You’ve probably heard the writing rule, “Show, don’t tell.” Some have called it the Golden Rule of Writing.
However, it can be tricky to get right.
“Show, don’t tell” uses vivid language that gives the reader an experience, rather than just handing them information. This can apply in both fiction and nonfiction, business or creative writing.
If you’re working on a creative writing project, let a character’s actions or dialogue convey information. For example, instead of saying “It was hot out,” say, “He wiped sweat from his brow and looked for a place in the shade.”
Describe a setting using sensory details. Describe body language rather than just saying how a character feels.
If you’re writing for sales, marketing, or PR, “show don’t tell” is just as important. Don’t just tell me your software is “state-of-the-art,” tell me HOW it’s state-of-the-art. Give concrete data and provide a few good examples.
Your adjectives should be relevant, clear, and meaningful. Avoid adverbs. This can help build trust with your audience by making your persuasive writing less “salesy.”
For both creative and professional writing, remember to use strong verbs and specific nouns. This can cut back on the use of adjectives and adverbs.
Look for good examples of showing rather than telling. Consider what makes them work, and try to apply that to your own writing.
If all else fails, let Audrey Hepburn demonstrate:
Want to learn more? Here are some helpful resources:
Show Don’t Tell: How to Show Not Tell in Writing With Exercises, by Self-Publishing School
Show, Don’t Tell: Tips and Examples of The Golden Rule, by the Reedsy Blog
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