Showing vs. Telling
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Showing vs. Telling Showing versus telling is one of the ways we can make our writing style more effective. It is much better to 'show' details in your writing in a lively way rather than simply telling them. Create a vision for your reader so he/she can see what you are seeing in your writing.

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Showing vs. Telling

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Showing vs telling

Showing vs. Telling

Showing versus telling is one of the ways we can make our writing style more effective. It is much better to 'show' details in your writing in a lively way rather than simply telling them. Create a vision for your reader so he/she can see what you are seeing in your writing.


Showing vs telling

Read the following sample about a slice of life in New York city:

The streets are clogged with people running amuck in all directions: navy suits with leather briefcases, dreadlocks and baggy pants, underdressed in threadbare jackets unzipped. Most seem to be unaware of those around them as they hustle past cafes, bookstore, office buildings, on their way to their private destination. Elbows, purses, and body checks are all a part of getting to work early in the morning inManhattan.


Showing vs telling

This is more effective than a 'telling' sentence such as: 

New York is a busy city.


Showing vs telling

Read an excerpt from a story called Innocence Lost by Gail MacMillan, an award-winning author:

"In the years since the disaster, tales of heroism at sea during the terrifying hours of the storm have become legends along the bay: stories of fathers lashing sons to masts at the height of the squall in altruistic efforts to save their children; stories of daring rescues of one fishing crew in a swamped fishing vessel by another in almost equal peril; stories of men throwing lunches fouled by incoming salt water overboard and using the emptied cans in often futile attempts to bail their founderingcraft."


Showing vs telling

Had the author stopped at "tales of heroism...have become legends along the bay", she would have simply 'told'. By showing the reader about those tales of heroism, he/she has a vivid picture about those tales. The reader and the writer are 'seeing' the same thing.


Showing vs telling

Here are a few more examples:

Telling: Jack's leg was sore.Showing: Jack's face was crumpled in pain. He kept tugging at his leg trying to find a break from the relentless, gnawing ache.

Telling: The teacher was angry.Showing: Mrs. Bombeck stomped into the classroom, red-faced, marched to the front of the room, spun around on her heels, and stared at us with her steely, dark eyes.


Showing vs telling

Some parting suggestions for improving your writing style:

Write naturally in a way that comes easily to you. Admire what is good in others' writing but make it your own.

Write with strong nouns and verbs. Avoid too many adjectives and adverbs and focus instead on descriptive, vivid nouns and verbs.

Avoid overstating. When you overstate your point, the reader becomes defensive. The reader will lose confidence in what you are saying.


Showing vs telling

Do not overwrite. Don't over-do it with syrupy, flowery language. Write it the way you see it.

Revise and edit. Revising and editing are part of the writing process. Very few writers produce excellence after the first draft.

Avoid using qualifiers. Words such as rather, pretty, little, nice, very, too weaken writing.

Writing style is an act of faith. For a writer to write well, he/she must believe in the value of words and in the reader's ability to understand them. What a writer is, rather than what a writer knows is what writing style is all about


Showing vs telling

  • Change the following sentences from telling to showing:

  • He was angry.

  • The cafeteria is so noisy.

  • My puppy is adorable.


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