Six Word Stories:
A Lesson on Inference

Objective: make complex inferences about text and use textual evidence to support understanding


Hemingway was what we call a “lean writer.” He tried to capture the essence of an event or a feeling, instead of writing everything that happened or was said. He once wrote a story in just six words and said, seriously, that it was his very best short story.

Read the following six word, and think about it silently.

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”


  • Turn and tell a partner what happened. If you are working on your own, then just jot down your answer on a piece of paper. What is the story about?
  • You just made an inference – you figured out something the author didn’t actually say, but fully intended the reader to understand on his or her own. You read between the lines.
  • All authors expect readers to make inferences because authors can’t possibly put everything into words.

  • Would the story would be different if it said:

“For sale: baby shoes, never used.”

  • Does changing one word matter? How so?
  • What about:
“For sale: baby shoes, wrong color.”

  • If possible, find two other students with different ideas about one of the variations.
  • Ask, "what they would need the author to tell us to prove they were right?"
  • What other interpretations are possible?

Other authors have tried their own hand at writing six word stories. Find a partner and discuss one or two of the following. You can also look up the authors to see how their six word stories match their typical writing style.

Sitting next to her, saying nothing.
- Marlon Jimenez. This is Marlon’s first publication. He wrote it in 8th grade.

Reported hit and run. Then ran.
- AnnaLee Pauls

Facebook. Tweeting. Texting. Meeting. Handshake. Fleeing.
- Grame Gibson

Three to Iraq. One came back.
- Grame Gibson

Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.
- William Shatner

From torched skyscrapers, men grew wings.
- Gregory Maguire

The baby’s blood type. Human, mostly.
- Orson Scott Card

Here is some background on Six Word Stories:

I challenge you to write your own six word story. You can check how well you did by handing someone else your story to read and see if the person makes the intended inference. Post the stories around the classroom or on in the discussion thread below.