Show Don’t Tell

How do these Canada goslings know what to do? Are mom and dad standing on the log squawking out orders like the famous insurance mascot duck?

Of course not.

Those furry little balls are simply doing what they see the grownups doing. The elders are showing, not telling—a feat which embodies the standing mantra in the writer’s world:

“Show Don’t Tell.”

The first time I heard this I didn’t understand. How can a writer show without telling since words are all he has?

Here’s an example. Which sentence shows?

1. She was so angry she could have choked him.

2. She squeezed her fingers around the arms of the chair instead of his throat.

Number 2 is the correct answer because a picture is worth a thousand words.

Show me the money.
Practice what you preach.

People evidently prefer show over tell or these clichés would not be cliché.

Last week a guest speaker at our church picked up on the writer’s catch phrase and proved that it’s nothing new.

“Show them, don’t just tell them,” he said of sharing our faith with others.

A couple thousand years ago a man named James pressed a similar point when he said, “I will show you my faith by my works.”

And roughly a thousand years later, a Franciscan monk put it even more succinctly:

“Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.”
—St. Francis of Assisi

Let’s work on our “show don’t tell.” How well are we showing others what we believe?