Updated my “Show, Don’t (Just) Tell” Handout

Taking advantage of a summer day in the office to tweak one of the most popular pages on my website. Five of my pages account for more than half of the traffic on my whole site, so I’ve made it a summer project to give those pages some attention, to make them worth the visit.

 

Show, Don’t (Just) Tell

A Simple but Effective Tip for More Engaging, Persuasive Writing

Don’t just tell me your brother is talented… show me what he can do, and let me decide whether I’m impressed. To convince your readers, show, don’t just tell them what you want them to know.

There. I’ve just told you something. Pretty boring, huh? Now, let me show you.

My brother is talented.

There’s nothing informative, or engaging, or compelling about this sentence. You have no reason to believe or disbelieve me, and no reason to care. (TELLING is boring and unconvincing.)

My brother modifies sports car engines, competes in ballroom dance tournaments, and analyzes chess algorithms.

“Wow, that guy is talented,” you say to yourself. You didn’t need me to TELL you what you’re supposed to think, because I carefully chose those details. (They SHOW you the range of my brother’s talents.)

Contents

  1. Choose Specific Details That Show Your Point
  2. Give the Reader a Reason to Feel Your Emotions
  3. Provide Engaging Details That Imply the Main Point
  4. Showing with Informative Details and  / or  Emotional Language
  5. “Telling” States Facts; “Showing” Invites Deeper Understanding
  6. Showing Prefers the Specific to the General
  7. Sometimes, “Telling” Is Good
  8. Related Resources