Scan of two armored knights drawn by a little kid. Each part of the armor is labeled.

This is the second post in a nine part series on how to show instead of tell.

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 1

Currently reading Part 2

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 3

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 4

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 5

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 6

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 7

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 8

Show, don’t tell Tip #1: Use specific names

Whenever possible, find the specific name of something (in fact, try to avoid using words like something).

 

Call it a “Percival Elementary” instead of “the school”; “Panamax Freighter” instead of “ship”; “townhouse,” “split-level”, or “ranch-style” house instead of “house.”

 

Here’s a specific example:

Let’s say I’m going to describe a knight in shining armor. Instead of saying, “The knight was wearing armor,” I should get very specific about the kinds of armor he is wearing and the places he is wearing it. This requires me to do a little research, but that can actually be fun.

 

Here’s a drawing of armor I did when I was in 4th grade:

Scan of two armored knights drawn by a little kid. Each part of the armor is labeled.

See how I’ve labeled all the different parts of the armor. That’s a whole lot more descriptive then just saying, “The knight was wearing armor.”

 

Let’s use this drawing to show instead of  tell.

 

Let’s write instead, “The knight shielded his head with a bassinet. His body was covered in mail, and his greaves were dented after he had tumbled off his horse in the jousting tournament.”

 

Much more specific, right?

 

Now you try it.

 

A second example:

 

Don’t write the word ship. How many ships are there?

 

Thousands!

 

Find the name of the specific kind of ship you’re thinking of, so we know what you mean: trireme, rowboat, dinghy, paddle boat, skiff, junk, cruise ship, freighter, etc. Use this illustration to help you out:

Infographic picture of how to show instead of tell. Don't write ship if it's called a panamax freighter. There's a simple picture of a wooden boat and a detailed picture of a freighter.

 

Read more strategies about showing instead of telling.

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Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 1

Currently reading Part 2

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 3

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 4

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 5

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 6

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 7

Read Show, Don’t Tell—Part 8