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Photo: e_walk

This post complements lessons from the MatadorU Travel Writing program.

WE’VE SEEN THEM too many times, and now they sound tired, strained, and cheesy — and at Matador, that’s definitely not what we’re about.

1. “Best-kept secret”

Really? Are you sure The Purple Dinosaur Bar is Denver’s best-kept secret? You found it, after all, and now you’re publishing its location, so it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a secret, much less a well-kept one.

2. “Et cetera”

Whether it’s “et cetera” (fancy! Latin!) or plain old “etc.”, you’re really saying this: “There’s more, but I’m too lazy to tell you about it.” Keep it out of your travel writing.

3. “Sun-dappled” / “sun-speckled” / “sun-splashed”

We get it. It’s sunny. Tell us about it in a way that doesn’t involve the word “dappled.” Please.

4. “Don’t-miss” / “must-see”

A bit of a bully, are you? What are you going to do to us if we miss it, huh? Just give us your experience. Let us decide for ourselves if South Dakota’s Corn Palace is a must-see or a see-maybe-if-I-happen-to-be-driving-through-South-Dakota-someday-and-need-to-use-the-bathroom.

5. “Exotic”

“Exotic” is relative — it just means “different” or “foreign,” and depending who your reader is, that could mean ao dai, guayaberas, or blue jeans — so focus on describing your experience, and let your readers murmur, “oooh, how exotic!” if they so choose.

6. “Gem” / “jewel”

A beach is not a gem, and a restaurant is not a jewel, and yes, we know what a metaphor is, but you can come up with a better one than that, can’t you?

7. “Oasis” / “paradise”

If you’ve traveled to an actual oasis, as in “a small fertile or green area in a desert region, usually having a spring or well,” feel free to tell it like it is. But describing anything but an actual oasis as an oasis is another case of a threadbare travel writing metaphor.

And throwing “paradise” around just makes you sound clueless. Have you seriously found a place with zero problems, conflicts, threats, dangers? Or are you just, you know, on vacation?

8. “Treasure trove”

If you’ve stumbled upon a previously undiscovered royal Egyptian burial chamber, or a forgotten cache of pirate’s booty, fine. Otherwise, leave “treasure trove” alone.

9. “Breathtaking”

Was your breath literally taken away by the beauty of that sunset? Probably not, so this word is overkill. Unless you’re blue in the face and suffering from awe-induced oxygen deprivation, look for another.

10. “Boast”

Why must places “boast” fine dining, colonial architecture, unspoiled beaches, or symphony orchestras? Can’t they just have them? “Have” is a perfectly good word. The citizens may well boast about their city’s marvelous offerings, but that’s another story.

* Note: This post was originally published on June 3, 2009.

* Visit MatadorU to learn more about Matador’s online travel writing and other travel journalism courses.

Travel Writing Tips

 

About The Author

Teresa Ponikvar

Teresa Ponikvar is a former Matador editor, a current reluctant English teacher, and a future mini-farmer. She lives in rural Oaxaca, Mexico, with her husband, young son, and assorted animals and arthropods. She blogs here.

  • http://www.keepingpaceinjapan.com Turner

    Bad similes, definitely.

    • http://www.grumpytraveller.com David Whitley

      ‘Iconic’ and ‘bustling’ would have to be up there…

  • http://evaholland.com Eva

    Hilarious, Teresa! I know I can always use a reminder on some of these.

  • Christine

    Dappled…I know, right?

  • Buddy

    I’d like to tell you about Memphis’ best kept secret! This breath-taking paradise boasts exotic jewels of must-see treasure troves, et cetera. Don’t miss the sun-speckled oasis of Mud Island!

    I feel like a pro already! Thanks Teresa! :D Thumbs up!

  • http://ExileLifestyle.com Colin Wright

    Can I just say that it took me a full minute to figure out that the image at the top of this article is a broken pencil and not a hot dog with a piece of metal in it? I was really concerned.

    Also: good advice! I’ll have to keep these in mind (I don’t think I’ve used them so far, but I definitely feel your pain enough to watch out for them in the future!)

  • Jacob Bielanski

    Nice! As a travel writing READER I’m sick of seeing these.

    I will say this, though: such word usage seems to be much more indicative of a travel piece that is funded by the entity which it claims to be “experiencing”. I would say: look for these words when determining an article to be biased, unprofessional travel bullsh*t.

