Improve your Writing: Show, Not Tell

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Become a better writer, no matter what you’re writing! I’ll show you how to take simple, boring sentences and turn them to vibrant, expressive writing. As you practice this technique in your writing, you will find it carries over to your everyday spoken English as well. Before you know it, you’ll be a more dynamic, compelling speaker and writer.

Next, watch this video to improve your vocabulary:

Take the quiz on this lesson at: https://www.engvid.com/english-writing-show-not-tell/

TRANSCRIPT

Welcome back to engVid. Here we are with a writing lesson. We are looking at the skill of showing, not telling, and it’s going to transform your writing as long as you put it into practice afterwards. “Show, not tell. What’s he talking about?”

When we’re writing we want to avoid simple statements that don’t really add any description or flavour. For example: “The man was stressed.” [Snores] Boring. Instead, I want you to paint a picture, I really want you to describe the man is stressed without telling me that he is. So how can you do that? We’re kind of trying to avoid this word, and describe it instead. So what’s he doing? “The man was fidgeting. Ah, he’s fidgeting. He’s so stressed, he can’t sort of stay still. And biting his nails.” Okay? So pick out a couple of details that show how the person was.

Next one: “The room was messy.” Again, it’s a simple, simple sentence. It’s just one sort of main clause and it’s not very interesting. Much better to describe the items in the room that make it messy. For example: “There was a leftover pizza, dirty clothes were strewn”… I’ll write that word for you. That means they were covering the floor. “…and there were dirty plates and cups”. Okay? These details give us the idea that it is messy.

Example three: “The woman was confident.” Okay, but it would be much more effective if you described how she was confident. So, how does she move? How do other people react to her? “She strode”, that means she walked, but with purpose. Okay? So I’ve picked an interesting verb. “She strode into the room, and everyone turned their heads to notice her.” Okay? Much clearer, more vivid idea of confidence than just saying she was confident.

Example four: “The boy was careful.” Tell us how he was careful. “He placed his favourite magazine in the top drawer of his cabinet.” Okay? So we need to say exactly what he is placing, the object there has been missed out. “He placed”… There’s no room for me to write it. You get the idea, he places his favourite book or magazine, and look how specific it is: “the top drawer of his cabinet”.

Next example: “The stadium was full.” Again, I’m bored with this simple sentence construction. We need to make it more interesting. “The sound from the stadium was deafening”, okay? And then give us some main action perhaps: “The sound from the stadium was deafening as the crowd rose up to chant the player’s name.” Okay? Give the sense that the stadium is full from what you can see and what you can hear. Okay?

A couple of ones to describe weather. “It was hot.” Okay? Well, a very young child could write a sentence like that, so if you’re sort of a teenager or an adult, it’s time to raise the bar. How can we tell that it is hot? Well: “The sun was causing damage to”, “The sun was melting”, “The sun was burning”, “The sun was causing the lady’s skin to turn red”. Okay? Pick out details that show the effect.

“It was cold. It was cold.” How do we know it was cold? How cold did it feel? What can you see? “Drainpipes were freezing, ice was as thick as”… I don’t know. “It was three inches thick.” Whatever, you’ve got to show details rather than just stating things. -“It was windy.” -“The umbrella was totally bent out of shape. The umbrella”-you know for keeping the rain off us-“was totally”-that means fully-“bent”-Yeah? Bent-“…out of shape”, out of its normal position.

“He found it funny.” Right? How funny did he find it? Okay? Better to… For us to get the idea to picture what he was doing: “He was rolling around the floor in hysterics.” Okay? When you’re so… Find something so funny, you’re like: [Laughs]. Okay? He can’t control his body he finds it so funny. “Hysterics”, that means like totally lost control. “Hysteria”. Okay? Hysterics. “In hysterics” means finding something really, really funny.

“The castle was captured.” Right. I want to get a sense of drama. I want to imagine what’s happening there at the castle. Is the king having his head cut off? Are the new army marching in? What’s happening? “The new flag was hoisted up on high, greeted by a cheer from the crowd.” Okay? Paint pictures, pick out details. Okay? It’s good to have a range of adjectives, but how can you show those adjectives? How can you describe them instead?

Thank you for watching today’s video. Have a go at the quiz after this, and I’ll see you very soon. Remember to subscribe. Bye.

20 Comments

  1. Aspen Antoinette says:

    My favorite example that i created myself

    Tell
    "She stepped over the bodies, not caring about them, only focused on the person in the middle of the fight, which she also didnt care for."

    Show
    "The person she was after was in the middle of the brawl, already bodies were strewn around it, so she stepped over them, she needed to get to the middle."

  2. Youssef Yous says:

    you are so amazing.thank you soooo muuuch.

  3. Joseph Read says:

    I have read war and peace and they tell, not show

  4. David Bailey says:

    Good video! I have something to add which I learned from my writing classes. Many of your "showing" sentences used the to-bes "was" or "were". These words in and of themselves can lead to passive and even telling writing–not to mention verbose writing, meaning using more words than necessary to describe or say something. Outside of thoughts and dialogue (people do talk that way after all), to-be's (am, are, is, was, were, be, being, been) should usually be eliminated.

    Example 1-"The man was fidgeting and biting his nails." could be written as "The man fidgeted and bit his nails." This eliminates a bit of verbose making the sentence more active and crisp.

    Example 2-"There was a leftover pizza, dirty clothes…" could be written in a more active way by writing it as "A leftover pizza and dirty clothes lied strewn about the floor."

    Hope this helps other writers out there. Thanks for reading!

  5. Ayesha S says:

    You are really good!

  6. John Hartranett says:

    Video was great, quiz not so much.

  7. Beautiful Wanderess says:

    awesome..

  8. GawainGrendel says:

    Thank you so much for your video. I am looking forward to my exams in english tomorrow and your vid helped helped me a lot

  9. Mark anthony says:

    being expressive grabs the readers attention

  10. Gerald Davis says:

    Oahhh!!!

  11. williss11 says:

    This was pretty good review. He makes good points. If you think this is insufficient please make your own video, I'd love to watch it!

  12. Maria Makinen says:

    πŸ‘πŸ“πŸ˜Šβœ…

  13. Archer Ford says:

    This was an absolutely terrible vid quit this job and never make another vid again

  14. Stevo T8 says:

    This vid is trash, oh yeah yeah

  15. 609i says:

    ladies skin was turning black….

  16. The Last Waltz says:

    Benjamin, has anyone ever told you that you look just like Max Schreck? You know, thee German actor who played Count Orlok in Nosferatu from 1922?. . . πŸ€“

  17. MnM chuu says:

    I'm sorry, but I learned more from this random six-minute YouTube video on how to improve writing skills than my school my parents paid so much for. I feel like videos just like this are more effective for me and it costs literally nothing.

  18. Jarisha Asberry says:

    boooo

  19. Tinotenda Tirivavi says:

    I am really grateful with this lesson.

  20. Abdullah Amir says:

    His face makes the statement vivid that he had been sent her rightaway from sleep

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