Show, Don't Tell

"Show, don't tell" is common advice for writers. It means that you present your audience with information, rather than simply telling them what the information means. For instance, in fiction you might say that a character frowned and snarled, rather than stating that they were angry.

Emotion is better conveyed through a gesture, a nervous tic, than through simply telling the audience that someone was nervous. Common body language is good; individualized signs of emotion are better, advises Francis Flaherty. Quotations, used well, are another example of showing rather than telling.

Showing is generally more vivid than telling; but, this does not mean that there is no place for tell. Telling can be economical and to the point; it's straightforward and brief. It performs grunt work, which sometimes is exactly what's needed. But showing adds the flourish.

Show, don't tell in business

  • Teresa Torres suggests that sharing information rather than conclusions or recommendations with senior stakeholders is a more effective means to engage them than expecting them to accept your conclusions. Draw a line from your findings toward (but not to) the action you want them to take.

However, providing perspective is still critical.



Flaherty, Francis. The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction Writing. Reprint edition. Harper Perennial, 2010.

Torres, Teresa. “The Art of Managing Stakeholders Through Product Discovery.” Product Talk (blog), June 6, 2018.