The SPA Guide provided below is a generous contribution from Maurice Alexander, who serves as the Regional Officer for Scotland at SPA and also holds the title of Founder/Editor-in-Chief for the student publication Journal of Matters Relating to Felines at Aberdeen University.
A thriving lifestyle segment found in newspapers or magazines features an abundance of pieces encompassing food, critiques, travel destinations, style, leisure activities, and guidance on life. Serving as a subtle pause from the publication’s more rigorous material, lifestyle articles ought to be enjoyable to read and create. This manual concentrates on the art of food writing and life counsel, though its principles may be broadly applied to any other facet of lifestyle. As with any other division of a newspaper or magazine, lifestyle writing is subject to universal guidelines.
One advantage of writing for a lifestyle section is the possibility of receiving financial or material benefits from your articles. For instance, a local café may approach you with a complimentary three-course meal in exchange for a positive review, an artisan may offer you a piece of their artwork to feature as the latest “must-have” for the upcoming season, or a practitioner may share their personal experience with you to showcase how their services can change lives. It is up to you to decide whether or not to accept these offers, but they should be considered as rare opportunities and not the main focus of your research for articles.
Food-related articles typically cover two main topics: recipes and restaurant reviews. When it comes to recipes, it is crucial to actually try out the dish yourself before writing about it. This hands-on approach allows you to provide valuable insights, tips, and advice that the original recipe author may have overlooked. For example, you might discover that sea salt flakes can be used instead of fleur-de-sel in a salted caramel sauce, but this substitution wouldn’t be apparent if you had not tested the recipe yourself. By doing so, you can prevent readers from complaining that a recipe you recommended didn’t work for them.
To ensure an interesting recipe article, it is important to steer clear of a monotonous tone. Instead, consider adding vivid descriptions of the ingredients that are reminiscent of similes and metaphors. Additionally, you may want to include a brief history of the recipe or key ingredient, as well as why you think it is relevant to the current season or time. One way to do this is to mention a traditional holiday or the arrival of a new season that introduces a vital ingredient.
It’s important to keep in mind who your readers are when writing, taking into account whether the recipe aligns with their preferences and if it’s feasible for them to incorporate it into their cooking repertoire. While a toasted-almond praline ice cream may not be practical for students, it may appeal to a more sophisticated audience.
REVIEWS OF RESTAURANTS AND OTHER DINING ESTABLISHMENTS
In lifestyle sections, it is common to find detailed reviews of dining experiences, where the author shares their thoughts on a particular place they have visited and enjoyed a meal or drinks.
Whether it’s a food stand, café, bar, or restaurant, the review should begin with a vivid portrayal of the establishment’s physical features. This should include a description of the building’s exterior, interior décor, and any notable features that catch the eye. Furthermore, the atmosphere of the place should also be discussed, as it plays a significant role in the overall dining experience. It is important to note that while food is a vital part of eating out, a noisy or overcrowded environment can negatively impact the experience, which readers should be warned about.
It is recommended to take photographs of the dishes served to capture their appearance. In our social media era, the aesthetics of a dish are crucial and chefs often design them to be Instagram-worthy. It is important to use an accurate filter to ensure the food looks as it does in person, as cameras may wash out colors. However, photographs are not always possible, especially if you lack a high-quality camera or are in a low-lit or privacy-sensitive establishment. In such cases, a detailed description of the dish with creative language can serve as a substitute.
The purpose of a review is twofold: to present an establishment to readers and to provide feedback to the establishment on their performance. It’s important to critique gently, maintain reasonableness, and avoid fabrication as it affects someone’s livelihood and the employment of others. For instance, one can mention that the food was divine but express surprise that such pleasures came from a paper menu. This implies that the venue should consider upgrading the menu presentation from a cost-cutting measure to something more luxurious. If you’re not comfortable sharing your review with the establishment, then it’s necessary to revise it.
Ranking anything that is being reviewed with a number has become a common practice. This approach is quick, saving time for the writer and enabling the reader to make an instant judgment. However, in my view, this system lacks the necessary complexity. I believe that a short paragraph introducing your comprehensive opinion of the establishment can provide a more thoughtful and thorough summary of the overall experience.
ADVICE FOR LIFE.
The lifestyle section of a publication may offer guidance on various aspects of life, including romance, finances, wellness, and dieting. However, the fundamental principles for providing advice remain consistent regardless of the topic.
It is important to only offer advice based on personal experience rather than theoretical assumptions. Attempting to speculate on hypothetical scenarios can lead to unrealistic or inadequate advice that may not address the individual’s concerns.