In my last post I talked about the first writing advice I ever received: show; don’t tell.
From that advice, I designated two types of writing: showing writing and telling writing.
With telling writing, we use our words to tell, explain, teach, break down, or expand. We are giving the reader information (in general, this is called expository writing, in case you’re like me and like learning things like that!).
With showing writing, we are make ideas come alive by showing our reader concrete information and then letting her make deductions.
Let’s look at three additional types of showing writing today: survey, example, and analogy.
You can use an informal method of surveying by sending questions to your email list, social media, or friends. Or you can create a survey that’s a bit more structured by using a service like Surveymonkey.com.
Here’s an example from my book, What a Wife Needs from Her Husband:
“As I have mentioned, when I ask women what they need from their husbands, their number one answer has to do with communication, and then the second most frequent response is that a wife needs understanding.”
Survey results became the basis on which I formed 10 chapters in each of my marriage books. In addition to providing content information, using survey results ensures that your book’s content is meeting the needs of your target audience.
Examples are concrete and specific instances or occurrences.
From a chapter on opposites in marriage:
“My husband and I are more opposite than similar: He’s a country boy; I’m a city girl. He’s extroverted; I’m introverted. He likes traveling; I’m a homebody.”
I lead in with telling writing—“My husband I are more opposite than similar.” And then use showing writing with my pairs of opposites to make the point come alive.
I could have simply written that “my husband and I are opposites” and left it at that. However, examples make my writing more engaging and interesting.
Research shows that people learn new information by what’s called hooking (or pegging), and it means making connections to information or experiences people already know.
In the chapter about opposites I write: “My husband describes my personality as a butterfly, flitting from one creative idea to another. I describe Scott’s personality like a train, steadily moving forward in a logical direction.”
Analogies are another way to use showing writing to make an idea come alive.
So to summarize the six types of showing writing in the two posts:
- Personal story
Showing writing engages your reader and helps your reader remember your writing.
Take a look at something you’ve written. Look for places where you can revise your writing to include more showing than telling.
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