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  • Slow travel writing tips and examples

    A couple walking on the beach in the Bahamas in their swimsuits for the blog post travel writing tips from a professional editor.

    Slow travel writing tips and examples

    Slow travel focuses on making genuine connections. On first-hand interactions with local people and learning about their traditions and culture.

    It’s about taking a back seat, finding offbeat treasures and listening to local stories.

    Travel readers love storytellers who reveal their sense of humanity and who aren’t afraid to express their feelings. 

    Readers want deep-dive knowledge about the places they’re visiting. 

    They want a writer who can evaluate the environment and provide authentic advice about questions they haven’t considered yet.

    New York Times contributor and seasoned travel writer Tim Neville explained quality travel writing like this:

    Man with suitcase and laptop walking towards transport.

    ‘You need facts, and lots of really captivating ones, but the best travel writing also includes some subtle statement about who we are as humans, and how to make the most of the precious time we have on this great big earth.’

    The following slow travel writing tips and examples will help you identify your readers’ needs and deliver the information and inspiration they’re looking for.

    Before you write a word ask yourself

    Why is this place worth visiting?

    What happens when you do visit?

    Is something at stake?

    Can I see conflict?

    Is there dialogue with locals I can incorporate?

    Girl writing slow travel writing tips and examples

    Leave a subtle nod to something bigger than travel

    The story doesn’t need to revolve around an earth-shattering event.

    It could be a simple adventure, such as finding a historic library among the cobblestone laneways of Rome. A perfect opportunity to take your readers on a journey.

    As Neville reminds us, ‘By the end, I want to be left with a subtle nod to something bigger than just travel.’

    Slow travel writing should also reflect changes occurring in the travel industry – both from the perspective of the destination and that of the traveller.

    If you haven’t chatted to the locals, there’s little point attempting to write authoritatively about a travel destination.

    And even less point if you haven’t researched the demographic you’re writing for, or identified your niche readership.

    Infographic about slow travel writing tips.

    The following slow travel writing tips and examples should help you write authentic, compelling stories about the places you visit.

    Dig a little deeper

    Mont Saint-Michel, in France, is visited by more than 2.5 million tourists annually. 

    How do you explore this magnificent place without being trampled by other tourists?

    Can you find more meaningful experiences to share in print?

    Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. A perfect place for slow travel writing.
    Stay overnight at the spectacular Mont Saint-Michel.

    The answer is an overnight stay. Book early and you can reserve a room in one of the small hotels or B&Bs. This will give you time to explore the landscape and talk to locals. It’s an unforgettable experience and only a handful of other visitors will be joining you.

    Look to locals for the real stories

    The authorities in Venice have recently started charging day visitors a new tax that’s aimed at reducing the number of day travellers descending on the fragile city.

    But look closer and you’ll find a local group, Venezia Autentica, that’s coaxing tourists away from the crowded piazzas. Instead, they’re offering tours and experiences with local guides and artisans.

    The group offers tourists authentic cultural experiences that support the local community and ‘positively impact the city’.

    Of my slow travel writing tips, this is the most important. Peel away the tourism industry veneer and look for meaningful experiences and hidden treasures to write about.

    Many travellers are yearning for authentic travel experiences, and a lot of locals in tourist destinations want visitors to have genuine interactions with the local community.

    Search for gems in the back streets

    Pont Chiodo is the only bridge left in Venice without a parapet (handrail).

    Once upon a time none of Venice’s bridges had parapets. This little treasure is all that’s left.

    There is one other bridge without a parapet on the island of Torcello in the Venetian Lagoon.

    Pont Chiodo is the only bridge left in Venice without a parapet (handrails).
    The only bridge left in Venice without a parapet is Pont Chiodo, which is privately owned.

    It’s known as Devil’s Bridge or Pont del Diavolo.

    It has a tragic folktale attached to it, which you can check out via the link.

    Don’t overlook these gems in the backstreets and focus on local stories and history in your research and writing.

