The Rule of Thumb (With Examples from Delta Sky Magazine)
In our publishing business we often talk about “The Rule of Thumb.” And we mean it literally.
Here’s how it works: Place your thumb half way down your article. If your main idea (the biggest benefit to your reader) isn’t above your thumb, cut until it is. This forces you to get to your main idea early. And that’s a good habit to get into. It’s often easiest to break into travel writing with short articles. But when you do, you’ve got only a few sentences in which to get to your point.
Freelance travel writer, Jennifer Stevens, has a formula for writing your first few sentences that makes this really easy. If you follow her formula, you never have to worry about cutting out the beginning of your article.
She’ll hand that formula to you at The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop this July in Denver. But if you can’t make it there, let your thumb be your guide in long articles. And in shorter articles, be sure the biggest benefit to your reader (and the main point of your article) is in the first one to three sentences.
Here are a few good starter sentences that really get to the point. I found these just by looking through some old Delta Sky Magazines here on my desk…
From Delta Sky Magazine, January 2008…
* Despite its name, New York City’s trendy meat packing district is known more for its thriving club scene than as a place to get a steak.
* Rediscover the Big Easy — Rule number one: don’t try to do too much. Ambition will only get you out of sync with the place. People here like to enjoy the moment. If you spend too much time plotting… you’ll miss the point.
From Delta Sky Magazine, December 2007…
* The fence with medieval-style letters spelling out “Bar Marmont 8171” suggests a haunted house within. But, in fact, you’ve reached the entrance to one of Hollywood California’s most famous bars with butterflies on the ceiling, a stuffed peacock in the corner and drinks served in glass jars.
Notice how you can tell exactly what these articles are about just by reading the first one to two sentences. And you also see what you, as the reader, will take from them.
That’s your goal. Do it well, and you’ll be paid accordingly.
Director, Great Escape Publishing
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]