In my other writing life as a restaurant reviewer, I spend a lot of time writing sentences like:
I decided to go for the gusto and sample three of their Mexico-City-style tacos: the carne asada served with pico de gallo and cotija; the chile lime shrimp served with a pickled cabbage slaw and a tomato pasilla chile salsa that had a pleasant kick; and the pork carnitas taco dressed in tomatillo salsa and cotija.
…and looking for synonyms for the word “delicious.”
But I discovered that when I started writing sentences more like this:
If Beehive were a person instead of “a West Pearl Eatery + Bar,” as the website says, she would be that unbelievably hip acquaintance of yours who always looks perfectly chic, who dances ballet instead of going to the gym and who uses mason jars in her décor without a hint of irony.
I was really, really hoping that someone—preferably dressed in a newsboy cap, horn-rimmed glasses, and a tweed waistcoat—would amble over to the piano and start belting out a soulful version of something by Mumford & Sons.
…suddenly people were talking about the reviews and responding more. In fact, if I go back and look at the articles for which I have won awards from my journalism colleagues they are almost always stories about the experience rather than descriptions of the food.
Because here’s the thing: People don’t actually read restaurant reviews to find out what the shrimp tacos taste like. If they want to know what the shrimp tacos taste like, they will go to the restaurant and eat a shrimp taco.
People read restaurant reviews to find out what the experience of dining at the restaurant was like. They want to live vicariously through me and picture themselves in my seat—and then decide if they want to go there and try the shrimp tacos.
It’s not enough for me to say that the shrimp tacos are good. Any hack on Yelp can say that the shrimp tacos are good—or bad. Or delicious. Or disgusting.
I need to go one step further. I need to put my readers in my seat and give them a taste of the experience, not the tacos.
And this is true of all good writing.
You may have heard the old writing chestnut, show don’t tell.
It absolutely applies to you. Yes, you. The one blogging about your massage therapy business, your personal training business, your veterinary practice.
- Don’t tell me that you offer Swedish massage. Show me what I will feel like when I’m getting that massage and how my life will be improved when you’re done.
- Don’t tell me that I will lose weight if I work with you. Take me on the journey of someone just like me who experienced an amazing transformation.
- Don’t tell me that you’ll be kind and loving to my pet. Show me how terrifying it must be for Fifi and Fido to have to go to the doctor, and then walk me through the steps you take to make it a happier experience.
It doesn’t matter what your business is or what you’re writing about on your blog; if you give your reader a taste of the experience of working with you (or buying your product), you will engage them.
If you tell them about your product, you will lose them.