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Copywriting

Writing for Skyscanner? This basically makes you a hero.

Table of Contents

Introduction

No cape needed. (Please — no underwear over tights, either.) Because writing for Skyscanner means you're helping people have an amazing trip.

That's the point of everything we do

So, first of all, take a moment to feel noble. You might even give yourself a pat on the back (but, um, make sure no-one is looking first).

Still, if we're going to help people, we need to make sure they're listening. And that's not just about what we tell them - it's about how we tell them.

What makes your voice worth listening to?

Imagine you met a really boring person at a party. They might have lots of good knowledge, but you're probably not going to listen to them. (Same goes for if they're really snobby, or obviously thinks they're just, like, too cool. Blergh.)

Now imagine you met someone really funny and entertaining. But the things they told you were just plain wrong. You probably wouldn't take their advice, because you couldn't trust a word they said.

So, we need people to enjoy hanging out with us - but they need to trust that we know what we're talking about, too.

How do we know what we're talking about?

As this guide will make clear, we really can't say anything useful about a place unless we've actually been there. Our content is only helpful if it features personalised tips, recommendations and insight from people with on-the-ground experience.

Sure, we can sort of figure out what a place looks like and where the hot restaurants are with a bit of internet research. But can we give the details that make the difference? Do we know which bars are worth the hype? Do we know if the hotel really is a short walk from the train station, or a long, dangerous hike through a dodgy neighbourhood?

We want to help people have the best trip ever. We can't do that with guesswork. Do we want to send someone to that dodgy neighbourhood, because the hotel website made it look nicer? No. We patted ourselves on the back already! We want to be heroes.

PS: Not to sound too much like teacher, but it's a good idea to check spellings. We could give someone the most amazing recommendation, but if we spell it wrong, that's what they'll remember, and it makes people trust us less.

How do you find the right voice?

We want your voice to be very personal but, when we're writing editorial, it also needs to represent Skyscanner and complement who we are, and the things we believe. Here's how we would describe ourselves:

"We're straightforward." We don't show off with big words. We keep it simple and to the point.

"We're fun to hang out with." We're chatty, we get excited about things, and we like to have a laugh.

"We're trustworthy." We know our stuff, and we want to share it. We understand travel - what's worth the effort, what's truly exceptional, what will hopefully make people happy and what might not.

"We love travel and we want others to love it just as much." Exploring the world is a magical thing. We love trying new food, experiencing new cultures, and having adventures. And we want to get other people as excited about it as we are.

Now you've found your voice, it's time to write.

What is good writing?

  • Number one rule: good writing always puts the traveller first.
  • Good writing doesn't mean using lots of adjectives.
  • It means making sure every sentence we write is helpful.
  • So, how can we be helpful?

Be specific. If we say, 'The hotel is a short walk from the train station,' that's pretty vague - what do we mean by 'short'? But if we say, 'The hotel is a mile's walk (with lots of steps, be prepared if you've got kids) from the train station', we're giving people information they can use.

Make it easy to understand. The best writing doesn't sound like you're trying to be too clever - it just sounds natural. Say what you mean, and say it clearly - like you would to a friend.

Make it personal. Why should people trust us? Use your experience to show them you know what you're talking about. 'The food was delicious,' doesn't tell anyone anything, really. Instead try, 'The restaurant fuses Italian and Californian flavours. Their short rib with gnocchi is one of the best things I've ever tasted: really smoky and rich.'

Be interesting. Travel is exciting, so we shouldn't make it sound boring. 'The museum has lots of historical artifacts' = zzzzz. But 'the museum is awesome - I saw a collection of real-life shrunken heads' sounds pretty interesting, doesn't it?

Be honest. We want people to make informed choices. So if there's something you think might bother people, tell them. So you might say: 'This hotel is great: friendly staff, comfy beds and value for money. But you will need to be comfortable with shared bathrooms.' Or: 'This is one of the best hotels I've ever stayed in - but it's also one of the most expensive.'

Operate on the goldilocks principle. We think a good review is probably about 150-200 words…not too long, not too short, but just right. In literary terms, it's longer than a tweet, but (much) shorter than a novel. Save longer-form writing for your diary.

Find more handy information on word count in our 'How to build it guide.'

How to write a travel guide

If you're writing a travel guide- say, if you're rounding up the best bars in Tokyo, or the best food in Madrid - you'll need to write an introduction.

This is your big chance to get people really excited about what they might find out in the rest of the article. You have to hook them in right away, though - they're just one click away from missing out on your great advice.

