If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

How do writers use examples to get their points across? | Reading

Examples are powerful tools for both readers and writers! As writers, we can use them to make arguments stronger. As readers, we're engaged in a push-and-pull with writers, and have to think critically about how examples are used in a text. By analyzing examples, we can determine their purpose, connection to the text, and identify any patterns or questions they raise.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

- [David] Hello, readers. Today I wanna talk about examples and how writers use them in informational text. As writers, we employ examples to help explain ideas. And as readers, we use those examples to grab hold of those ideas and better understand them. If I tell you that I have weird hobbies, I need to back up that statement with some examples. I need to illustrate just how weird they are. So if I say my hobbies include going for walks, reading books, and drinking tea, those are very ordinary interests, they're not weird at all. Not a good example. I need to be more selective and better support my claim that my hobbies are strange. So instead, I could say my hobbies include puppeteering, making bubble tea from scratch, and learning to read Middle English. Well, now we're getting somewhere, right? Now you're starting to understand just how much of a weirdo this David guy is. What is the function of an example? What does it do? When you come across an example, ask yourself, what purpose does this example serve? Why did the author introduce this detail here? How does this example connect to the text overall? Does it form a pattern with other details? And if so, what does that pattern tell me? And finally we ask ourselves, does this example raise other questions? Let's look at a text and evaluate its examples. Here's an excerpt from a piece about the author J.M. Barrie, the creator of "Peter Pan". "Barrie didn't have just one version "of the "Peter Pan" story, "he made changes along the way. "For example, he learned "that children were copying Peter Pan "and trying to jump out of their beds to fly. "Some of them were getting badly injured! "So Barrie added the rule that in order to fly, "you had to have fairy or pixie dust "blown on you first. "By adding this rule, "J.M. Barrie was trying to help children understand "that flying is magical, "so that they wouldn't try to do it themselves and get hurt." So the author is saying that J.M. Barrie changed "Peter Pan" and then he gives an example of the change. Let's zero in on that example and ask those questions that we just went over. So for this example, what is its purpose? Well, it does a couple of things. It shows us that J.M. Barrie was willing to make changes to his story after it was initially published. It shows us that the author wants to portray Barrie as a responsible person. He heard about children injuring themselves by copying his story and so he made an effort to prevent that by changing a detail in the story. It's also a pretty specific example that I can picture. I can imagine kids jumping off of tall things and getting hurt, and Barrie feeling worried about that. And because I can picture it, I can better understand it, which helps me better understand the overall text. I only excerpted a small portion of this text. So I'm not gonna ask how it connects to the text overall. But this example does raise other questions for me, like what other children's fiction accidentally encourages people to do dangerous stunts at home? Like jumping off your bed? Examples are really powerful! They can shape a reader's impression of a topic. As a writer, employ them tactically to help develop someone's understanding. Recognize that when a series of examples comes in sequence, it tells a story, and story is an incredibly powerful tool. Use it responsibly. As a reader, understand the power that examples have and pay attention to how they're being used. A well-chosen example or two can create a false narrative. As readers, we are engaged in a push and pull with writers, especially when they are trying to convince us of something. Make a writer work to convince you. Read with a skeptical attitude. And if you can do that, you can learn anything. David, out.