    Explore local myths and stories

    Another example of locals taking action against mass tourism is in the Cinque Terre. There you’ll find a UNESCO-sponsored youth program that’s helping to restore the decaying terraces and stonewalls. For centuries, these walls supported the vertical farming of lemons, apples and vineyards along the rugged coastline.

    View of Manarola from the sea
    Manarola is part of the fragile Cinque Terre, where tourism has been restricted.

    If you research the Cinque Terre online, you’ll find multiple references to the desperate measures being considered to restrict tourism – again because of overcrowding.

    So what do you do as a slow travel writer? It’s easy. You consider the jewels strewn among the backstreets.

    You search for local stories and for travel experiences that will involve your readers in the culture and history of the place.

    Consider writing about the Jewish Ghetto in Carneggrio in Venice (the first ghetto in Europe), instead of more famous and overcrowded places of interest such as the Rialto Bridge and Doge’s Palace. 

    Find one of Florence's best-kept secrets

    In Florence, write about the Laurentian Library, which was designed by Michelangelo, instead of marvelling at David in the Accademia Gallery after long hours in the queue outside.

    The Architectural Digest describes Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library in Florence as ‘a revolutionary and rarely crowded masterpiece’.

    Designed by Michelangelo and constructed in the 1500s, it houses the most important collection of antique books and manuscripts in Italy.

    From the freestanding grey stone staircase to the pew-like rows of reading benches, it’s an astounding achievement.

    The Laurentian Library is less than a kilometre from Michelangelo’s David and yet it’s relatively unknown to tourists.

    The little-known jewels are there to be found

    The word ‘ghetto’ is derived from the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, which was instituted in 1516. Known as ‘Campo del Ghetto’ it has an ancient and difficult history marked by tragedy and persecution.

    While the ghetto is of tremendous historical significance, along with its five synagogues and world-class museum, tourists are often completely unaware of the existence of this important place.

    In Milan, instead of sending readers to get trampled in the crowd at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, send them to Bosco Verticale. There they’ll find high-rise residential buildings almost completely covered in trees and plants.

    Or, rather than encouraging readers to join the queue at the Milan Cathedral, inspire them to pop around the corner and climb the 250 steps up the staircase to its roof. It’s almost half the price of the elevator and twice the fun.

    Walking on the cathedral rooftop with more than 3,400 marble spires, statues and gargoyles will blow their socks off.

    Slow travel writing is about honouring the place you’re visiting and writing about it with respect and anthenticity.

    Find a secret garden in central Milan

    Go on a treasure hunt and find the Botanical Garden of Brera hidden away in the centre of Milan. You’ll find it through a small gate at the end of an unassuming street.

    There often isn’t a tourist in sight and you may find yourself walking around with a few friendly locals.

    Botanical Garden of Brera in Milan- an example of slow travel writing tips
    Believed to be one of Mozart's favourite place to walk, the Botanical Garden of Brera is one of Milan's secrets.

    Created by Maria Theresa of Austria in 1774, the garden contains two gingko biloba trees that were planted in 1786. (Ginkos are the world’s oldest living trees dating back 250 million years.)

    The garden was also used by apothecaries and doctors to study botany and, according to legend, Mozart once walked around this secret little garden. Perhaps he was composing the Magic Flute as he walked among the hydrangea.

    Are you enjoying these slow travel writing tips and examples? Keep reading for more tips at the end.

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    Think and walk outside the square

    Think laterally and dig deeper to avoid the overcrowded main attractions.

    Instead of waiting in line for hours to see the interior of the Milan Cathedral send your readers off on an adventure.

    Show them how to climb the staircase up to the roof. It took 600 years to build the magnificent Duomo di Milano and the workmanship on the roof is worth the climb.

    In an interview with the BBC, the inimitable Paul Theroux spoke about the importance of travelling and writing, and he summed it up with this quintessential quote:

    ‘Travel in an uncertain world … has never seemed to me more essential, of greater importance or more enlightening.’

