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Using Anecdotes in Formal Writing

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Using Anecdotes in Formal Writing

Illustration of a flying fish jumping over a boy in a rowboat
© Thoughtful Learning 2015

An anecdote is a brief story used to make a larger point. Anecdotes can add a storytelling touch to your explanatory and persuasive writing—connecting your ideas to real life and real people. Here are some ways you can use anecdotes in the main parts of formal writing.

Beginning: To Introduce a Topic

In the ocean, two hungry dolphins pick up speed when they spot a school of flying fish. Sensing danger, the fish dart ahead. Soon they are cruising through the deep blue water at 20 miles an hour. As the dolphins get closer, the flying fish break through the surface, spread their fins like wings, and take off. Amateur explorers have called them “dragonflies of the deep,” but flying fish are most definitely fish.

Middle: To Support an Idea

The bleachers in the gym are unsafe. Some of the boards are cracked, which makes them hard to navigate. Just last week, a student was walking up the bleachers when she tripped on a crack, spilled her popcorn, and banged her wrists. She wasn't seriously hurt, but the next person who trips on the bleachers might not be so lucky.

Ending: To Make a Final Point

On the third turn of the 111th lap at Bellville Speedway, racer Keith Sweat lost control of his vehicle and slammed into a new shock-absorbing wall. After a caution flag cleared the track, Sweat unbuckled his new head and neck braces and walked out of his mangled race car without so much as a scratch or limp. At least for today, the new mandatory safety measures triggered by a year-old tragedy fulfilled their promise: to keep drivers safe.

Your Turn Identify an anecdote in each of the following stories. Then choose one of the anecdotes and follow a similar pattern to create an anecdote about a topic of your choosing. (Click on the links to find each story.)

  1. "Hang Up and Drive"
  2. "Save the Elephants"
  3. "100 Years Old. 5 World Records."

From page 101 in Writers Express

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