Show ... Don't Tell? How Do You Do It?

16 replies
How do you make sure you show and don't tell in your copy.

I think I have a blind spot when it comes to this.

Anyone have any tips they can share. Sometimes I miss it and ... "tell when I should be showing".

-Thanks for any help you can offer.
#show
  • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
    Originally Posted by The Niche Man View Post

    How do you make sure you show and don't tell in your copy.

    I think of have a blind spot when it comes to this.

    Anyone have any tips they can share. Sometimes I miss it and ... "tell when I should be showing".

    -Thanks for any help you can offer.
    A down and dirty tip for finding examples where you're telling too much: look for adjectives.

    Super. Awesome. Amazing. Fantastic. Pricey. Secret.

    When you describe something, you're not always necessarily showing people what it does.

    Showing is action oriented. Think stories. Think turning features into benefits.

    It's the difference between "coffee gives you great energy" and "man, I almost fell asleep behind the wheel. Then I downed some of my coffee and felt like I was running on pure speed.".

    Amazing = telling.
    The bullshit I made up? Showing.
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    I addresses that same question in this blog post. Hope it helps:

    Copywriting Tips And Tricks ยป How to Avoid Tattle-Tale Copywriting

    -Ray Edwards
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  • Profile picture of the author JonMills
    Originally Posted by The Niche Man View Post

    How do you make sure you show and don't tell in your copy.

    I think of have a blind spot when it comes to this.

    Anyone have any tips they can share. Sometimes I miss it and ... "tell when I should be showing".

    -Thanks for any help you can offer.

    He was angry = tell
    He balled his fists = show
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    • Profile picture of the author Will Compton
      NicheMan,

      Instead of telling a logical fact you could tell an emotional story instead. (Sure, you need facts too... but remember... people buy on emotion and justify their purchase with logic.) Use emotionally charged words to tell a story...

      Here's an example:

      The red headed woman gave me a dirty look as she walked into the room.

      vs.

      The fiery-haired bitch sauntered into the room and shot me an evil eye that sent chills down my spine.

      The charged words: fiery-haired bitch, sauntered, shot me an evil eye, sent chills down my spine.

      See how the second sentence raised different emotions when you read it?

      But that's off the top of my head... did that make any sense?
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      • Profile picture of the author The Niche Man
        Originally Posted by Will Compton View Post

        NicheMan,

        Instead of telling a logical fact you could tell an emotional story instead. (Sure, you need facts too... but remember... people buy on emotion and justify their purchase with logic.) Use emotionally charged words to tell a story...

        Here's an example:

        The red headed woman gave me a dirty look as she walked into the room.

        vs.

        The fiery-haired bitch sauntered into the room and shot me an evil eye that sent chills down my spine.

        The charged words: fiery-haired bitch, sauntered, shot me an evil eye, sent chills down my spine.

        See how the second sentence raised different emotions when you read it?

        But that's off the top of my head... did that make any sense?
        Yes, that did make sense. So much so, it reminded me of an ex girl friend. Thanks for the memories!
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  • If you can, try and get the prospect to "show it to themselves." Get them emotionally involved. And if possible excited about doing it.

    As always keep it nice and simple (make sure they CAN do it - because if they can't, you're f*****).

    Lets say you are selling - "How to draw a square"

    You could say...

    "Ok pick up the pencil and draw a line, then at each end draw 2 more exactly the same size going down.

    And now, here's where you do the really clever bit, that magic finishing touch - just draw another line underneath which joins everything up - well done! And do you see how easy it was?"


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author sethczerepak
    Originally Posted by The Niche Man View Post

    How do you make sure you show and don't tell in your copy.

    I think I have a blind spot when it comes to this.

    Anyone have any tips they can share. Sometimes I miss it and ... "tell when I should be showing".

    -Thanks for any help you can offer.
    I believe you're a member of my site aren't you?

    If so, check out this chapter from Cashflow Copywriter

    http://vqsuccess.com/the-ultimate-co...riter-presence
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    • Profile picture of the author The Niche Man
      Originally Posted by sethczerepak View Post

      I believe you're a member of my site aren't you?

      If so, check out this chapter from Cashflow Copywriter

      The Ultimate Copywriting Cure System by: Seth Czerepak — VQ Success
      Yes I am Seth. Haven't had a chance to get into the info like I wanted yet, from being
      swamped with work (maybe that's a good sign).