    The art of slow travel and how to make a living from it

    Backpacker Steve (2017). The art of slow travel – Gareth Leonard (A life of travel, Ep3).

    13 slow travel writing tips to help you shine the light

    1.

    Write in first person and past tense.

    2.

    Identify your reading audience and pitch specifically to them. When you’ve defined your niche stay with it.

    3.

    Plot out your travel story, and have a clear narrative that links the beginning to the end. It should never read like an itinerary, or a series of unconnected facts or thoughts.

    4.

    Don’t tarry about getting to where you are in the world and where your story is set. Your reader will want to know if your story is relevant to them before investing too much time reading.

    5.

    Avoid travel clichés. Be imaginative and make up your own quirky turns of phrase. Also be open to travel writing tips from other writers.

    6.

    Use emotion. How did the trip affect you or change your worldview?

    7.

    Detail is crucial. Remember what you leave out is as important as what you include.

    8.

    Don’t use words like ‘superb’, ‘stunning’, beautiful’ or ‘breathtaking’. Use a synonym finder and find interesting more imaginative substitutes.

    9.

    Show, don’t tell. This rule applies to any type of writing, but more so in travel writing. Don’t tell your readers what to think. A good idea is to imagine you’re describing things to a person living with blindness.

    10.

    Practise using all your senses when you’re taking notes at your travel destination – smell, taste, sound, touch and sight. This will help you describe things better in your writing.

    11.

    Include meaningful quotes and anecdotes from locals. This will add colour and context to your story. Take care to quote exactly and spell names accurately. Don’t run off without jotting down their contact details.

    12.

    Always check your facts. This is very important. Verify things people tell you and follow up your own observations. Only use reputable websites for research and double check on a second reputable site.

    13.

    Invest in a good camera and learn some basic photography skills. It’s much easier to pitch a travel story when you have good-quality images to go with it. Remember, if you photograph people ask them to sign model releases; otherwise, the photo won’t be accepted for publication. You can find sample model releases here.

    Slow travel writing tips are my job

    When I write blog posts, I’m grateful for my years of experience as an editor and writer.

    Working in a publishing house taught me how to massage content to fit on a page. 

    Writing and editing to an exact word count is a skill that isn’t easily learnt either. I picked that up as a newspaper subeditor.

    When you’ve worked with words every day for more than 13, 14, 15 years (I’ve lost count), writing is second nature. Creating the perfect blog post is a challenge I love.

    Before you go

    If you’re after ways to improve your blog writing check out How to write a smashing blog post.

    Stop right here if you want to know how to Have a slow travel experience.

    And if you love ancient libraries you might like to read Searching for Rome’s oldest public library and The library Michelangelo designed in Florence.

     

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    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • How to unblock writer’s block

    Woman standing on beach at edge of water holding sarong above her head in relaxed carefree mode.

    How to unblock writer’s block

    By Sharon Lapkin

    Most of us are not as lucky as Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner, who said he only wrote when he was inspired – which happened to be at 9 am every morning.

    Working out how to unblock writer’s block can be difficult when you’re stuck in the middle of it. It disrupts your workflow and undermines your self-confidence. It can also lead to more serious health issues when frustration turns into self-doubt, stress and anxiety. 

    So what can you do to unblock writer’s block? 

    Here are seven evidence-based ways to get you moving again.

    1. Do some mindless work

    Have you ever noticed that a great creative idea comes to you when you’re doing something mundane like taking a shower or washing the floor?  

    More than a decade ago researchers Kimberly Elsbach and Andrew Hargadon, from the University of California, proposed that creativity could be enhanced by episodes of mindless work.

    They pointed to studies by Alice Isen that demonstrated there were improved problem-solving and unusual word association among workers with demanding jobs when they incorporated mindless tasks into their daily workflows. These included photocopying, cleaning and unpacking supplies. 

    Man watering garden while trying to work out how to unblock writer's block.

