Whenever you’re writing about travel, restaurants, food, wine or any other pleasurable activity for commercial purposes or for news publications, it’s vital to use the right tone of voice.
A writer must strike a balance between informing, entertaining and sometimes persuading the audience that a particular travel offer is made for them. Here are seven sure-fire ways to get the best results.
1. Be Like A Friend
This is the most important aspect of commercial travel writing. Give advice as you would to a friend. In other words, be yourself and put a smile into the expressions that you use. Don’t shy away from humour. Use inclusive language and pronouns such: us, our, we, you, your. Be relaxed and laconic with the language. However, stop short of using too many slang terms or venturing into tongue-in-cheek humour, without first establishing the tone of voice that’s suitable to the particular publication or website.
Humorous asides, harmless double-entendres and quips are always welcome in articles like this, but don’t go too overboard. People tend to get annoyed when writers try to be too clever.
2. Show Don’t Tell
The majority of journalists who write travel articles have had the personal pleasure of traversing the destination in question. For many other travel writers, and commercial copywriters, they don’t have the luxury or the dosh to do this. So it requires a heavy dose of imagination. It also helps if you have done a lot of travelling across the globe, and so can mine this for evocative phrases. What’s important in travel writing is the ability to describe scenery, experiences and adventures in a way that’s vivid and provokes a strong response. For examples of this sort of travel writing, The Guardian and The Independent do terrific evocative travel writing.
Always steer clear of cliched expressions and instead invent your own plays on words that are unique and fresh. So for example instead of the worn out ‘pristine beaches’ or ‘bustling market place’ try something else such as the ‘market place that’s blistering with energy’ or the ‘beach with sand as soft as angels wings.’
3. Be Helpful and Practical
While it’s important to have these glorious tid-bits of evocative language, it’s also equally important to provide all of the essentials that will get people from A to B in the easiest way possible. So do include the practicalities of transport availability and costs, good restaurants, airport services and dodgy suburbs to avoid.
4. Give the Inside Scoop
It’s no use providing generic information that’s available on Wikitravel or Wikipedia. It’s completely pointless and redundant if the hot tips that you provide are available from 101 places. A great travel article goes boldly where no man or woman has gone before. It blows people’s hair back and allows them to experience new places (or old favourites) in new ways. Why not do an article about Parisian street art rather than the Eiffel Tower and all the usual haunts? Why not write about the Hammams in Morocco, rather than the standard article on the medieval kasbahs?
5. Have Integrity
Holidays aren’t all smooth sailing like in an airline advertisement. There’s going to be long queues, people who will try and rip you off, places that are disappointing, flight cancellations and other unforeseen circumstances. Speak about these inconveniences frankly, but don’t harp on about them. If it’s a commissioned article for commercial purposes, you obviously have less scope to point out the negatives of travel experiences. It is OK to point out some short-falls, so long as this is remedied with helpful and sage advice about how to fix situation. The reader will be thankful for your honesty and candour, and in many cases take your advice.
6. Check Over Your Work
This goes for all kinds of copywriting. You’re only as good as your proof-reading, fact-checking and reference checking. Don’t rely on memory for names, dates or anything else. Always Google information mentioned in the article to make sure it’s the most up to date. Always verify the spelling of place names, people’s names and any other cow byre, one horse town, or outlying island that you come across. Whether it’s in another language or in English – still check.
7. Follow the Brief
This is another one that’s applicable to all kinds of commercial writing. If you have been commissioned to write something, then follow the brief that the client provides to you very closely. In the absence of a brief, ask for editorial guidelines to get the picture on tone of voice and suitable language usage. Also, verify along the way about the subject that you wish to cover, prior to starting on the piece. This ensures that you’re not wasting your time completely by writing about a topic that’s irrelevant or already covered by someone else. In the absence of editorial guidelines or a brief, ask for publications that resonate with the client’s business.
Travel writing is one of the most pleasurable types of writing to be paid for. In order to get the best results and the most vibrant and engaging writing, the only thing to do is pack your life into a suitcase and have an adventure. Think about it as professional research!
Good luck with writing travel articles. Please let me know how you go with your pieces, and whether or not you’ve found my article helpful.
Good Luck and Godspeed….