  • http://collazoprojects.com Julie

    Colin– That’s funny; I thought it was a hot dog at first, too.

    And I LOVED this article. It will become a Matador classic for sure.

  • http://www.joannahaugen.com JoAnna

    It’s so tempting to use overused cliches. Thanks for reminding me to kick them out of my vocab!

  • Tom Gates

    My current peeve is people trying to spin that a place is kind of shitty. It’s “spartan” and the rooms have a “communal feel.” So, it’s a doghouse with too many beds in one room?

  • http://www.yelkaye.net Caitlin

    Heh. Good list. I’ve used “paradise” before. But it was for a newspaper and I’ve found that newspapers want travel writing to be pretty cliched so it appeals to a wider audience. Makes the pieces I write for newspapers pretty boring, but it keeps the bucks a flowin’.

    I dunno if I’d agree with “oasis” though. I’ve never used it, but I’ve read it in a few places where I thought it worked well. One of my favourite bars in Ouagadougou was described by Lonely Planet as an “oasis of calm away from the chaotic streets” or something like that… and that’s EXACTLY what it is.

    I guess it depends on what medium you are talking about… in something mainstream like a guidebook, I don’t care about cliches as long as it’s telling me what a place is like. For stuff in magazines or online travel writing, I want stuff that’s more original.

    • Teresa

      Caitlin, I certainly won’t begrudge you a few paradises if they’re helping you pay the bills!

  • http://www.parisianspring.blogspot.com Tanya

    Love it! Even if I’m guilty of a few of these myself.

  • http://www.intelligenttravelblog.com Marilyn_Res

    Thanks Teresa for this public service! Besides oasis and paradise, there’s the also overused mecca. And uber-anything. And Anything Central. Also jawdropping and postcard-perfect. I am also tired of seeing places perched and/or nestled in the countryside.

    • http://collazoprojects.com Julie

      @Marily_Res: Marilyn, I think you just wrote the sequel to this article! Those were some good additions.

      • http://www.intelligenttravelblog.com Marilyn_Res

        You’re welcome! I’d also like to ban all the varieties of “-cation” and “-moon,” including staycation, mancation, babymoon, etc. Thank you for writing this post!

  • http://www.bearshapedsphere.blogspot.com eileen

    Yes! all of these! Though it does sort of seem like a challenge, as in I challenge you to put them in as short a paragraph as possible that still makes sense.

    Not that I’m laying down that challenge for anyone.

    • http://evaholland.com Eva

      Bigtown’s best-kept secret is also a must-see: this exotic, sun-dappled beach, an oasis in the busy coastal city, boasts breathtaking sunsets and a treasure trove of tropical fish for snorkelers — shinyfish, colorfish, sparklefish, etc. — each one sparkling like a gem below the water’s surface.

      [Yes, folks, I have done this before. Sorry for the made-up fish names. And for being a hack. :P]

  • Laurie

    Good ones, and I confess to using them when I’m lazy.
    Some to add:
    World-class. Why not just use specific details, rather than this toss-away word to describe a new hotel or museum?
    In a time capsule, or where time stood still. Just because a place has period atmosphere or architecture, time did not stand still.
    Beyond… Usually used in headlines, this describes any place that’s not the center of a well-known destination. (I.E., Beyond Orlando, Beyond Paris, Beyond London.)
    Islands like a string of pearls. Yes, it’s like the gems reference, but this is always with island.
    Eatery. When was the last time you said, “Let’s go out to an eatery tonight!”

  • http://www.luxurylatinamerica.com Luxe traveler

    I agree with Caitlin: editors often want this kind of dreck in the articles because their audience relates to it as shorthand. If you’re writing for a mainstream magazine, you find that they can’t really find 20 different ways to describe a sunny beach every issue–and don’t really want to either. I’ve often had editors stick in language I thought was really tired when I’ve provided a less cutesy alternative. They like cutesy, especially for women’s mags.

    Agree on oasis too: often it’s the best and only word to describe a hotel like the Oberoi Calcutta. It’s a great metaphor that works and is easily understood by all.

    Nothing is exotic anymore though, unfortunately.

    • Tim

      Some things are still exotic. They’re called viruses.

