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  • Vanita Pal

How to use suitable Anecdotes for English secondary compositions

What are Anecdotes really?

Anecdotes can best be described as writing a story within a story. They are ‘mini stories’ and the prime reason for anecdotes to exist is a) to add spice to a composition and b) to add suitable content.

There are different types of anecdotes that you can use for compositions.

What makes an anecdote so appealing?

Anecdotes are appealing for only one reason. They add colour and vibrance to the essay as it is a human-interest story. Anecdotes recount something which took place recently and it engages the reader immediately. There is always a strong message behind an anecdote as it reveals more than an elaborate explanation of a point. And the best part is that you do not have to rely on creative vocabulary at all as the anecdote speaks for itself. It tells us what is going on in an emphatic way. They are easy to write provided that you follow the ‘where, when, who and what’ facts. It reveals a journalistic style and propels your writing to new heights. Just like a journalistic piece of news, the main purpose is to immediately create suspense and awe. If you have succeeded in doing that, your task is complete.

Different types of Anecdotes.

Yes, there are many types. You have the more statistical type where the date, time and place are of prime importance such as in Argumentative essays. It should be fairly recent too or there would be no point in writing it at all. The main purpose of choosing an argumentative essay anecdote is to enforce an ongoing point that is related to a current issue or evolving trends which are so dynamic as to be set to continue into the near future such as climate change. There is also the narrative type of anecdote which relies on experiences from the past.

Argumentative Anecdotes

Argumentative topics are based on facts. There may be scientific jargon, statistics involved and even quotes from reliable sources. Argumentative anecdotes should be meaty. This means that it should have i) statistics and ii) the latest information.

You may wish to write an anecdote about the rising rate of Covid 19 cases in the world. And you may wish to write about the plight of a particularly pitiful family where it was struck by Covid 19. Recounting the way they got it, their struggles with it, their attempt to get treatment and their misfortune would form the main part of the anecdote. An anecdote such as this should be human-interest centered. It should tug at the heartstrings of the readers and most importantly, it should make a point.

Expository Anecdotes

Expository essays are based on facts but it depends on your powers of observation as well. Not many anecdotes are needed as you may choose a descriptive style to write this essay.

It is the same with a descriptive essay as you will need to observe and write with your opinions. Avoid powerful, pithy comments as these are practical essays that demand a strong connection with your community or society.

When can you use anecdotes for these essays?

You may use them to describe a scenario that matches the keywords in the question. If the topic is about a community event, you may choose to recount a similar occasion when someone performed the same dance or song with varying results. You will have to choose something which matches your description of the topic closely. It will be better to avoid anecdotes if you have several facts and observations to support your essay topic.

Narrative Anecdotes

Then the narrative or reflective essay anecdotes are based on a moral or experiential background. The way narrative-type essays evolve is through the gradual self-realisation of the protagonist. There has to be a change of sorts, a learning journey, a sense of having gone through a process and the anecdote should support that.

Story-centered essays should highlight an anecdote which is a snippet from the protagonist’s past or an observation that yields an impact. It should provide the means for a learning curve in that author’s experience. That is the whole point of the narrative/ reflective anecdote. It more fiction-based, depending on the richness of the experience rather than the statistical value.

There are several types of anecdotes you may use with varying lengths. For eg, you may say, ‘it reminded me of Rick Chong who had also entered the same competition 2 years ago and he became a changed character ever since. I often wondered what had become of him.’ In such a case, the anecdote is only a few lines and it manages to create curiosity about, obviously, another character who may be headed for the same outcome as Rick Chong.

This is a really powerful way of writing and short anecdotes like these can be used to arouse strong sentiments.

It does not have to be a paragraph-long anecdote to create an impact. It can be something that is captivating and short. If you want to prepare your anecdotes beforehand, it may not be such a bad idea.

If writing argumentative essays is your top choice, then prepare for human-interest-type anecdotes. That can be done beforehand with all the statistics needed.

Usually, narrative/reflective-type anecdotes are easier to write.

No matter which genre you may choose for your compositions, it is always best to think of some anecdotes as part of your English exam preparation. It will always give you a supporting base for the ‘evidence’ portion of your writing.

And the best part is that anecdotes are always more attractive to read than your narrative. It is the best shot you have of standing out from the rest of the essays. So, start preparing now and get cracking so that you can start writing with style.


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