Author vs. Writer

Authors and writers are one and the same, are they not? After all, your favorite author is the genius writer of your favorite novel, right? You may be surprised to learn that some professionals dislike being labeled a writer because they are, in fact, the author of a literary work. Confused? Let us help.

Decoding English

Today we use the labels of “author” and “writer” interchangeably. We mingle them so habitually that we forget a distinctive difference lives between them. Much like the spotlight we put on editing vs. proofreading, subjecting these two terms to a decoding exercise results in a better understanding of how and when to use each one.

The Job Description of an Author

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an author is first the creator or originator of an idea. They are the source of a story. You could use the adage “the brains of the outfit” to describe an author.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary goes on to state that an author is also the writer of a literary work. However, writing is their secondary task. Not only does an author create a literary idea, but they also write the literary work.

In effect, an author wears two hats. They generally infuse more into a literary work than writers do. As a result, you can understand why some authors might be insulted to be labeled as only a writer when their job description is more demanding.

The Tale of a Writer

In contrast, a writer wears only one hat. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a writer as “one that writes.”

Writers are usually given assignments or asked to pen down someone else’s words. In most cases, they are not the source or creator of the idea, which is yet another reason an author may be offended if labeled as a writer.

It is generally accepted that authors write novels and stories. Writers tend to inhabit the realm of magazines and articles. However, it is not uncommon for authors to sometimes work as writers, and writers to occasionally work as authors. Many industry professionals carry both titles by working under a pseudonym.

Enter the Pseudonym

A pseudonym, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a fictitious name; especially : pen name.” Many well-known professionals have worked under pseudonyms during their careers. For example, Mark Twain was Samuel L. Clemens’ pseudonym.

Professionals use fictitious names for many reasons. They afford a greater freedom to explore multiple genres without becoming pigeonholed or confusing their audience. After all, if you’re beloved thriller novelist suddenly hit the New York Times Review with a bestselling romance novel; some readers could refuse to read another mystery novel by the same novelist. Genres often create an image the audience associates with the author. And sometimes upsetting that image can be harmful.

The Bottom Line: The next time you’re facing the choice of labeling someone as an author or a writer, take a moment to think about the distinction between these two titles.

An author is the creator or originator of an idea who also writes the literary piece. A writer is the writer of a literary piece either by assignment or by penning someone else’s words. While writer is seen as an all-encompassing word, be aware that die-hard authors just might take offense to it.

23 Comments Add yours

  1. I had not considered this before. Interesting to note.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for clearing up the literal uses for the words, Anita. You’ve made it very clear. 🙂

    Like

    1. Anita Lovett says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Suzanne! Cori did a great job pulling this piece together. 😀

      Like

  3. danniehill says:

    I don’t see the big deal, but when I started writing I liked to be known as a author. Now when asked I usually say I’m a writer. The next questions is ‘What do you write?’. It’s then I say I’m a novelist.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Now i begin to understand the differences between author and writer.

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  5. arlene says:

    Interesting but how would you classify bloggers? We don’t really pen someone else’ words but our own.

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    1. Anita Lovett says:

      I’d say (to be technical) we’re the authors of our blogs and specifically, bloggers – much like the specification of novelist.

      Like

      1. arlene says:

        Thanks 🙂

        Like

  6. Mick Sylvetsre says:

    As a writer your work is never really done.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. And a ghostwriter is alive, but a ghost author is not. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Jools says:

    I pick and choose between author, writer… and novelist !

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I had not perceived a difference (writer or author). However, I really do see the point. Thanks for this post. Hugs. 🙂

    Like

  10. I never really thought about this before, in fact I tend to reply that I’m a writer if asked about my occupation. However, I earn my living through my books, so therefore I should call myself an author, but I actually like being called a writer. Hmm, I’ll have to think about this some more…

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  11. I was completely unaware of this distinction. Thanks for pointing it out. An author would have nothing to copyright if s/he were not also a writer, for only the writing is copyrightable. An interesting idea to ponder, anyway.

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  12. I describe myself as an author. However I would not be offended if someone labelled me as a writer. Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:

    Do YOU agree? 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Anita Lovett says:

      Thanks for the reblog! We always appreciate it. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Welcome Anita, great articles like this need discussions 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  14. When asked about my profession I usually say a writer. Yes, I’ve written 8 novels but as I also do so much more (blogging, articles, interviews, working with a magazines etc.) than write books, I prefer writer. For me that does not mean I’m penning down someone else’s work. I create the topics of my articles as well as the questions for the interviews, so yep, definitely wearing two hats here. However, I’m also careful when referring to others.

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  15. This was really interesting!

    Like

  16. I use both when referring to myself. It seems a small thing really to get one panties in a huff about. But that’s just me. I’m a little more careful when referring to others as I know it can be a sensitive issue.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Anita Lovett says:

      I agree, D. I write, therefore I am a writer. I create the idea and write, so I am technically the author. If someone hires me to write for them, I’m their writer because they usually hand me an idea to develop. I technically qualify as both, but I’m not one to get offended by technicalities.

      It’s like the difference between “Ms.” and “Mrs.” “Ms.” is the catchall title when you don’t know if a woman is married or not, but some get so sensitive when they’re actually a “Mrs.”

      But it’s still good info. Thanks, Cori!

      Liked by 1 person

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