  • http://www.huevosalamexicana.com Sarah

    Boast has gotta be my least favorite–I just get this image of a cocky jerk with a puffed-up chest going, “I boast beautiful beaches, be-atch.”

    • http://matadorabroad.com Tim Patterson

      haha, i boast numerous boutiques and fine dining….bee-atch

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-1101-Tampa-Day-Trips-Examiner Sarah

    Funny stuff (and so true). I’m the queen of ‘must see’ or ‘don’t miss.’ I get excited about a place and out come the cliches and the descriptors: awesome, great, beautiful, terrific…

    Tom Gates, I agree with you! Add ‘rustic’ to that list. A recent experience informed me that ‘rustic’ actually means ‘toilets are just holes in the ground.’

  • http://matadornights.com/ Kate

    I got so into this, I almost burned the beans. Sorry to say, that’s not a metaphor. And Sarah, sun dapple this, be-haitch.

    I have to disagree with Caitlin. Oasis as a band and as a metaphor are both warmed over crap with a burnt crust.

    • http://thelonglayover.blogspot.com Carlo

      Hahaha…you’re my wonderwall Kate (and I think “burned the beans” needs to become a new phrase)

  • http://thelonglayover.blogspot.com Carlo

    This is great Teresa! Thanks…although I’m sure the list could have been much longer. Not that I necessarily agree with Caitlin, but she is right about the medium. I still don’t like it, but it’s common place to be cliche and pretentious in glossies and newspapers. I took a travel writing course once and we were all using cliches and “fancy” words, because, that’s what you think it is. And the instructor never said anything about it. Which goes to show that they are widely accepted still. But not here! Which I’m glad to see :)

    What do you think of “offers”? (as a replacement to boasts). I’ll admit, I use that time to time, but it probably fits right in there with boasts.

    • http://evaholland.com Eva

      I don’t see any problem with offers, myself. It’s not trying to be fancy or pseudo-literary — it’s a straightforward use of the verb as it was designed. A hotel offers a list of services. A restaurant offers a good vegetarian selection. Etc. (Ha.)

      • http://thelonglayover.blogspot.com Carlo

        Phew! :)

        • Teresa

          I agree with Eva–I think “offers” is fine.

  • Melí

    Thanks soo much for this….you’re a jewel!

  • http://www.mikesryukyugallery.com Ryukyu Mike

    Great tips; I’m saving this list in case I become a writer someday!

  • melissa

    What about “enter” — as in: blah blah blah, and oasis paradises were starting to become a thing of the past.

    ENTER PARADISE OASIS hotel! Or Enter, Bob Jones, smart guy behind Oasis hotels. Etcetera. (ha)

    Vomit.

  • Colin

    so pretty much your saying don’t be Samantha brown from the travel channel

  • http://verycuriousmind.wordpress.com/ Alison Stein Wellner

    Fun post! And yet I bristle at the idea of leaving any words out automatically.
    So:

    It’s a best-kept secret among travel writers that many gems of words that are quite useful in describing the exotic can be needlessly scorned. There are no off-limits words, it’s all about the finesse in which you use them, which you can do at times to breath-taking effect. (And we’ve all had the experience of seeing something so surprising that we’ve gasped, so yes, something can be breath-taking, and I have also personally witnessed the painterly scene of a good sun-dappling.) Sometimes it’s good to not go and on ad infinitum, so a simple “etc.” can sometimes do the trick, especially in this era of shorter writing for the web. I don’t take “don’t miss or must see” as bullying, but rather an summing up of the writer’s experience, I don’t think that anyone slavishly obeys any writer. I’d agree that “paradise” and “treasure trove” are overused — all of these words are, actually, but would not automatically red-pen ‘em – as I wouldn’t automatically rule out any word or phrase. I admit I’d find it really hard to justify using “boast” instead of the simpler “have”, but I retain an open mind. ;-)

    • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/david-miller David Miller

      Good comment, but do you really ‘bristle’?

    • Teresa

      Alison, I actually totally agree with you. As some folks have commented, for certain audiences–less literary-minded ones–these cliches can be an effective shorthand. And even in more “literary” writing there are probably ways to make them work if you can put your own spit on them–I wouldn’t want to rule out any word completely–even “dappled” must exist for a reason, right?

      • Teresa

        Your own spin. Not spit.

