"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.
- Metaphors structure our interpretation of the world
- Narratives generate real-world effects.
- Use language with necessity - Use words that count.
- Give abstract concepts a human face - Abstraction can tend toward telling; adding a human element can help to "show" their meaning.
- Place characters within a landscape
- Dialogue illustrates the nature of the character
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. https://www.producttalk.org/2018/06/managing-stakeholders/.