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Speaking Better English - Anecdote

Updated: May 25


Anecdote What is it, and how and when would you use it in spoken English
Speaking Better English - Anecdote

An anecdote is a very short story about some real person or a real event that happened to the speaker. The idea of this story to make the listener compare a current event of happening with an older story.

For instance: Two parents are discussing whether or not to get a dog for the family. The father says:

When I was a kid, my dog was my best friend. My childhood was better because of him.

The mother can then compare this story with the current state of affairs then might use the anecdote as persuasion that they should get a dog.


There are basically five types of anecdote

Humorous – stories that can add a bit of humour to the topic being discussed. People were arguing about their pets which was the best for young children. The parents were saying that this one or that one was best. I interjected, “We had a rabbit once. It was delicious.” Everyone laughed and stopped arguing. Reminiscent I remember that when I was a boy a pound of potatoes only cost 4 old pence.

Philosophical A popular topic is on the morals of lying and if it is right sometimes to lie. My wife asked me if I thought that she looked fat in this dress. I answered No. If I had answered truthfully then I might not be standing here telling you this story.

Inspirational One of my students had a brain tumour and didn’t have too long to live, but she took her A levels anyway and managed to get A passes in all her subjects. She couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her parents and leaving them with the memory that she hadn’t tried her best.

Cautionary My students were talking about drugs. I had a student a few years ago who tried glue sniffing for the first time. I had to say something at his funeral. It was very upsetting.

Anecdotes, are very common and highly effective devices found in common conversation. Anecdotes make the conversations more personal and interesting. Usually, they are used in such a way that makes the audience laugh or think more deeply about the topic in hand. Anecdotes are often found in films and plays to relate the viewer to real life situations and to engage more with the audience. A quote is something that has been said by a person which is not necessarily a story. Sometimes, quotes can be used as anecdotes but this does not make the quote an anecdote. Anecdotes are used by all people in many conversations and serve all sorts of purposes.

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