[This post originally appeared on the Writer Access blog here.]
Food is a glorious thing. It simultaneously engages all five senses and brings people together for any occasion — or excuse — we can muster.
We’re obsessed with it. Millennials, the demographic largely responsible for the growing digital food movement, spend $174 million a month on restaurant food. The Instagram hashtag #instafood has more than 57 million posts at time of writing. The numbers don’t lie — we’re foodies.
As an avid food blog follower, copywriter for clients in the agricultural sector and millennial that easily spends 25% of earned income on dining out, I’ve learned a thing or two about the colorful, noisy digital food marketplace.
Food writing has its own intricacies and rules to follow. It’s notoriously difficult to break into, and engaging, original content is hard to come by. Whether you’re writing product descriptions or a blog article about the latest food trends, here are nine ways to create content that counts in the gastronomic community.
1. Learn the lingo.
Is the food ambrosial, acerbic or acidic? Perhaps sharp, succulent or saccharine? There are at least a thousand ways to say something is tasty (or not-so-tasty) to give food writing texture and personality. Do avoid pretentious language and overused clichés, however. Transcendent quesadilla, anyone?
2. Pay attention to food trends.
Last year’s trending topics were spiralized vegetables, rice bowls and fresh avocado piled on thick slabs of artisanal toast. This year, top trends include savory oatmeal, turmeric spice on everything and rainbow grilled cheese. The digital food marketplace is constantly evolving, faster than you can finish your trendy acai bowl.
3. Pick your niche.
Find a specialty that piques your interest and absorb information like a trusty kitchen sponge. There are endless writing flavors to choose from: clean eating, gluten-free, vegan and even food inside of other foods. With the vast number of culinary enclaves, it’s easiest to write about a focused topic with a specific audience in mind.
4. Engage all of the senses.
As my journalism professors in college would say: great writing is showing, not telling. Nowhere is this more true that writing for hungry gastronomes. A radish is red, yes, but it’s also a crunchy, light vegetable with a peppery taste that adds a brilliant dash of color to a variety of recipes. Bring your reader to the kitchen table with you.
5. Find the story behind the food.
A loaf of bread isn’t just a loaf of bread. In my childhood household, for example, a classic Jewish Challah on the table signified the end of a long week and upcoming meal with my family. When I was a little girl, my father taught me how to braid the bread myself in preparation for our Friday night dining tradition. Though he’s long since passed, the quickest way to transport me back to my adolescence is with the heavenly aroma of sweet Challah slathered in salty butter. When writing about food, insert the reader into your memories or send them to exotic places to inspire an emotional connection with the cuisine.
6. Think like a marketer.
Why should foodies care about your article? What is the point-of-difference in your content? That’s fancy marketing talk for what makes your ideas unique. Novelty leads to virality, so never forget to put your stamp on whatever it is that you’re writing. If you’re crafting a recipe, change up the ingredients for added flair. If you’re writing about the benefits of a food group, dig deeper for little known facts and bring them to surface. A caution: Don’t let SEO keywords and marketing principals squeeze the fun out of your writing; your readers should be salivating, not snoring.
7. Define your audience.
Are you trying to teach a fledgling cook who just discovered their love of baking on a budget? Save space for explaining the essentials and don’t gloss over the details. On the other hand, if your audience is made up of pioneering gourmands, perhaps historical anecdotes and intricate cooking methods would add the pinch of spice your writing needs.
8. Talk about benefits.
As the age-old adage in advertising goes: people don’t buy products, they buy benefits. Consumers buy perceived comforts based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs so they can be a better version of themselves. With food writing, same rules apply. Lead your readers straight to the good stuff. Is the food you’re writing about kind to the environment, does it soothe gastronomical upset, does it give you a boost of natural energy? List off the features.
9. …then quantify them.
It’s not enough to say that dandelion greens are rich in vitamin K. Draw specifics and parallels that are tangible for your audience to grasp. For example, dandelion greens contain 500% of the daily recommended value of vitamin K in a one-cup serving, similar to kale. Suddenly dandelion greens go from so-so to straight up superfood. Give nutritious foods the credit they deserve.
There you have it, foodies. Stick a fork in it, you’re done!