Goals and Goal Setting

Advice about Assignments

On Using the Resources for Writers

Selecting Readings

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Showing v. Telling Sentences

Each of these sentences has two versions. One version is too general and therefore lacks the visual clarity that a reader needs to fully understand what the writer is talking about. The other version of the same sentence uses specific details and makes the image the writer is presenting much more vivid and alive.

Vague: She went home in a bad mood. [What kind of a bad mood? How did she act or look?]
Specific: She stomped home, hands jammed in her pockets, angrily kicking rocks, dogs, small children, and anything else that crossed her path.

Vague: My neighbor bought a really nice old desk. [Why nice? How old? What kind of desk?]
Specific: My neighbor bought a solid oak, roll-top desk made in 1885 that contains a secret drawer triggered by a hidden spring.

Vague: He was an attractive man. [Attractive in what ways - his appearance, personality, or both? Can you picture him from reading this sentence?]
Specific: He had Paul Newman's eyes, Robert Redford's smile, Sylvester Stallone's body, and Bill Gates's money.

After reading the sentences above, rewrite the vague sentences below using your own specific details.

  1. My boyfriend/girlfriend acted like a jerk.
  2. She wears really strange outfits.
  3. The scenery in the mountains was beautiful.
  4. My roommate is very (in)considerate.

Finally, if you've written a draft, go back through your paper looking for sentences where you use good, specific detail. Then, find the sentences that are general and add details that make those sentences come alive.