The four “don’ts” of travel writing

Posted on September 10, 2019


At Engage Web, we won’t deny that there are some briefs that our writers tend to respond to more excitedly than others. One that always goes down well is the opportunity to write for travel agents and airlines.

Reading and writing about desirable places to visit allows you to indulge in your digital wanderlust, but that’s not to say it’s easy. It requires a degree of flair that some more technical writers don’t quite have, and it’s easy to make a mistake that undermines your efforts.

When editing travel writing, here are four common errors we see:

1. Don’t get capitals wrong

This is one of the most common mistakes I see, and it’s so avoidable.

Knowing your countries and their capitals is useful in pub quizzes, but if you don’t know them, it’s very easy to find them online. Either way, don’t guess them, or assume somewhere is the capital just because it’s the most commonly known city in that country.

Some commonly mixed-up capitals are:

  • Australia – Canberra (not Melbourne)
  • Canada – Ottawa (not Toronto)
  • Turkey – Ankara (not Istanbul)
  • Brazil – Brasília (not Rio de Janeiro)
  • Croatia – Zagreb (not Dubrovnik)

Unless you’re absolutely sure of a capital, check it. Nothing makes you look more clueless as a travel writer than getting these basic, indisputable facts wrong!

2. Don’t bring up negative points

Usually, the reason we’re writing about places around the world is because we’re trying to make them sound appealing in the hope that readers book a holiday there, so it’s best to stick to positive information.

Dropping in a mention of the high crime rate, low wages or propensity to suffer from devastating earthquakes is unlikely to make anyone want to go there. These might be important points to note if you’re planning a visit, but any astute holidaymaker will do their research elsewhere and weigh up the cons against the pros. If you’re promoting the place, sell the positives and don’t cast doubt in the reader’s mind.

3. Don’t get place names wrong

The in-built spellchecker in Microsoft Word and other word processing tools is a godsend, but remember that it might not recognise foreign places. Always check your spelling of place names, including any accents and other special characters – we’ve written before about where you can find these.

4. Don’t make it obvious you haven’t been there

The beauty of tools like Google Maps and YouTube is that they can give you a very good idea what a place is like without you actually visiting it, but travel writing should be written as though you know the place.

Write “the weather is great HERE in July” rather than “there”, as it makes it obvious that you’re writing as somebody who is from, or a frequent visitor to, the location instead of somebody who has looked up the average July temperature in Tenerife on Wikipedia.

Here at Engage Web, we have plenty of experience in writing compelling copy for companies in the travel sector. Many people suffering from post-summer blues cheer themselves up by booking a holiday at this time of year, so if you’d like to capitalise on this, why not speak to us?

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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