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Advanced Composition
On with the Show! Are You Showing or Just Telling?

January 28, 2004

Many writers will say that there is really only one rule for good writing: Show! Don't tell! In today's class we will learn more about this most important rule.

Showing versus Telling

To "show" means to demonstrate. To "tell" means to assert.

"He is sloppy" is telling.

"His shoelaces are untied, his socks are mismatched, his shirt is untucked, and his face is unwashed" is showing.

In order to convince your readers, make sure to show with details exactly what you mean. Save your assertions for the topic and controlling sentences.


It is not always easy being a parent, a child, a brother or a sister.

Show the reader your experience in one of these family roles and do not tell us about  the behaviour you show. For example, you could write about a time you and your sister disagreed about sharing a favourite treat. (you may write one generalization for the topic and concluding sentence only)

First, she grabbed the treat from my hand, and said, "That's mine!" But, I snatched it right back and ran from the room saying, "I'm going to tell mom on you!"

Teacher Sample for this topic

Assignment (second version):

Canadians behave in interesting and different ways from the people who live in other countries.

Show, using examples from your own experiences in Canada, some of these unique behaviours.

For example use an example of a behaviour to show: "In Canada, when a person bumps into another person, often both of them will say, 'Excuse me' or 'I'm sorry!'" We may then assert (tell): "Canadians are quite polite (or maybe just strange!)."

Write a well-constructed paragraph of about 125 words.

Teacher samples: "Crazy Canadians!" and "Unusual Canadian Behaviours"
Student sample: "Canadians in My Eyes"


Please also visit your Advanced Composition Class Page where you can access current and past lessons.

For more assignments, visit our Assignment Archive







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