Anecdote Master Class Part 1 – How to Let the Story Tell Itself

Here is Part 1 of a Series of Tips on Using Anecdotes to Lend Power and Authenticity to Your Writing

Let the Story Tell Itself without Telling the Reader the Story

I can usually identify professional-quality writing within a matter of a seconds, and the most immediate tell-tale is whether the writer is helping the story unfold or is clumsily relaying events second-hand.

This is amateurish:

This part of the city is really poor.  Children entering kindergarten don’t get enough to eat, and you know that you can’t concentrate when you’re hungry. Around that part of the city the homes are dysfunctional so of course there isn’t any regular schedule of meals, and that is something I heard from students, some of them not having any idea when people usually ear.

This is professional:

Emily’s teacher, who had noticed that the five-year-old had great difficulty concentrating and suspected that she had not eaten before coming in for the afternoon kindergarten session.

 The teacher asked what Emily usually had for lunch.

 Emily was bewildered: “What’s lunch?”


The second example tells a story, has dialogue, and a punch line at the end.  It shows, rather than tells – and it accomplishes the task by using an anecdote.

 Tomorrow: Why Certain Anecdotes Work, and How to Choose Them…

Author: admin

Carl Hausman is Professor of Journalism at Rowan University, the author of several books about media, and a commentator about the role of media and ethics in civic life.

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