    This evidence suggests that going offline will help get your brain working in innovative ways.

    It helps to do something simple and easy.

    Put space between yourself and the task at hand.

    Pull some weeds out of the garden, prune the hedge, go for a walk, or do a simple cleaning or tidying task. 

    Note, though, that mindless work

    doesn’t include participating in social media, even if you’re only reading other people’s posts. This type of online activity simply substitutes cognitive tasks with visual distractions.

    2. Write to yourself

    In his 50s author Graham Greene encountered writer’s block for the first time.

    He discovered that keeping a dream journal provided an avenue for expression that freed him from conscious anxiety.

    Free writing, stream of consciousness writing and brainstorming are all exercises that enable us to write to ourselves without fear of judgement from others.

    This can free up obstructions and impediments, and clear the way for fearless creativity.

    Self doubt and lack of confidence can drive creativity to ground, so developing ways to protect yourself when you need support can help keep you on task when you don’t want to deal with criticism. And let’s face it we all have times when naysayers can affect our confidence.

    This creative activity is good if you’re working on how to unblock writer’s block.

    3. Get granular

    Forget the big picture for the time being.

    Drill down to the details and focus on one issue at a time. Write a list of all the things you should have done this week, even if they’re not work-related, and work through them crossing off each item as it’s completed.  

    Purchase a personal planner, or organiser, and map out your entire day or week. Buy planner stickers and use them to mark up important events in your planner.

     

    Get structured and organised. Don’t worry if it’s not your usual style, try it anyway.

    Inserting order into your daily timetable, even if it’s a temporary fix, can help minimise any chaos that might be crippling your creativity. 

    That feeling you get when you complete something that’s been hanging around for ages might be the kickstart you’ve been waiting for. 

    Notepad and pens on a desk for working out how to unblock writer's block.

    4. Ask yourself questions and set a deadline

    Write questions to yourself.

    Who is my audience?

    What do l need to deliver?

    Does my interpretation correlate with what my manager wants?   

    Asking the right questions will help clarify the project and identify any red herrings. Examine your answers and ask more questions if necessary.

    If discrepancies arise between your questions and answers, consider how to resolve them and collaborate with colleagues if necessary. 

    If you don’t have a deadline, set one for yourself. Don’t set yourself up for failure though.

    Put realistic pressure on yourself to give ‘you’ a little push. For example, make an appointment for the day following your deadline so there are real-life consequences if you don’t meet it. 

    5. Redesign the task

    Does your thinking start with a conclusion? Indian philosopher J.Krishnamurti said that ‘to think from a conclusion is not to think at all’.

    He explained that it was ‘because the mind starts from a conclusion, from a belief, from experience, from knowledge, that it gets caught in routine, in the net of habit.’

    Does this sound like you? If it does, discard your conclusion and redesign the task.

    Skip the beginning and start at the end. Work backwards. Tip your ideas upside down and dive into the creative process anew.

    Work through your process to arrive at the conclusion – don’t allow your thinking to become routine and habitual. 

    How to unblock your writer’s block is becoming clearer, right?

    6. Take care of your brain

    When the brain’s frontal lobe, or Broca’s area, is damaged, it can result in aphasia. This is an impairment of the mind’s language capacity that hinders speech.

    When writer’s block affects writers, it results in an inability to write down the words they want – to make connections and create stories. 

    For several years, neurologists have produced studies demonstrating that the prefrontal cortex is crucial to creative thinking.

    More recently, a series of clinical observations has emerged that demonstrates the ‘facilitation of artistic production in patients with neurodegenerative diseases affecting the FTD [prefrontal cortex]’, such as frontotemporal dementia.  

    This fascinating paradox is being examined further, but what we can take away from the research is that brain health is complex and essential to cognitive reasoning. 

    Fruit, veges, grains, fish and olive oil that contribute to working out how to unblock writer's block.

    Eat well for brain health

    Good diet is one important way to keep your brain healthy and functioning optimally.   