        • http://thelonglayover.blogspot.com Carlo

          I liked spit. “Spin” is so cliche.

          • http://verycuriousmind.wordpress.com/ Alison Stein Wellner

            I like “spit” too! ;-)

            Basically I think that almost anything goes in writing — if the writer is working thoughtfully. We bristle (and yes bristle!) when we realize a writer is being lazy. And readers can always tell.

            Great post and comments!

  • http://www.globalfoodie.com Denise

    Oh God, I may be guilty of one or two. I’m printing this for future reference.

  • Adam Roy

    Hillarious! Still, I’m glad these aren’t criminal offenses, because I’d probably have been hanged by now.

    • http://www.globaltravelbazar.com karishma roy

      hahahaha…. loved ur comment.. u must be funny!!! :P

  • http://www.an-aussie-in-poland.blogspot.com Katarzyna Radzka

    I accidentally stumbled on your site today, and glad I did, it has lots of excellent information, tips and much more. I’m an aspiring travel writer (so far only been published in 1 travel magazine) and have been looking for some quality advice about travel writing for some time, I think I’ve come to the right place.

  • http://simonheptinstall.com simon heptinstall

    …and while we’re doing the weeding, let’s uproot all these infuriating, look-at-me-aren’t-I-emotional exclamation marks.
    Look back through the comments on this page. They’re littered around like walking sticks at a D-Day veterans reunion.
    Please use screamers for “Fire!” but not “Nice post”, “Hilarious” or “in case I become a writer some day” and certainly not in travel articles unless you are reporting someone shouting: “Stop using excalmation marks immediately!”

  • Kathleen

    “Land of contrasts”

    Gah!

  • http://www.alexrobertsontextor.com Alex Robertson Textor

    Oy! I’m guilty on two counts: gem and treasure trove.

  • http://www.ginahyams.com Gina Hyams

    I’d add “nestled” to this list. It’s a word I’ve overused myself and vow to never use again. Also, “features” is a word that’s hard to avoid, also “boasts” (as in “boasts 600 thread-count sheets,” but we must try…

  • http://www.illadvisedadventures.com Adam

    After having traveled to Cuzco, Puno, Quito and Leh, I’ve had my share of legitimately breathtaking experiences.

  • http://www.travelmuse.com Donna

    Agreed that most of these are tired phrases, yet can be difficult to always avoid. However a top pet peeve that I’d like to see on the list is overuse of the word “unique.” So few things qualify as unique, especially when it comes to hotels, restaurants, attractions…

  • http://www.theplanetd.com Dave and Deb

    I am going to book mark this page and make sure to read it again whenever I feel the urge to use some of these phrases. Excellent.

  • Pat

    the top picture looks like the chorizo dogs i buy for dinner here in colombia. lets just say they do not boast an oasis of flavor.

  • Meconium

    How about “impossibly”. ‘This place boasts impossibly fresh sushi’. See this a lot, it always sounds so fake!

  • http://www.revolver-magazine.com Natasha

    Cutting-edge. I can’t stand it. Not just in travel writing, but in writing generally, . Especially if it refers to bands. Or technology.

  • douglas

    Oh, great article. I have a great one:

    When something is the ‘mecca’ of something. The ‘shopping mecca’ being the absolute worst.

    There is only one Mecca. And unless you are Muslim you aren’t attending folks. So shut up and get a better word, there are plenty!

  • http://tabsexaminedlife.blogspot.com/ Tabatha

    As a burgeoning travel writer, I appreciate the advice. As a reader, loved the delivery. It made me laugh out loud (literally)!

  • Kaitlin Mills

    Thanks for the tips, very useful to have a checklist of words to avoid, though I think I may have been guilty of using them, once or twice, maybe.

  • Rohan

    The words ‘sprawling’, ‘bustling’ and ‘vibrant’ should have made it somewhere on this list

  • http://travelwithkids-familytravel.blogspot.com/ Karen Banes

    Love this article. All these words are so over used that it’s easy for them to slip in without you (the writer) even noticing. So edit them out! Warning – for some markets you will find them (and other cliches) edited right back in. An editor (NOT here at Matador, of course) recently edited one of my most hated cliches into my work. What can you do? Editor has final say.

