Using Descriptive Detail

Showing Versus Telling

Showing vs. telling is an important aspect of creating effective description. The distinction between these two types of writing can be defined in very basic terms. "Telling" refers to the process of creating text which does not speak to the imagination of the reader. Writing which "tells" is plain and straightforward, yet often has difficulty involving the reader. An example of a "telling" sentence would be, "Kathy was sad." This sentence tells the reader what judgment needs to be made about Kathy, yet does not provide the evidence to support that judgment. For example, how do we know that Kathy is sad? How is she behaving? What does she look like? Writing which "shows" generally incorporates vivid descriptive detail in order to help the reader evaluate evidence in order to make the appropriate judgments.

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