    Dr Jenny Brockis wrote in Better Brain Health, that while it’s beneficial to eat particular foods for brain health, it’s the combination of different foods, or the diet in general, that matters most.  

    So look at a Mediterranean-style diet, as well as the components of it, such as leafy greens, vegetables, fish, olive oil, whole grains, nuts and healthy fats.

    Put them all together in a consistent way and make eating for brain health a regular part of your life, not a novelty or fad. A healthy diet will provide benefits for many other aspects of your life as well as brain health.

    7. Creativity needs sleep

    Keeping your brain healthy is also dependant on getting enough sleep. A little more sleep could also help you unblock writer’s block. 

    Years ago, a report in Springer’s nature journal concluded that sleep played a major role in the development of insight.

    By consolidating recent memories it is possible, the authors concluded, that the ‘representational structure’ of memories is changed during sleep and this process allows ‘insight’ to develop. 

    We also know from tests over a long period of time that divergent thinking, which is cognitive method used to generate multiple ideas about a topic and explore lots of different solutions, diminishes when people are sleep-deprived.

    Most of us also know, through our own experience, that vivid insights can be experienced when people are sleeping or just waking.

    Woman sleeping and dreaming about how to unblock her writer's block.

    According to the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sleep deficiency can have detrimental effects on our bodies, including our brains. It is linked to increased heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.  

    The bad news doesn’t stop there. Not getting enough sleep is also linked to human error and serious accidents.

    This is because sleep helps the brain to function properly, and a lack of it can make it difficult to make decisions, solve problems, control emotions and minimise risk-taking behaviour. 

    How much sleep do you need? Experts say it varies across individuals, but six hours is generally too little and eight hours is usually adequate.

    This is not to say that some people won’t need 10 hours sleep a night to function optimally. 

    Is it more than writer's block?

     Sometimes a prolonged inability to be creative can be a sign that something else is wrong.

    It’s important to differentiate between, for example, depression and writer’s block.

    For some people, trying to work out how to unblock writer’s block is not straightforward. If you think there may be more to your writer’s block than a temporary lapse of focus and motivation, you should seek expert medical advice.

    Your one-stop shop

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  • 6 annual report writing tips from a professional editor

    6 common errors in annual reports

    6 annual report writing tips from a professional editor

    By Sharon Lapkin

    A company’s annual report is an important and ongoing component of its corporate financial reporting. It provides information to shareholders and other stakeholders about the company’s financial performance over the past year.

    Following are my six most important annual report writing tips. They include common errors that I’ve seen over the past 14 years as an editor, and my advice on how to avoid them.

    Annual reports are publicly available, so they’re the public face of the company.

    They provide transparency about the activities of the company over the previous 12 months, and are an opportunity to showcase the company’s success, community work and global conscience.

    Prospective investors, creditors, analysts, employees, and any other interested parties, can study and analyse the company’s growth. They can read about its ability to pay its suppliers, whether it makes a profit and what proportion of its earnings is retained to develop the company. 

    Now (after a little quote from Warren Buffet) let’s take a look at my annual report writing tips.

    When I take a look at a company’s annual report,

    if I don’t understand it, they don’t want me to understand it.

    Warren Buffett

    Smooth out the inconsistencies

    Figure number one above a highrise building showing first tip in annual report writing tips.

    Annual reports are usually multi-authored, and this can create consistency issues.

    Each section writer has a different writing style, and these contributing writers are often not aware of what others are writing.

    Readers suffer the consequences of this disconnect. They grow tired of the inconsistencies and instead of reading on, they flick through the pages to check they’re not missing vital information then close the report.

    The annual report isn’t the place to tell stories – or the place to take three pages to say something you could say in one. It’s a dynamic publication – one that presents information in clear unambiguous terms, without rambling or repetition. 

    A good annual report addresses all stakeholders, and presents precise information in informative and interesting ways.

    Minimise jargon and acronyms

    Figure number 2 above a highrise building showing second tip in annual report writing tips.