  • http://thetravelersnotebook.com Nit Picker

    Hey, how ’bout help a brotha out?

    Let’s come up with some substitutionary words for some of those verbs… like “boasts” which is just a variant on “has” or “offers.” After a while “has” gets dead boring…

    – It has white beaches. They aint jewels, just white with clear blue water.
    – The rooms have views. They aint jaw-dropping, but they has ‘em.
    – The souq has alot of stalls. They ain’t the mecca of shopping, but damn, there’s a lot of ‘em!

    *Yawn*

    I agree, some of the terms are MUCH over-used, but what’s the alternative? Use “has” three bazillion times? Come up with an online thesaurus that not only replaces the word but does not sound pretentious? Hey… maybe there’s a book in here somewhere for a brotha. . ..

  • http://www.intelligenttravelblog.com Marilyn_Res

    I just remembered another one I greatly dislike: “compelling.”

    I agree with Douglas about “mecca” — also “epicenter” is overused to mean the same thing.

    And Natasha is right that “cutting edge” has become dull!

  • http://www.travelwriters.com/buzzgordon Buzzy Gordon

    “Unique” is certainly abused. But sometimes it just can’t be helped.

  • http://tweet.iblog.co.za kimberley

    can I add ‘plethora’, ‘myriad of’ and ‘stunning’ to the list?

    great article – good reminder to all travel writers to up their game and keep on with the creativity :)

  • http://www.exhaustedmirror.wordpress.com SSaraiya

    Classic! Definitely my favorite. Snaps me back to reality every time I try to go dreamy with my writing. I’d like to add ‘boundless’, ‘endless’, and ‘eternal’ !

  • http://www.globaltravelbazar.com karishma roy

    well the issue is with over-excitement of a travel writer…. its just that you deal with too many beautiful places to describe- n most of the times you try to make your travelogue sound the best….the places you describe as most wonderful….well, creating a hypothetical ambience in your write becomes difficult with repetitive terms. And you resort to words that many a times dont make sense. Ha ha. and we fail to realise its meaning-in-depth on one end and some eagle-eyed readers catch hold of your neck, hehe :P…and you feel abashed of using those “cliched” terms. Well, the moral of the story….lets be more creative towards being more meaningful and rational in all. Good post Teresa! Thanks.

  • James Gordon

    Add to the outlaws, if you have not got them:

    Storied, iconic, boutique, unique, pristine, legendary, signature, famed and eponymous.

  • Chad

    Sure those terms are annoying. However, what is really annoying is the whining about them. Simply don’t read all of these articles with the “exceedingly offensive” terms. Not that you could actually write anything if you eliminated all of the terms in the post and all of the extra terms listed in the comments.

  • http://www.intelligenttravelblog.com Marilyn Terrell

    @JamesGordon: I endorse your suggestions– those are really good ones that pop up all the time.
    And I don’t believe that if you eliminate these hackneyed words and phrases you will be rendered speechless. I’m reading E. M. Foster’s Passage to India now which has vivid descriptions of places and he hasn’t used any of these words so far. I think it helps to read top-notch travel fiction, which expands your vocabulary painlessly while you’re engaged with the story. National Geographic Traveler has put together the Ultimate Travel Library, a compendium of great reads with a sense of place. It’s organized geographically:
    http://traveler.nationalgeographic.com/travel-books/intro-text

  • http://agliooliopeperoncino.blogspot.com Lola

    I confess. I have used those words/phrases. More than once. But I’m trying to stop. Honest.

    Currently my LEAST favorite travel writing words that I’m using the most are:
    nestled
    perched
    stunning
    absolute-must
    local

  • Gary

    Seriously?

    Found in the links at the bottom of the article.

    “Western Australia: 10 Places You Don’t Want to Miss”

    • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/david-miller David Miller

      good catch Gary. we put that one in there just to see if people were paying attention.

      • Jason

        That’s a gem of a save David.

        • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/david-miller David Miller

          thanks man.

  • Wynn

    I thought that sounded harsh. To each his own, no?

  • http://www.parttimevagabond.com Chris Cavs

    Wow, thanks for pointing these out. The grasp some people have of language is less than stellar when they have to resort to these phrases. I hope I write well enough to avoid them in my posts!

  • Brooke

    Any thoughts on ‘Indiana Jones’ sense of adventure in an article about ‘The Lost City’ Colombia?!

