Writing a Support Letter: Anecdotes — Give Your Letter Character

character - abe lincoln
Abe knew how to bring the character.

Sharing a short, interesting story is one of the most basic ways to add character to your writing. And readers love anecdotes. These little stories are often what people remember after reading an article or listening to a speech.

A few of the key attributes of a good anecdote:

1.    Brief
You’ll need to determine how much of the story needs to be told, and cut out unnecessary elements to keep it short and to the point. Also, make sure it supports the main point but doesn’t take over. Anecdotes are supporting characters to the overall story you’re telling.

2.    Relevant
Don’t cram a story in that doesn’t fit. That’s a good rule of thumb for any type of writing. With a support letter, you can always include a story you want to share at a different point in the letter. Just don’t try to prove a point with a story that takes away rather than adds to your meaning.

3.    Detailed
Writing is better when it’s specific—remember to show not tell. Again, you’ll have to weigh detail against brevity. Be as specific as you need to be to make the anecdote clear and crisp, and cut out the rest. It’s often helpful to write out the whole anecdote first, and then go back to trim the unnecessary pieces—possibly even making several read-throughs.

Using the right anecdote — one that fits, one that’s short, and one that is specific — can add that perfect pop of color to any message.

Do you have any favorite writers or speakers who use anecdotes well?