Start with a bang: open your review with something that will ‘hook’ your reader – an amazing fact about the place, a fascinating quote from someone local, the best thing that happened to you there – anything that will make them hungry to read on.
Say why this is special: it helps readers if you can say, early and clearly, why your subject is unique, or unusual, or at least worth reading about. Always ask yourself – why would this interest my reader? If you can find a reason why they might go there themselves, you’ve probably found a theme for your piece.
Know who you’re writing for: every website or magazine has a different audience with differing tastes, knowledge and expectations. The defining factor may be age, income, family status, special interests, whatever – but get it wrong and you’ll lose readers and editors faster than you’d like.
Show as well as tell: as well as telling us abstract facts about an experience, try showing us examples of what you’re talking about. If the view from your hotel was ‘spectacular’, show us what was in that view and we’ll see it and feel it for ourselves. This is how to bring your text alive and take the reader with you on your travels.
Write with all your senses: go beyond what you saw and include what you heard or smelt or tasted. It can add surprise and freshness to your descriptions. That’s why food writing is such fun to read. Why not aim to make your travel writing as mouth-watering as a restaurant review?
Keep it short and sharp: writing short is harder than writing long. It takes discipline to make every word count and every paragraph relate to your theme – and it may mean leaving out material that you love. But readers will always appreciate your efforts to say only what is needed or interesting and to say it without distractions.
Maintain your balance: the fun part of writing reviews is offering your own opinions. But be careful to keep them balanced. Check your facts. Be fair. Ground your judgements in what you experienced. Don’t go off on a rant just because you can. Because, in fact, you can’t. Your editors and readers will soon tell you why.
Use killer facts: when researching a subject, whether on the ground or on the web, keep an eye out for that crucial fact that seems to say it all – that this place is the best – first – last – grandest – cheapest – coolest – oldest… Then when writing your review, try using only killer facts like these. See how many of the duller ones you can do without.
Don’t trust adverbs and adjectives: these are not always your friends. They look like they’re adding colour to a sentence but often they’re just cluttering it up. Or worse, they’re covering up the stuff you can’t remember or didn’t see. Better by far to use well-chosen verbs and nouns that describe exactly what you mean to say, and leave it at that.
Apply these ideas across the board: these tried and tested writer’s tips can be used for any kind of travel writing, from reviews to travelogue to memoir and beyond. They’ll give your writing shape and personality – and grateful readers too.
Here’s a bonus tip: To find out more, read my book Look out for your chance to win a copy of the book in March through Silver Travel Advisor. Or join my courses at for more personal training.
, which guides you through the creative and commercial aspects of turning your travels into stories, with advice from 40 of the world’s top travel writers and editors. The distinguished travel author Colin Thubron has called it ‘the most complete, accessible and inspiring book of its kind.’
More about Jonathan
Jonathan Lorie is the author of
, the ultimate handbook for aspiring travel writers at all levels. He has been a travel magazine editor, freelance travel writer for national magazines and newspapers, and director of the UK’s leading training agency for travel writers, . He has taught writing courses in Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Morocco. Lorie teaches and blogs at www.travellerstales.org.