    • admin

      please send reference url of the article.

  • http://www.peterturner.net Peter Turner

    “Nestling” and “pristine” make me rage inwardly.

  • steve

    “Blade-Runner-esque” or “like a scene from blade runner”, used by the lonely planet to describe any large city in asia (Seoul and Osaka in particular).

  • http://www.tripwolf.com/en/blog Adena

    This is right on :) thanks.

  • Somchai

    Words make no difference. If the writing is good, I don’t notice words, only ideas. If the writing is bad, no correct use of accepted adjectives will save it.

  • http://travelwithkids-familytravel.blogspot.com/ Karen Banes

    That’s a great point Somchai. A fantastic writer with unique ideas could get away with a few tired old words, but they can make mediocre writing worse and bad writing disasterous.

  • N.Chrystine Olson

    Okay I’m guilty. I just used “etc.” in a comment! Guess I’m very lazy.

  • http://www.dobert.pl/ Dobert

    there should be a travel-writing license that is taken away for using those words…

  • Bob Hale

    This one is the crutch of almost every young “up-and-coming” destination PR person: “World-class.”

    Whenever I read it, I know the p.r. person is fresh out of college, and cannot think beyond the collection of cliches he or she has leaned on for four years. So many of these public relations folks are a real…well, world-class pain in the ass!

    Bob S. Hale

  • Alexis

    If I hear another person claim to have been “bit by the travel bug”, I might just lose my dinner (which would truly be unfortunate as it was very tasty Chinese street food). The Travel Channel picked it up as their “new” campaign, but it’s so overdone….

  • Bob Hale

    “World-Class” has become the leading crutch for PR and ad folks. Everything is now “world-class.” Well, it ain’t!

    “world-Class” refers to international athletic competition…and only international athletic competition!!! A ship, a house, a car, a person, a building, and raod…whatever…CANNOT BE “WORLD-CLASS”!

    Anyone using that term in any context other than international athletic events is a HACK! A World-Class HACK!

    Signed:
    Hale

  • Bob Hale

    Oops…I see I responded twice.

    SORRY!

    A World-Class mistake, to be sure!

    Hale

  • JvM

    ‘Hustle and bustle’

  • http://londoniscool.com William Wallace

    I haven’t got a problem with some of those words and phrases, I think they work perfectly well depending on the context you use them. In fact I will continue to use them, I wont let you bully me into submission………..!

  • Benjamin

    Does any propositional statement function as the mirror image of the structure of the thing (that is, what it essential to it) or could it be that even the sturcture of the thing as thus envisaged is a projection of the framework of the sentence? No travel writing is ever going to resemble experience, so assigning degrees of “goodness” is like evaluating mad libs for a cohesive narrative. Then, should we all be Wittgensteinian mutes? Travel writing is by nature sub-par and should only be evaluated on the information it is able to impart to the reader. Writers who excel at travel writing, as it is commonly practiced today, and not much more in the realm of writing probably do so because their only ability is with hackneyed metaphors. Throw out your Lonely Planets and guidebooks. It only makes the worst sort of travelers – those with plans.

    • http://www.tabs-examinedlife.com/ Tabatha Smith

      “Travel writing is by nature sub-par and should only be evaluated on the information it is able to impart to the reader.” Au contraire mon frere! Travel writing is another form of literature, or the good stuff is anyway. The stories in travel writing should be written as well as any fiction story, but they’re even better than fiction because they’re true! From Twain to Dalrymple the story is about place, people and adventure and if well done makes for engaging reading. I would suggest reading some good travel writing, here’s a list of a few to get you started: http://www.bravenewtraveler.com/2008/01/03/the-50-greatest-travel-books-of-all-time/ Happy reading!

      • Benjamin

        Okay, allow me to rephrase as it would seem I cornered myself in a sweeping generalization. The travel writing I am speaking of, and I think this article for the most part addresses, is that of travel magazines, blogs, etc. (and etc. is fine to use; I use it academically and when brevity is a factor – listing all of the sources would be inconvenient as well as silly as etc. is used to indicate more but of what is common knowledge and can be infered). And I said by nature. Everything can transcend its nature just as humans. I am not speaking of travel literature. I would likewise differentiate there.