    Using industry-specific jargon and acronyms is the easiest way to communicate if you work in-house.

    Your work colleagues all understand this codified way of communicating. But when it comes to the company annual report, please don’t do it. It’s a sure-fire way to alienate and lose readers.

    If you need to use industry-specific terms, acronyms and abbreviations, spell out the short form in the first instance and then use that short form thereafter. See this practice in the following example.

    A new LMS (learning management system) was installed in July this year, and by early August the LMS was fully functional.

    If you haven’t repeated the short form (LMS) for a few pages and are not sure readers will remember its meaning do the following:

    The LMS [learning management system] was an expensive investment.

    The conventional use of square brackets is for editorial comment. In this case you’re reminding the reader what LMS stands for. Don’t do it too often; however, it’s a good save to help your readers.

    Also create a glossary in your annual report that includes explanations and definitions of these terms for your readers. But don’t forget to tell them where it is. Add ‘See Glossary’ in round brackets after terms that need clarifying, and ensure the Glossary is in the report’s Table of Contents with a page number.

    Finding these annual report writing tips useful? Great! Keep reading.

    Be forthright

    Figure number 3 above a highrise building showing third tip in annual report writing tips

    Transparency is your keyword.

    Don’t leave out meaningful analysis in your annual report.

    If your company’s performance has been poor, or there’s been an unfortunate work accident, be upfront and address it.

    A good writer, together with a good editor, is a great support here.

    Work with them and rely on their expertise to communicate this type of information in the most appropriate way. 

    Don't leave it all to the designer

    Figure number 4 above a highrise building

    Don’t hire a graphic designer and think you’ve got the project covered.

    Designers aren’t responsible for grammar or punctuation, or for the factual accuracy of the content you give them. Remember, a designer is an intrinsic part of the team, but you also need an editor.

    A professional editor will work with your writer/s or project manager and they will know when and how to raise queries.

    Good editors know how a designer works. They know how text and graphics should sit on a page, and they work with the designer to fit your content perfectly. Page fitting is a tricky skill and a vital part of an editor’s toolkit.

    The designer and editor work collaboratively to make your annual report a professional publication. Every page is perfectly pitched and error-free, and you can trust that your annual report writing is being treated with respect.

    Leave the numbers to the accountants

    Figure number 5 above a highrise building showing fifth tip in annual report writing tips.

    But what about the numbers?

    An accountant prepares the financial information in an annual report. If it’s a large company, it may be a team of accountants.

    A lawyer may also be involved in preparing the financial and legislative content. A professionally trained editor knows how to work with subject-matter experts, such as lawyers and accountants.

    Editors won’t edit the financials in an annual report. Instead, they’ll leave queries for the accountant and/or lawyer if something doesn’t look correct or appears to be missing.

    This is the most important annual report writing tip because meddling with accountant’s numbers will get you into a world of mess.

    Pulling it all together without errors

    Figure number 6 above a highrise building.

    With so many people contributing to an annual report, it’s possible that a single company employee will struggle to pull it all together at the end of the writing process.

    A company employee can overlook, for example, the text on the spine of their company’s annual report. They might even send it to the printer unchecked. Yes! Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen.

    More than 1000 copies were printed with the wrong date on the spine because the designer hadn’t updated the template from the previous year.

    Spine errors are one of the commonest mistakes in publishing, and the consequences are always embarrassing and expensive.

    This is why a professional editor is invaluable. Their checklists cover every aspect of the publishing process and they perform an extensive prepress check for you.

    When they sign off your annual report, you’ll be confident it’s error-free and ready to publish. That last-minute check of the spine has been done too!

    Before you go

    I hope you’ve found these annual report writing tips useful.

    For more information on the requirements of an annual report go to the CPA [Chartered Practising Accountants] website.

    If you’d like to read more great tips on editing reports check out How to edit an annual report.

    You might also want to read about the unique method I use when editing reports in How to copyedit like an expert.

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