The good news is, all you need to do is follow the rules. Put the traveller first - what would it be helpful for them to know? Can you give them a sense of the experiences they're likely to have?

Now tell them those things in a way that is specific, clear, personal, interesting and honest.

Here's an example of an introduction that needs a bit of work:

"The most popular state to visit in India, Rajasthan, is also the one that is better geared to tourism. Here you'll find beautiful, comfortable hotels located in historic buildings and delicious restaurants that serve the freshest and most delicious food abound. This guide gives guidance to the best places to stay and the most delicious places to eat in Rajasthan, for all budgets."

This doesn't really tell us very much about Rajasthan. Lots of places have nice hotels and nice food, after all. What makes Rajasthan different? Why do you think people should get excited?

Let's rewrite this sentence by sentence.

"The most popular state to visit in India, Rajasthan, is also the one that is better geared to tourism."

Keep the rules in mind, and you get something more like:

"Rajasthan is India's most popular state with travellers - it gets a massive 35 million visitors a year. It's not hard to see why. This is one of the most colourful places on Earth, from - my personal favourite - the blue-painted city of Jodhpur, to the golden sand fortresses rising out of desert town Jaisalmer. Plus, because Rajasthan is so used to tourists, it's one of the easier parts of India to visit (the famously chaotic country can sometimes be a bit overwhelming)."

Next up:

"Here, beautiful, comfortable hotels located in historic buildings and delicious restaurants that serve the freshest and most delicious food abound."

How about:

"Rajasthan isn't short of comfortable hotels, and many of them are set in impressive historic buildings, like former palaces and havelis (a traditional Indian mansion, often decorated with amazing, brightly coloured paintings). And fantastic restaurants are everywhere - Rajasthani food is less spicy than most Indian food, with lots of bread and dumplings to dip in tangy sauces."

Then:

"This guide gives guidance to the best places to stay and the most delicious places to eat in Rajasthan, for all budgets."

Instead, why not try something like:

"Here are my favourite places to stay and eat in Rajasthan - from life-changing street snacks, to a hotel where you won't ever want to leave the outrageously comfy bed. All budgets covered!"

Writing a review

More good news - again, we're just following the rules. They'll always be the same, whether you're writing about a restaurant, a hotel, or a city. Start with: what are the most useful, interesting things you can tell people about each place?

Here's a restaurant recommendation that needs some work:

"Fabulous restaurant in a fantastic location in Udaipur, that ticks all the boxes. The atmosphere is incredible, whether for a business meeting or for a family lunch. The food is delicious, always prepared from scratch. The service is spot on. And the prices are more than reasonable given what you get. Recommended."

OK, so it's a fantastic location and the atmosphere is incredible - but why?

Great, the food is delicious - but what was it like, and what did you order?

Yay, the prices are reasonable! But, um, what are they?

Better to say:

"This restaurant has one of the best locations in Udaipur, right on the shore of Lake Pichola (grab an outdoor table, and you'll get an amazing view of the City Palace). Don't miss the raan: an unbelievably tender roast leg of lamb (I think I actually drooled on it). This is a pricier option than your usual Indian restaurant - dishes start at about 500 rupees (£6) - but the quality, portions and setting are worth it."

An anecdote achieves a lot more than a throwaway statement. So, instead of saying "Service is spot on", you might say, "Service is fast and thoughtful - our waiter warned us about the really spicy dishes and our water glass never got empty."

All in all, if you just follow the rules, it's pretty simple. And it's fun to show people cool stuff - so why not show them as much cool stuff as you can?

How to write a destination page

The cool thing about cities, regions and countries is they all have their own, unique personalities. So when we're writing the 'Why go?' part, we want to really focus on what makes them special, by giving examples of things people can do and experience.

Most important: we don't want it to sound like it could be anywhere. Why do we think travellers will love it?

Here's an example:

"Free-spirited San Francisco is known for trail-blazing. The city invented everything from the farm-to-table food movement, to the Big Tech sharing economy (Uber and Airbnb were born here), and is a gay rights pioneer. That means the city always feels exciting: whether you're queuing for the new flavour at gourmet ice cream shop Salt & Straw, or just got a ticket to The Colour Factory, where the rooms are full of balloons and rainbow-coloured ribbons. Plus, SF (only tourists call it 'San Fran'!) is packed with iconic landmarks, like its historic cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz island. There are also loads of hands-on museums (feel your way around the 'Tactile Room' at Exploratorium, or enter an indoor rainforest at California Academy of Sciences). Even better, this compact city only measures seven miles by seven miles, so it's super-easy to explore."

