Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading

Q. Dear CMOS editors: Some colleagues are having a debate over whether an author’s personal life story written in third person should be considered an autobiography or a biography. The manuscript’s classification will drive decisions about including documentation in the work. Your help with this issue will be greatly appreciated.

A. It sounds as though you’re planning to classify this work based on a single factor: that it’s written in the third person. But that’s probably not a strong enough criterion. The decision should be made on the basis of the content of the book, more than the style it’s written in. Classifying a manuscript in this way might do more harm than good if the classification (rather than the actual content) drives major decisions such as whether to include documentation. Try to find other criteria for deciding how to classify the book, and don’t disallow a bibliography just because you choose one or the other. If possible, consult a librarian for more help on classifying your project.