If you’re here perusing our Elite Authors site, chances are you’re a writer. Or maybe an author. Wait, perhaps you’re both. But what’s the difference between an author and a writer anyway? These words are often used interchangeably, even by writers and authors themselves. But is that accurate, authors? Is it right, writers?
We can turn to the Merriam-Webster (M-W) online dictionary for clarification on both words. It says an author is “the writer of a literary work (such as a book).” As for writer, M-W defines it as “one who writes” and then offers author as an example. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it? But let’s explore further (not farther, but that’s one for another day).
Well, that depends. For instance, the writer and academic (and author!) Frank N. Magill stated in the Cyclopedia of World Authors that an author is “the person who originated or gave existence to anything” (such as a book or play). More specifically, he explains, “An author is the originator of a written work.” So an author can still be a writer. So, really, what’s the difference between an author and a writer?
Writers can pen—well, write—an essay, article, or literary work, but it could still be an author who actually dreamed up the idea for the plot or concept. Of course, in many instances, the writer and author are the same person. When they’re not, well, there’s a reason that ghostwriters are not called ghostauthors.
Another general consensus is that authors are published writers (especially of books), while mere writers are wannabes. There definitely is a certain status associated with being an author that seems to elude many writers. So maybe we could say that all authors are writers, but not all writers are authors.
Some of these nuances are debatable or at least open to interpretation. Ask ten people, and you’ll get ten different answers. Or take a gander on the internet—there are hundreds of comments on this very topic.
There are even some people who insist that the difference between an author and a writer stretches to autobiographies and biographies. They argue that in an autobiography, it’s an author writing about his or her own ideas and life, whereas the one who writes a biography about the ideas and life of another is not an author but a writer (because the ideas in the book are the subject’s and not the pen-holding crafter of the biography). So clearly, it’s possible for even this simple a debate to fall off the deep end.
In the end, we don’t think it matters whether you think of yourself (or anyone else) as a writer or an author. We are all people who adore working with words. Elite loves both authors and writers. There may be differences—stemming from who created what and who’s published or not—but hey, hats off to authors and writers everywhere (and especially our clients). After all, they’re all writers. That’s right.
Thank you for reading and for visiting our site. For other posts on grammar and various helpful goodies, visit our resources page. Happy writing!
Magill, Frank N. 1974. Cyclopedia of World Authors, vols. I, II, III (rev. ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Salem Press.