himself as a separate, self-sufficient person. He defines the specific purpose of the autobiography and its anthropological significance as a literary genre, based on the fact that the autobiography, reproducing and interpreting life in its entirety, is at the same time a means of self-knowledge of the author. J. Gusdorf argues that the autobiography is a mirror in which the personality is reflected. The process of writing an autobiography is a reflection of the author’s past and present life.
Philippe Lejeune is another well-known critic and researcher of the issue of how to write autobiography. He developed the theory of the ‘autobiographical pact’ – a kind of agreement between the author and the reader, according to which the author undertakes to tell the truth about his life, and the reader, in turn, believes what he reads. Fundamental was the statement of Philippe Lejeune that the autobiography is a retrospective prose story of a real person who tells about his own existence, focusing on the history of his personality.
James Olney, a representative of the early Anglo-American theorists of the autobiography genre, focused on the difficulties encountered in trying to define the term autobiography. He proposed to abandon genre definitions and understand autobiography as a dynamic unity of three components: autos, bios, grapho.
In the simplest sense, according to the Literary Dictionary, an autobiography is a literary genre, the main character of which is the author himself.
How To Write Autobiography: Paper Structure
Before telling you about how to write autobiography, a distinction should be made between a literary autobiography and an autobiography as a document. The latter should contain information only socially significant and most important for the official understanding of a person’s life, taking into account the purpose of creating a document. Therefore, the text of an autobiography written upon admission to a higher education institution may differ from an autobiography intended for applying for a job. In the latter, the main place should be occupied by information about the specialty received, positions held in previous years, knowledge of foreign languages, etc.
The constructive principle of this genre is the chronological principle of presenting the basic biographical data, from birth to the time of writing the document.
If you want to learn how to write autobiography quickly and efficiently, you should remember that an autobiography usually has the following chapters:
- title (the word ‘Autobiography’, written in the middle of the sheet with a capital letter);
- standardized beginning (I, last name, first name, date, and place of birth;
- ending (date located on the left side of the sheet, and signature on the right side).
The structure of the autobiography includes such elements as:
- surname, name. Date and place of birth;
- study at school: when and where a person studied;
- education after school: when and where an individual studied, what specialty received;
- work after school: when, where a person worked;
- work at the present time. Place and position;
- marital status;
- date of writing the autobiography, signature.
While studying various questions on the topic of how to write autobiography, try not to forget that in the text of the autobiography itself, each new block of information usually begins with the definition of the time and is necessarily graphically highlighted with a paragraph (red line).
Lexical and Clichéd Constructions Typical for Autobiography
The information below will help you understand how to write autobiography correctly. Study it carefully.
First of all, it should be mentioned that an autobiography always begins with an indication of the name and surname. Here you should pay attention to the word order. The personal pronoun ‘I’ is used only in the standardized beginning of an autobiography, and then the use of personal pronouns should be avoided (due to the norms of the official business style).
In the text of the autobiography, the following verbs and verb combinations are often used: go to school, university, faculty, courses, work; study at school, lyceum, institute, university, faculty, courses; finish school, lyceum, university, courses; get a diploma, specialty, qualification, profession, academic degree; work in a factory, firm, department, university, agency, school; work as a teacher, engineer, translator, professor, chief engineer; be a student, graduate student, trainee.
When writing a section on marital status, usually clichéd constructions are used: married – not married; have (one) child, two children, have no children.
When designating a certain time period of study or work, the construction ‘from … to …’ is often used: For example: From 2010 to 2020…
In the final part of the autobiography, the construction ‘from what year to the present + verb in the present tense’ is usually used. For example: From 2011 to the present, I am a university student/work as a translator.
You should also pay attention to the rules of spelling the names of organizations and institutions. All words, except for auxiliary ones, are written with a capital letter in the names of the highest government, state organizations, and institutions of the country, as well as the most important international organizations—for example, the United Nations Ministry of Higher Education.
When writing a section of an autobiography related to study, foreign students often encounter difficulties in translating the names of educational institutions into another language. This is due to the difference in education systems in different countries. Therefore, it is advisable to preface the writing of an autobiography with an introductory conversation about the peculiarities of the education system in these countries.
How to Write Autobiography: Fundamental Rules
Basic rules for quickly learning the features of how to write autobiography:
- an autobiography is written in legible, neat handwriting or is typed on a computer;
- on the first line – the surname in the genitive case, on the second line – the name in the genitive case;
- the date and place of birth are written in accordance with the passport data (that is, exactly as it is written in the passport);
- information about close relatives – last name, first name, date of birth, place of work, home address;
- it is not allowed to make any abbreviations; they should be fully deciphered (for example, a joint-stock company instead of JSC, etc.);
- data on labor activity. If you did not work anywhere before entering the university, then write: “I did not engage in independent labor activity before entering the university.” If you worked/are working and there is an entry in the workbook about this, then in the autobiography in chronological order, the date of the beginning and end of work (study) in a particular institution or enterprise is indicated. It is obligatory to indicate the name of the enterprise, as well as the place of its administrative location;
- married must indicate the last name, first name of the wife/husband (the wife’s maiden name must be indicated in brackets after the last name), date of birth, series, and the number of marriage certificate, date of issue, and name of the institution by whom the document was issued. If there are children – name and date of birth;
- the autobiography indicates which foreign language you speak (studied at the university) and the degree of proficiency: fluently or with a dictionary;
- the name of the military commissariat in which you are registered is indicated;
- anthropometric data: six digits in the following order may also be provided (it depends on the purpose for which the autobiography is created) – height; the size of the headgear; gas mask size; clothing size; shoe size; blood type;
- at the end of the autobiography: on the left is the date of writing the autobiography, on the right – your signature.
Exercises to Help You Learn How to Write Autobiography Correctly
When studying how to write autobiography, you can use the following types of assignments:
- consideration of the proposed sample of autobiography; analysis of the structure of the used language means; highlighting clichéd structures;
- correction of mistakes made in the text of the autobiography; comparison with the correct option;
- exclusion of redundant information from the proposed sample, selection of socially significant data;
- reworking a free autobiographical presentation into the text of a document;
- the chronological arrangement of information;
- writing an autobiography of a fictional person on the proposed dates;
- translation of an autobiography from one language into another;
- selection of the necessary information from the text of a free autobiographical presentation in a foreign language and writing an autobiography in English.
How to Write Autobiography: Sample
Consider the sample below. It will help you to learn how to write autobiography and comply with all paper design requirements:
I, Olivia Smith, was born on November 3, 1973, in London.
In 1980, I went to the first grade of the school “European Center” in London. In 1990, after graduating from school, entered the State University, Faculty of Philology, Department of English Language and Literature. In 1995, graduated from the university with a degree in English Language and Literature. After graduating from university, I was awarded the qualification of a teacher of English language and literature. Since September 1997 and till now, I have been working as a teacher at the London School of English. Since September 2005, I have been studying by correspondence in the postgraduate course at the Department of English Language of the Faculty of Philology of London National University.
I have the first category in chess, a candidate for master of sports in weightlifting. In 2001 won the competition “Best Teacher of the Year”.
My father, John Green, born in 1956, works as a mechanical engineer at Ameresco company in London.
My mother, Janie Green, born in 1959, works as the director of the London School of English.
Husband: Alex Smith, born in 1975, works as a driver for London Development & Construction company;
Daughter: Emilia Smith, born in 2001, is a pupil of the London School of English.
My close relatives and I were not under trial or investigation.
Now I live with my family at the address…
March 30, 2017 (Signature) Olivia Smith
So, you’ve got a lot of information on how to write autobiography effectively. Put what you’ve learned into practice and create great paper!