An anecdote is a factually or partly factual semi-autobiographical story which serves to elucidate a point, serve as a relevant supporting example, or simply to entertain. Anecdotes bring the speaker's background into clearer focus for his or her audience, effectively filling out their personal image in the eyes of others.

For these reasons, an anecdote is essentially a folksy institution, in the sense that it does not satisfy authoritative criteria for use in scientifically or legally rigorous applications. People will dismiss examples or evidence presented as "merely anecdotal" suggesting the speaker's experience or assertion either does not carry enough relevance to be considered seriously, or does not effectively encapsulate the general tendencies or actual global realities of a particular subject. Basically, this means that anecdotes have a time and a place where they are welcome; they shine in personal conversation, introductions, and storytelling. They are not as effective in settings and situations where precision are required and expected. Personal anecdotes meant to serve as incontrovertible evidence in support of a speaker's argument would be laughingly dismissed in any serious debate.

In the realm of advertising, anecdotes have long been a staple of marketing products which are meant to improve the customer's quality of life. In an anecdotal advertisement, known commonly as a testimonial, a person who is usually a paid actor will relate their supposed experiences using the product in question. They will describe how their life was before using the product and what their problems were, and then they will discuss how the product completely turned their life around. Communications regulators have cracked down on this type of advertising has been cracked-down on within the last few decades, either requiring that the advertiser specify in fine print that the person providing the testimonial is a paid actor, or, in some states, banning the practice outright under penalty of false advertising claims.

Anecdotes can be especially effective and welcome in the realm of teaching. When introducing a new concept or activity, good teachers will often provide an entertaining or personally revealing anecdote which not only showcases the new material via example, but also rewards attention and excites students with a combination of humor and personal sharing. Once a student has a real-world example of the concept's importance and application, it is easier to get into the swing of learning the new material and making an effort to assimilate its lessons.

Anecdotes will, perhaps, forever be one of the best and most natural ways to break the ice with someone new and begin to forge a relationship. By offering insights into your own background, inclinations and experiences, you not only put the other person at ease but establish possible points of mutual interest.