We also want to give advice about the best time to visit, because this really affects a trip. It's no fun if, say, all the best stuff is outdoors, and you visit when it's raining. Think about all the factors the best time to visit might include: when things are open, how busy or expensive it is, any festivals or events. Personal tips from your own experience are especially useful here, when you're writing the 'When to go?' section.

For example:

"The major mistake people make is visiting San Francisco in summer. May to August actually gets pretty chilly and foggy - in fact, the fog often covers the Golden Gate Bridge completely. September and October, though, are perfect, with clear blue skies and temperatures in the high 20s. Surrounded by green hills and sea, San Francisco is one of the world's best-looking cities, offering lots of amazing views, and gorgeous parks that look their best in the sunshine."

How to write safety tips

On some destination pages, we give safety tips for LGBTQ and solo female travellers.

This doesn't mean trying to scare anyone; but it doesn't mean glossing over anything, either. The best way to be helpful here is to explain why there might be safety issues, and then offer some solutions.

We don't want to put anyone off having an amazing travel experience. But we do want to make sure they have the best experience possible.

Check out this example.

Here are some reasons it works:

  • The writer remains positive about the country and its people.
  • She shares personal and interesting stories about her time there.
  • But she is honest about specific issues that affect women travellers.
  • She then offers practical advice others can use.

How to write a hotel insider

When we're choosing where to stay on holiday, it's not just the hotel that makes the difference, but the neighbourhood, too. Everyone has their own travel style; some love being in the thick of things, others just want to chill. Some want to see all the sights, others just want to check out the best bars. (Hey, no judgement here...).

We can help people choose the right place to stay by giving them as much useful info as we can. That includes what the neighbourhood and the area offers, but also the sort of hotels and prices you're likely to find there.

All those things are important if you're going to plan the perfect trip.

Here are two different entries for San Francisco:

"Hayes Valley will give you a taste of local life. This quiet residential area is all rows of brightly painted Victorians and cute, neighbourhood restaurants (serving San Francisco's signature, California-sourced seasonal cuisine of course). Market Street, the downtown public transport hub, is only a few blocks' walk, but the city's green parks and waterfront are harder to reach (you're probably best getting a cab). There are no major hotel chains, but there are a few bed and breakfasts in historic homes, at mid-range prices. Try The Parsonage \[LINK\] or Chateau Tivoli \[LINK\]."

"Union Square is tourist-central. This busy, high-rise part of downtown is where you'll find most of the city's hotels - everything from midrange chains like the Hilton \[LINK\], to budget boutiques like rock 'n' roll-themed Hotel Zeppelin \[LINK\], or luxury digs like the Four Seasons \[LINK\]. You can catch everything from bus tours to cable cars here, shop at designer stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, and choose between any number of rowdy restaurants and bars - though you won't be mixing with many locals."

A few handy extras

We've talked a lot about being useful, and that means not leaving people with too many questions. Below are some typical questions travellers will have about things. You won't always need to answer all of them - you probably don't want to write an essay, and no-one wants to read one! - but you should try to answer as many as are appropriate with whatever it is that you write.

  • What budget are we talking? Is it a low-cost B&B or hostel, a boutique hotel or expensive resort?
  • Location? (Far from the city centre, but peaceful and good access to public transport? In the city centre, so close to everything, but a bit noisy?)
  • What is the style? (Colourful? Minimal? Retro? Modern? Etc)
  • What are the facilities like? (Is there a pool, a nice restaurant?)
  • What are the other guests typically like? (Families? Hipsters?)
  • What are the rooms like? (Big, small, comfortable? Etc)
  • What makes it different to its neighbours?
  • What's your favourite thing about it?
  • Any tips?

Restaurants

  • What sort of food do they serve? (What cuisine? Fine dining, casual, budget?)
  • What are the best dishes and what are they like?
  • What's the atmosphere like? (Noisy? Busy? Families? Party animals?)
  • What's the service like?
  • Is there a particularly good time of day to go?
  • How much does a meal typically cost?
  • Any tips?

Destinations

  • What's the vibe like, generally?
  • What are the people like, generally?
  • What sort of traveller would it appeal to? Foodies, history buffs, night owls?
  • How expensive or cheap is it?
  • What is it known for?
  • Are the popular perceptions of it true?
  • What does it look like? Lots of skyscrapers? Or more historic buildings? Industrial? Green? Etc
  • How big or small is it, and how easy or hard is it to get around?
  • What are some of the standout regions (for a country) or neighbourhoods (for a city)?
  • What are the major attractions?
  • What are some of your favourite things to do there?