  • vg

    Oh come on. The Corn Palace is South Dakota is a total must see!

    Kudos for the advice.

  • Brooke

    “Itchy feet” – not a fan of this at all

  • ch

    I have an idea– have a writing contest, object as follows:
    Show a picture of Thira, Santorini–you all know the classic hackneyed photo
    the charming,picturesque village nestled or perched on the cliffside, with breath-taking views, local color, world-class cuisine and a must-see for any trip through the Greek Isles. With its pristine white buildings and sun-dappled, cobblestone streets, this jewel in the Helenic crown must be described without using any of these cliches or tired adjectives. Let’s see what travel-writing could be without leaning on these pithy crutches and instead of substituting new exotic locations for fresh prose, let’s use new words to describe the same old places.

    • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/david-miller David Miller

      that’s a great idea.

  • Kim

    locals.
    fanny pack.
    cozy or quaint.
    well-preserved (unless you’re talking mummies)

    • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/david-miller David Miller

      sweet.

  • http://www.GetATrip.com Travel the World

    Okay so if we all get honest here and have been in the position of having to write descriptive travel content, than we are all guilty of using some of these expressions and words. Though I disagree that you just up and forget these words and move on to new ones, this article has brought me to at least be more aware of how I use adjectives in the travel industry.

    I think the point the author is making is that some descriptive travel terminology simply got over-used, not that they were necessarily wrong terms or improper.

  • eg

    what about ‘ubiquitous’? annoyingly popping up in all lonely planets

  • http://www.jurnii.com/blog Jurnii

    From my sun-dappled deck, I write you a comment boasting, a treasure trove of must-see exotic words, phrases, paragraphs, et cetera. The oasis of adjectives doting this gem, just might be its best kept secret.

    Great Post :)

    Jurnii

  • http://brazilbrat.blogspot.com/ James Smith, João Pessoa, Brazil

    I totally agree. This reminds me of the habit of futebol announcers yelling “Goooooooaaaaallllll!” One Mexican sportscaster did this several years ago and from that day to this, not one announcer has been able to think of anything else to do when points are scored. Not even “Scooooorrrrrreeeee!” or “Poooooooiiiinnnnttttt!”.

    Is this just being intellectually lazy or evidence of obvious stupidity in all sports announcers?

  • Bob Hale

    ” World-Class”!

    Please, please…I beg of you… NO MORE “World-Class” anything, except international athletic competitors!

    Good grief, we once had a coupon for a “world-class” oil change!!!

    …and we had “world-class” taxi service; “world-class” swimming pool ( no, it was NOT used for the Olympics, either!); “world-class” scenery (what the ^%$%^& is that?)

    Well, the list goes on. Kill that phrase, except every two years for the Winter and Summer Games!

    Bob S. Hale

    • caitlin42

      I like the army’s slogan of “World-class in all we do.” Gag. What does world-class even mean? It’s like supreme or premium, as adjectives they’re just meaningless fillers.

  • Maree

    You can’t take the word oasis away from me, I will continue to use in almost everything I write.

    Lucky I live on the Arabian Peninsula, where the term is actually appropriate. Tomorrow I head to a lush green crescent shaped oasis on one side of the world’s largest sand desert.

  • http://www.ishigaki-japan.com ishigaki

    Interesting list, and I must admit that you made some valid points, however, if you strip away all the colourful nouns and adjectives away from a travel article it can make for pretty dull reading.

    The term ‘breathtaking’ for example is never actually used to describe respitory failure…but it’s frequently used to describe an invoked emotion. There’s nothing wrong with using terms like this in moderation.

    I must admit that I do find the term ‘boast’ very irritating however. I’ve never heard of sun-dappled!

  • http://www.reidsguides.com Reid bramblett

    Yes, absolutely… but only if you are being forced to drive through South Dakota.

  • neil cassidy

    Teresa,

    Now that you brought it up, how about giving “cheesy” a rest? It’s also a cliche, as well as slightly vulgar, and I bet you can’t even explain why the food item cheese came to represent the meaning you’re trying to convey.

  • http://www.hutongbeijing.com Tom

    In defence of the odd cliche in travel magazines / websites: they perform the role of sign-post or marker, sending a reassuring message to the reader that says “you are reading about a place more interesting and desirabe than where you are right now”. Consider sports writing / teen girl magazines, business pages of newspapers, etc. To rigorously omit cliche from these genres would be plain odd. What’s more, over-zealous cliche substitution can be really jarring.

