Clichés are rampant in travel writing. Melting pots, best-kept secrets and cities of contrasts proliferate. And while we believe these phrases can, on occasion, merit an airing, we can’t help but feel that some travel writers are simply choosing the path of least resistance – inserting these familiar and frequently used phrases rather than seizing an opportunity to be creative. We previously listed our dirty dozen of travel clichés on the blog, but that was only the beginning. Now’s the time to share even more worthy additions to the canon of travel writing cliché.
Before you type this phrase, think: Is the tourist attraction/restaurant/bar/place really (a) ‘hidden’ and (b) a ‘gem’? The fact you know about a place (whether from a local’s recommendation or via a travel article/guide) should tell you that the phrase may not apply. And even if the attraction does fulfil both of these criteria, the two words are so tired and trite they barely register with readers. So you must find another way to say precisely what you mean.
A rich heritage
The problem with this phrase – and indeed with many overused travel writing clichés – is that it comes across as lazy. A ‘rich heritage’ is vague, simplistic and, considering the subjective nature of each word, applicable to almost anywhere. Even if you don’t want to delve into the nitty-gritty historical details, you can still use more specifics to conjure up stronger images. For example, Manchester can be described as having ‘a cityscape assembled by industry’ while San Sebastian is a place where ‘fine dining is a birthright’.
Something for everyone
Again, this phrase reeks of laziness. A destination may have broad appeal, but most places have a target demographic of sorts, meaning they naturally skew toward people with certain interests, of a certain age and with a certain budget. For instance, outdoorsy types might find some activities they will enjoy in London but that doesn’t mean they’ll find as much to do there as they might in Colorado. If you try to appeal to everyone with sweeping statements, your writing will fail to connect with anyone.
If you’re writing travel copy for a brand, write for those most likely to buy the product. If you’re writing an article, focus on your angle and narrative and let the audience make up their mind about whether it’s for them or not.
Bustling cities, markets and squares. If the place is crowded and full of activity, bustling is indeed an accurate way to describe it. It’s also uninspired though, and it’s hard to justify keeping this one in your copy. Think of a cleverer way to get your point across. We once described a tourist-filled city square as ‘crammed with camera-clickers’.
The next/the new…
The next Brooklyn is Detroit. The next Berlin is Leipzig. The next Amsterdam is Colorado. Comparisons like this are not only confusing, misleading and a little insulting, they’re also simply not true. No matter how many Detroit bars and restaurants serve drinks in jam jars and tout their food as artisanal and grass-fed, the city will never be Brooklyn. And to say it is to do Detroit an injustice. Detroit is its own city, with its particular, distinct and nuanced identity, and most readers would actually like to know what makes it unique rather than what makes it familiar.
Vibrant is not necessarily banned here at World Words. If used sparingly, vibrant can work. However, the word is dangerously overused. Try picking out more concrete details about what makes the place you are writing about vibrant. Is it the hurrying commuter crowds, the backlit billboards, the incessant vehicle traffic? What makes it so stimulating and full of life? And is vibrant really the best term, when spirited, vivid and dynamic are possibilities?
That time forgot
The village that time forgot. The beach that time forgot. The land that time forgot. The city that time forgot. The travel writing that time forgot. If you’re a regular reader of travel content, it would seem that time has amnesia.
This should be a powerful word used to describe a truly rare quality – a sight or experience that stirs a physical reaction. Unfortunately, decades of overuse have dulled its impact and the word has been reduced to a stale stock adjective for landscapes. Now every mountain, lake, beach, sunset and waterfall is breathtaking. It’s boring.
Which travel writing clichés do you despise and which are you willing to defend? Chime in on the comments section or contact us on Twitter. You can also take a look at examples of our own travel content writing here.