As travel bloggers, we always focus on providing the best information possible for our readers. It is our job to be credible travel resources in the industry, spend time gathering all the knowledge we have and research keywords in order to provide our audience with accurate and insider advice.
A great blog however, is not just made of tips or viral posts. To make your readers fall in love and become loyal followers, you need to add a little more magic. There are bloggers who have mastered this art, the ones whose posts you read no matter the topic. You read their articles whether they’re humorous, thoughtful or practical, or the best combination – all three at once.
Since I started blogging, I have received many comments from readers praising my writing and flattering the “gripping read.” I have been able to get a few (freelance writing and other) jobs directly from my blog in English, but I was also published in printed magazines in Slovakia before I had even started my own site.
So, how do you make this magic happen? How do you make readers stick with you, and how can you attract and retain visitors? My five steps to better writing will answer these questions and help you become a better blogger.
Divide the text visually
While what you write is crucial, how you write and the format you use determines whether or not your visitors will stick around.
In times of the exponentially decreasing attention span, using paragraphs is a must; in fact, many successful websites hit enter every one or two sentences.
Headings, subheadings and tables of contents are not there just for SEO purposes – they help the reader find their way through the text. Bold and italic letters should emphasise your main ideas for those who are just skimming through the article.
Your photography skills and particular visual style can attract more attention and help you to be remembered, but you can also use stock images to space the text out without investing in an expensive camera.
Play with tenses & syntax
If there is a one thing that causes me to bounce off a site and lose interest, it is a boring use of tenses. Your Yoast plugin tells you to keep the sentences short and sweet, but personally, I believe the readability has more to do with how enticing your writing is.
How about using the present tense instead of always speaking in the past? By switching to the present tense (not 100% of the time, por favor!) you can draw a person in and pull them to the edge of their seat. At least, that´s what my readers have confessed after reading how I survived a car crash in Turkey.
Switching between long and short sentences, descriptions with dialogue and playing with scratched words and brackets are also simple and easy ways to keep your text playful and interesting.
Lastly, reversing the chronology of your narrative is an effective way to create suspense and surprise for your reader.
Be honest to your voice
Hemingway is the author of many famous quotes, one of my favourite is:
“Write drunk, edit sober.”
Following this quote has helped me to find my voice, which in turn helps me retain readers. While Ernest was proud of his stern, direct style, not all writers are the same. If you’re not a drinker, find a space that allows your voice and creativity to flow.
Instead of butchering your writing in order to copy a famous blogger´s style, focus on your own thoughts. Honesty and accurate descriptions of your impressions will take you a lot further than being a copycat. Besides, places change and you should reflect that in your blog; what was off the beaten path five years ago, might as well be the new Paris today.
Whether you love using quirky adjectives, dialogues or organized lists with bullets, you should stick with what makes you feel true to yourself. If you love what you write, others will too. “Handmade with love” is the best way to blog.
Use online tools
As a non-native speaker (and a recovering grammar nazi), I am constantly worried about making grammar mistakes. Is this the right way to use this proverb? Will my readers understand what I mean by this metaphor? Will my irony come across as funny, or just mean? These are some of the questions usually buzzing around my head.
When unsure, I simply google the phrase I have written and look for how other people have used it. If it fits with what I want to say I give it a go, but at times, I look for better ways to express my ideas.
Apart from looking for synonyms (I swear I want to tear my hair out every time I try to think of another way to say “amazing”, “gorgeous” or “beautiful!”) my most favorite tool on Earth (I mean, in my browser) is Grammarly. Not only does it correct my poor use of articles, it also notices incorrect prepositions and highlights them for me. Plus, I don’t even have to click – Grammarly shows me the correct options just by hovering over the word. (Talk about a new definition of lazy.) If that didn’t convince you, here are two magic words – it´s free.
Don’t hit publish
At least, not just yet.
I am a slow traveler, a slow hiker, but also a slow writer. I always take my time to develop ideas and stories. Letting my text “sleep” gives me time to change my mind and look at my writing with a fresh pair of eyes – sometimes, it takes months before I feel the work is done! This is crucial for me when it comes to opinion pieces, essays and controversial topics.
When I allow myself more time to work on the draft, it shows on the result. Don’t publish the first version of your article – instead, give yourself a few days and then come back for the necessary edits.
5 tips to become a better writer
I have always loved words. Becoming fluent in several languages made me re-think the way I write – each language has their specifics, but by mixing things up, it is possible to create a unique style characteristic of your personality.
Next time you work on an article, use the right tools to improve your grammar and your style – play with your text and I am sure you’ll create something worthwhile.
Do you have more tips on how to improve your writing? Do you face difficulties finding your voice? Share your thoughts! I’d love to hear.
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Karin Ardila is an adventurer, hitchhiker and full-time slow traveler from Slovakia. She enjoys studying post-colonialism, learning foreign languages and generally bumming around on a derisory budget. She also happens to blog about independent travel, abandoned architecture and (sometimes) nudism at Girl Astray. To learn about her travels, you can connect with Karin on Facebook and Instagram.