  • Mary

    Unacceptable in any type of writing but common in beginning travel writing: “unique” and variations thereof (“truly” unique,” “very” unique, “uniquely situated,” and my pet peeve, “somewhat” unique). “Unique” means “the only one or the sole example.” There are no degrees of uniqueness, and only one thing of its kind can be unique. It is or it isn’t, and if it IS, nothing else can be.

  • Alex

    ‘A rich culture’, or any of its various permutations, really makes me facepalm. It’s utterly meaningless.

  • http://ravenrider.wordpress.com Adam Paul

    What I don’t care for in writing are modern sayings that generally have no meaning unless you are immersed in the culture. Take Alex’s post above. What is facepalm? I have an idea, but it’s the first time I’ve read it. Same things can be said about words like segway and synergy.

  • http://www.intelligenttravelblog.com Mariliyn Terrell

    Here are some overused nouns I would like to ban from travel writing: epicenter, ground zero, and mecca (unless you mean Mecca). And I think Adam Paul means segue not Segway.

  • http://www.goseewrite.com/ Michael Hodson
  • Saskia

    Hmmm.. now what to do when the motto of the town is “Nova Scotia’s best kept secret”… How to write around that one? (As far as I am concerned you are just telling the world your marketing s*cks, why else would your place still be a secret?).

  • Joyce Curtis

    Overused expressions are dull from the start. Every magazine, newspaper and advertisement begins the same way and that isn’t the way to grasp readers. Something eye catching has to be new and fresh. Trendsexpressinc.com

  • Olga Martínez-Díaz

    One of my favorites is “pristine”, like in every beach in the world according to some writers.

  • Olga Martínez-Díaz

    One of my favorites is “pristine”, like in every beach in the world according to some writers.

  • Olga Martínez-Díaz

    One of my favorites is “pristine”, like in every beach in the world according to some writers.

  • Olga Martínez-Díaz

    One of my favorites is “pristine”, like in every beach in the world according to some writers.

  • Olga Martínez-Díaz

    One of my favorites is “pristine”, like in every beach in the world according to some writers.

  • Olga Martínez-Díaz

    One of my favorites is “pristine”, like in every beach in the world according to some writers.

    • Gabby Badica

      so true about ‘pristine’ beaches!

  • Olga Martínez-Díaz

    One of my favorites is “pristine”, like in every beach in the world according to some writers.

    • Gabby Badica

      so true about ‘pristine’ beaches!

    • Marita Beezley

      ☻☻☻☻☻as just as Herbert replied I can’t believe that a person able to get paid $6566 in four weeks on the computer. did you see this web link …… Cat48.ℂℴm
      ☻☻☻☻☻

  • The Drifters Blog

    All I have to say is…Oops!

  • The Drifters Blog

    All I have to say is…Oops!

  • Beth Kovars

    I got to your blog fine, but the link is tagged weirdly! It redirects to the matador website rather than to the blog. You’re going to want to re-write the direction. Sounds interesting!

  • Mark E Stanger

    “iconic”

  • Brian Cia

    “traditional”

  • Heck Ster

    …ooh bitchy. lol. worth the read I gotta say.

  • Kate Alvarez

    More words to avoid:
    -nice (although this applies to any piece of journalism).
    -pristine (I agree with the other comments).
    -epic
    -awesome
    -best (I’m guilty of this one, so I learned to justify why I believe something is the best, like “best coffee shop in town).

  • Vilém Obrátil

    What an awfully lazy way to write articles. Even though I really enjoy reading some of the articles here, their quality is always shifting between really good and pretty awful. This, I’m afraid, is a typical example of the latter.

  • Vilém Obrátil

    What an awfully lazy way to write articles. Even though I really enjoy reading some of the articles here, their quality is always shifting between really good and pretty awful. This, I’m afraid, is a typical example of the latter.

  • Sebastian Antunez

    You’re being the bully here. Let the writer use whatever words he/she wants.

  • Desiree Haakonsen

    “Luxury” is my pet peeve!! I’ve seen so many accommodations describing themselves as “luxury” when they look more like Granny Martha’s over-the-top bedroom.

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