In travel writing, you must know your market above all else. The reason is two fold. First, it is important to know your market because you are offering advice to those who may have never been to a particular destination. Second, it’s important to know your market, because as a travel writer, you are part of a discourse community filled with other travel writers, who may very well be reading your work. And they will not hesitate to call you on it if you get something wrong.
IN MY EXPERIENCE
For instance, when I was trained as a travel agent, I was taught to always be specific when I was working with a client. Too many times people would say one thing and mean another. If a customer were to say, “I want to leave from Dallas,” most would automatically assume Dallas/Ft. Worth airport; however there is also Dallas Lovefield airport nearby which could be their preference. The same is true with Houston Intercontinental Airport vs. Houston Hobby and Chicago O’Hare vs. Chicago Midway. One might think this is the worst thing that could happen, but then we have big ones like Portland, OR vs. Portland, ME, where a client could potentially wind up on the other side of the United States. One would think this couldn’t possibly happen, that the client would realize it before they actually arrived, but I once had a client call from Sioux Falls, SD when they were going to Sioux City, IA and they didn’t realize it until they actually arrived at the wrong destination. This is a mistake that can easily be made by a rookie, but still a travel agent in the field would say, “Why didn’t they clarify and make sure of the clients intended destination?”
The same rings true in travel writing. Amy Devitt warns us, “By selecting a genre to write in, or by beginning to write within a genre, the writer has selected the situation entailed in that genre” (578). What this tells us is to write in a way that will be understood by those reading in that particular genre. You must know your audience so you will know how specific you need to be.
You should always be cautious of sending the wrong message.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
If you were writing for other travel agents you could add all kinds of travel jargon that would easily be understood. But, if writing for travelers, a sentence like, “All flights from LHR are delayed and will instead be rerouting through LGW.” would make little sense. As Charles Bazerman points out, “…if you hang around a certain place long enough you will become the kind of person who hands around that place – you know your way around the place, how to act there, what to say there, who fits or unfits, and who is a newcomer” (14). Due to this fact, a frequent traveler may immediately recognize these codes as the two airports in London, but most would be lost. So, it’s imperative that your writing is clear and understandable to the masses.
If writing for a mixed audience, you may attempt to merge the two together with the code, followed by the definition in this way: LHR (London Heathrow), but overall I think it would be better to simply leave them out. This avoids the risk of coming off a little pompous in your research. In travel, as in other areas, you will always encounter different genres like the ones mentioned above. Kress tells us, “…it is not possible to imagine communication which does not encompass the meanings realized in genre” ( 39). So, we see it’s extremely important to make sure we are writing in the correct format, and the correct content for our audience.
If you reach out to your audience in a way that makes them feel comfortable and trust you, then all of these facts will merge together in creating a successful blog. For example, my blog posts may read:
“Have you ever been to Seattle, Washington? There are a lot of movies and television shows that are based there. My personal favorites are Sleepless in Seattle, Cedar Cove and Grey’s Anatomy. But, you can’t really get the feel for the city, until you actually arrive there. I’ve traveled most of the United States, and Seattle is, thus far, the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Until recently, I had never visited the actual city, I’d just passed it on the interstate. But last month, I found myself in town on an extended layover and decided to check things out for myself. What I found was that I LOVE Seattle and this is why. First off, the air is incredibly crisp and clean there. Even though they are listed as one of the most congested cities in the US due to the traffic, they are also the second “greenest” city in the US due to the amount of citizens that take advantage of the public transportation options or else prefer to walk or ride their bicycles to maneuver through the city.
I took the LinkRail from the SEATAC Airport to University St, where I stepped off the train and proceeded to walk down to the pier in order to take an hour long harbor cruise while I was in town.
Being in the heart of the city, I thought I would feel a little apprehensive, but that’s not what happened at all. I was surrounded by high rise buildings and yet, every block or so, I encountered these little garden or picnic areas, places where you could stop and rest, or just enjoy the breeze. There were hundreds of people around and yet it didn’t feel over crowded. It felt like I was a part of the community and I liked that feeling.”
When you write in this way, with your audience in mind, and telling a story as if you were speaking to them in person, it offers the perfect atmosphere I want to create for my blog; while using a voice that is easy to understand and neither talks over my readers, nor talks down to them.