How To Elaborate: Telescopic Text


A question I get quite often from homeschooling parents and teachers is, how can I teach my son to elaborate in his writing? He always seems to write the bare minimum and when I ask him to write more, he says, “that’s all I can think of to say!”

I didn’t use a male example by accident, here. This seems to be a particular problem for boys. Daughters tend to be more naturally loquacious.

There are numerous techniques that can help students learn to add detail, but I came across a super-simple but quite creative website today that might be of some use. It’s called Telescopic Text and it was created by an artist named Joe Davis. is the plainest web page you’ll ever see. It looks like this:

But if you click on any of the highlighted words, they telescope. In other words, the sentence gets more elaborate. If I click on tea, for example, I see this:

You can keep clicking for a long time, but eventually you’ll end up with this:

We can debate how much detail is too much, but let’s not. This site is created to allow readers to pick and choose which details should or shouldn’t be added, and most importantly, to watch a writer elaborate right before your eyes. I imagine spending some time on it and talking it through with your reticent or reluctant child might help demonstrate how writers add detail.

What’s even more fun is the sister site,, which provides tools for creating telescoping text of your own. You can even share your versions with other site visitors. I found it quite addicting. It seems like a perfect place to get practice in the specific skill of elaborating.

If you have a son, daughter, or student who struggles with elaboration, I highly recommend a visit to both of these sites.


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About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Merri Larsen
    Merri Larsen12-08-2013

    Such a fantastic visual for struggling writers! Thanks for sharing this, Brian.

    Changing the subject, my husband asked me to ask YOU about the differences between ‘continuously’ and ‘continually.’ He says there are subtle differences – I say they are precisely the same. Who’s right?

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