Every good writer knows they have to adjust their style to the medium they’re using. So, whilst emails and news releases need to be straight-forward and to the point, longer articles and blogs are a chance to get creative and truly engage your readers.
On the eve of WTM (Sunday 6 November 2016) the British Guild of Travel Writers will unveil the best tourism features of the last year. So, having been one of the judges for the ‘best overseas feature’ category and helped whittle down 850 entries to 28 short-listed articles, here are some of the literary lessons that struck me along the way:
• STORYTELLING: Whilst this may have become one of the latest marketing buzzwords, when it comes to writing features that people want to read they really must tell a good story. And, just like we were taught at school, every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Time to get back to basics and lure your reader in.
• ENGAGEMENT: Features are still read for information and enjoyment. But – with recent reports that human reliance on smartphones means we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish – the trick is to convince people that what you’ve written is worth focusing on. If you want to keep me reading until the end you’ll probably need to tell me something that I don’t already know. And, more importantly still, you’ll need to position it in such a way that I’m intrigued enough to want to learn more about it.
• ESCAPISM: Travel is all about exploring new cultures and enjoying new experiences, so it stands to reason that the most successful travel features capture the reader’s imagination. When it came to the final two features, it was hugely tough to choose between them both so I had to go with the one that had inspired me the most. Whilst reading the winning piece I could really imagine myself recreating the writer’s trip. And, at the end of the day, the ultimate goal of a well-crafted travel feature is to make the reader want to go there to experience it themselves.
• LANGUAGE: When you’re enjoying an article, it’s important that the language flows smoothly to keep you in the moment. Bad grammar, poor spelling, unusual words or jargon can act as a sudden obstacle, diverting your reader’s attention away from the story and frustrating them in the process.
• PHOTOS: The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words still holds true. So, if you’re writing about an incredible corner of the world, the limited word count means you’re always going to be better off sourcing a cracking shot to illustrate what you’ve been using your finest adjectives to try to convey. But if it’s just an excuse to see your face in print, I’d sooner you dusted off the thesaurus.
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