Anecdotes cover a wide variety of stories and tales, especially since they can be about basically any subject under the sun. What is an anecdote, you ask? An anecdote is a short story, usually serving to make the listeners laugh or ponder over a topic. Generally, the anecdote will relate to the subject matter that the group of people is discussing.
For example, if a group of coworkers are discussing pets, and one coworker tells a story about how her cat comes downstairs at only a certain time of the night, then that one coworker has just told an anecdote.
Understanding the context in which an anecdote is placed will help you to better recognize the purpose and point of these brief stories. All of these following cases are examples of times when anecdotes are used:
All of these stories serve particular purposes.
Sometimes telling a story just makes people laugh or brightens the mood. In the example about favorite recipes, the woman is sharing a tale with her friends or coworkers about a time that she experienced a disaster in the kitchen. Whether she tried to boil an egg without water or made fudge that turned as hard as a rock, the other people are sure to have a good laugh.
In several of these examples, such as the parents on Christmas morning and the elderly couple, people are talking about their pasts. They are looking back favorably on moments in their lives and sharing the joy of that time with others.
In the fire safety case, the speaker is trying to show the audience what can happen if they do not follow proper procedures. Sometimes just laying out rules for individuals is not effective, and they need to hear frightening stories of dangers that can be avoided by following these regulations.
Returning to the examples about tutors and tutoring sessions, the speakers want the students to know they are there to help, and that they have faced similar struggles. They want the students to know that there is the possibility of a brighter future if they put the work in.
Of course, anecdotes do not have to serve such specific purposes all the time. They can just be part of a natural conversation with other people.
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