EDNA: Narration

Many years ago when I began to teach English at the Kent School in Connecticut, I devised an acronym for my students based on two primary sources: Aristotle’s Rhetoric (4th century BCE) and Modern Rhetoric (1949) co-authored by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren.

Since then, I have introduced the acronym to thousands of students n the classroom and to even more executives in the workshops and seminars I have conducted.


Exposition explains with information

Description makes vivid with common details

Narration tells a story or explains a sequence

Argumentation convinces with evidence and/or logic (deduction and/or induction).

*     *     *

Almost all communications involve two or more of these levels of rhetoric. Let’s take a closer look at NARRATION.

The Greek word literally means to tell, relate, recount, reconstruct (step-by-step), review, etc.


When telling a story, a storyteller (first- or third-person) anchors events in a human or human-like (Disneyesque) context. The key elements are setting or situation, characters, issues and/or conflicts, plot developments, climax, and resolution.

When explaining a sequence (e.g. baking a cake), focus on the steps involved. For example: First, Then, Next, Also, And then, and Finally….Chronological order is usually appropriate.

Throughout history, storytelling has been the most popular — and most effective — means of communication.

For example, consider Aesop’s fables, Jesus’ parables, the tales by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, and more recently, the business narratives of Eliyahu Goldratt, Mark Miller, and Patrick Lencioni.

To get started toward mastering EDNA or at least ENA, it may be helpful to follow this simple formula: Focus on WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW...and WHY.

Meanwhile, of course, be specific.

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