      But I'm gonna take a little vacation next week and really get into it, I'll keep your suggestion in mind, note to self. -Thanks
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      Download "Free 80 Page E-Book"
      "201 Ways To Live Better On Less Money".
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      • Profile picture of the author wtemradio
        Will, Jon, and Angie have posted short fiction snippets.

        My advice goes along with that.

        Read a lot. You can use good copy or fiction for this. All depends what you enjoy reading.

        Here's the key: When you catch yourself feeling something--hurt, angry, excited, what-have-ya--as you're reading, STOP.

        Now try to figure out why. Word choice? Scenery? Picture the writer painted? The payoff of keeping up with the character or the story in a sales letter, and seeing something good happen?

        There's probably a million ways to do this. That's why there's more than one good book or sales letter or email out there to read. How people get YOU involved with what they write is how you get people involved with what you write.

        Showing means emotional involvement, in some way--getting your reader to figure things out with you, based on how you say something. It's a bit of a tightrope between making things too hard or too easy, but giving readers something to see, hear, touch, taste, or feel right away helps.

        That's my take on it. Thanks for starting this thread.

        Angie's right--verbs go a long way. And not the "is, am, are, was" kind.

        Ty M.
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    • Profile picture of the author abpres
      Originally Posted by sethczerepak View Post

      I believe you're a member of my site aren't you?

      If so, check out this chapter from Cashflow Copywriter

      The Ultimate Copywriting Cure System by: Seth Czerepak — VQ Success
      Hi, Seth.

      Please check for PM.

      Thanks.
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  • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
    Just had a random thought related to this.

    How I learned the difference? My screenwriting classes.

    How do you SHOW "awesome"? How do you SHOW "exhausted".

    If you want a director to be able to capture the scene, an actor to capture the character, you have to give them more to go on than adjectives.

    A working single mom's definition of exhausted is different from a college student's level of exhausted is different from an executive's definition of exhausted.

    She (the instructor) always urged us to find descriptive verbs to really set up a scene in someone's mind.

    It's the difference between:

    She was exhausted after a ridiculously long day.

    -AND-

    She slammed the apartment door and collapsed into a pile of tangled limbs and designer clothes.

    Which one can you PICTURE?

    You CAN use adjectives, but you have to use them to paint a picture.
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  • I think this generally means demonstrations, like what Ogilvy did in his ads.

    Remember those dishwasher fluid ads from back in the day where they would show one brand versus "the leading competitor," and the advertised brand would clean way more stuff? That's "show don't tell."

    In the IM space this is usually a straightforward matter of using income shots or some kind of video demonstration that you or your client is INDEED rich.
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  • Profile picture of the author DougHughes
    Some good advice.

    Here is a great example from a Bill Bonner control that has been running for something like three decades. As you can see it definitely paints a picture:

    You look out your window, past your gardener, who is busily pruning the lemon, cherry, and fig trees… amidst the splendor of gardenias, hibiscus, and hollyhocks

    The sky is clear blue. The sea is a deeper blue, sparkling with sunlight.

    A gentle breeze comes drifting in from the ocean, clean and refreshing, as your maid brings you breakfast in bed.
    For a moment, you think you have died and gone to heaven.

    But this paradise is real. And affordable. In fact, it costs only half as much to live this dream lifestyle… as it would to stay in your own home!

    Here's a link to the full sales letter:
    International Living

    I would also advise reading fiction.
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    • Profile picture of the author The Niche Man
      Originally Posted by DougHughes View Post

      Some good advice.

      Here is a great example from a Bill Bonner control that has been running for something like three decades. As you can see it definitely paints a picture:

      You look out your window, past your gardener, who is busily pruning the lemon, cherry, and fig trees... amidst the splendor of gardenias, hibiscus, and hollyhocks

      The sky is clear blue. The sea is a deeper blue, sparkling with sunlight.

      A gentle breeze comes drifting in from the ocean, clean and refreshing, as your maid brings you breakfast in bed.
      For a moment, you think you have died and gone to heaven.

      But this paradise is real. And affordable. In fact, it costs only half as much to live this dream lifestyle... as it would to stay in your own home!

      Here's a link to the full sales letter:
      International Living

      I would also advise reading fiction.
      Excellent. The "International Living" sales letter is an excellent copy-by-hand example. I'm on it then into the swipe file it goes. Thanks!
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  • Just sometimes appalling though it is for us copywriters…

    A really good visual does the trick.

    Tough to admit but f*** it - sometimes a picture does paint a thousand words.


    Steve
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