Show, Don’t Tell Applies to Business As Much as Writing

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Ah yes... “Show, Don’t Tell,” the Golden Rule of writing…

The saw that every aspiring wordsmith cuts their teeth on…

Before I get carried away with all that: I think Show, Don’t Tell should also be known as the golden rule of communicating as a business.

What is Show, Don’t Tell?

I first learned about Show, Don’t Tell from the acclaimed novelist Stephen King, and many writers today attribute the golden rule to him. Others attribute it to the famous playwright Anton Chekhov, who’s quoted as saying

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Very poetic, but how would that flowery language serve your business blog?

I don’t think it would, Jason wrote, using it in his business blog.

(Look Mom, that’s irony! I’m using my English degree in real life after all!)

Jokes aside, I don’t expect people to hire me (or any writer) for being able to come up with flowery prose like that. Don’t get me wrong, I most certainly can weave words together with the elegance of playing a harp, but the concept as I understand it is about showing, not showing off.

Showing The Value of Your Business Rather Than Telling It

Let’s start with conceptualizing the “Show, Don’t Tell” rule as it applies to the reputation of your business.

Let’s say you need to replace a leaky faucet. You go to the nearest hardware store and ask where to find a replacement part. The guy tells you it’s in aisle six.

You go to aisle six. There’s all sorts of faucets there. Which is the right one? Do you need other parts? What’s the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to do it yourself?

Ask any of those questions and you’ll get pointed to another aisle, another department…

So in frustration you leave the store and go out of your way to a different store where someone hears your question, takes you to the right aisle and shows you what you need and how to use it.

So the next time you need to go to a hardware store, you don’t even bother stopping by the closer one. You go out of your way to do business with someone you can trust.

When someone reads your article, you want to give them the same experience as the second hardware store.

Otherwise you’re just pointing them in a direction they may or may not take.

It’s simple to appear first on google. Pay for the ads so you can tell people you rank first on google. What does that say about your business?

But when someone is referred to you, whether by a search engine or a friend’s post on social media, what does that say about your business?

Show You Know Who You’re Talking To

The advantage you want to have in content marketing is being able to anticipate what questions potential customers are asking, and then presenting clear answers. A professional content writer knows how to accomplish that for you with five simple steps:

1. research what questions people are asking,

2. Interpret those questions as problems that you can solve

3. Represent those questions in a well-formatted article

4. Come up with good answers

5. Present it in your brand’s voice