Epilogue or Afterword? A Guide for the Confused | Proofed’s Writing Tips

Epilogue or Afterword? A Guide for the Confused

“Epilogue” and “afterword” both refer to sections at the end of a book. However, there are some important differences between the two:

  • Epilogue – An epilogue takes places within the world of the story, typically to follow up on events after the main plot has ended.
  • Afterword – An afterword is a concluding note from the author or another contributor, written from the writer’s point of view.

For more on the differences between an epilogue and an afterword, read on below.

What Is an Epilogue?

An “epilogue” comes after the final chapter of a story and supplements or follows up on the main narrative. This might be for a number of reasons, such as to:

  • Tie up any loose ends remaining from the main plot or subplots.
  • Reveal the final fates of the main characters or the story world.
  • Remind readers of the central themes running through the story.
  • Offer an alternate point of view that wasn’t represented in the main narrative.
  • Hint at the next installment in a series of works.

Importantly, an epilogue is always a part of the story world. It might not be written from the same perspective as the rest of the story (e.g., it might shift to a different character’s point of view). And it might take place long after the main story has ended. But an epilogue is an extension of the story, not something separate to it.

Since they are part of a story, epilogues are most common in fiction. However, you will also find them in narrative non-fiction (e.g., biographies and memoirs).

What Is an Afterword?

An “afterword” is like a foreword, only it appears after the main body of a book as a concluding section. Sometimes, a book will be published with an afterword from the first edition. In other cases, though, a book will only gain an afterword in later editions (e.g., to let the author reflect on how their ideas have changed).

Regardless of whether they are part of the original manuscript or later additions, though, afterwords typically focus on one (or more) of the following:

  • How the book came to be, which might include details such as the author’s personal circumstances, the research they did, or the writing process.
  • A final or concluding thought on the themes or subject matter in the book.
  • The significance of the book for the genre or subject area.
  • Details on the book’s publication history or influence.
  • The writer’s relationship with the book’s author.

This will usually be written by the author, but somtimes it will be someone else with a connection to the author, story, or subject matter. Since they aren’t restricted to narrative writing or part of a story, afterwords are common in both fiction and non-fiction books. In both cases, though, they are written from the perspective of the author or another contributor, not a character or narrator within a book.

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