As a seasoned travel copywriter, I’ve been guiltier than most when it comes to churning out travel writing clichés. I can’t tell you how many ‘bustling markets’, ‘cities of contrast’, ‘unspoilt beaches’ and ‘hidden gems’ I’ve described over the years.
In time, though, I learned how to break this habit and start being more original and creative in my choice of words.
It’s certainly something I had to master for my own sanity after writing about the same destinations over and over again! How do you describe Venice for the tenth time when you’ve already wrung every adjective you can out of the thesaurus in your quest for originality? Such is the dilemma of a travel copywriter.
I’d never really given much thought to avoiding clichés before I started studying creative writing at university. My workshop tutor was always striking through an offending sentence or phrase and angrily scribbling ‘cliché!’ in red pen beside it. It’s so easy to reach for phrases we’re familiar with, and those reprimands written in red still make me think twice before writing something too well-used!
But in the fast-paced world of travel, when a last-minute advertising opportunity means a quick copy turnaround, a flash sale calls for snappy content in a hurry, or dozens of new hotel descriptions are needed pronto, it’s easy to let those sneaky clichés slip in sometimes. And like everything else in life, they’re ok in moderation. When used well, they can be effective, and sometimes a trusty cliché really does say it best!
But for the most part, original and evocative travel copywriting should sound like it’s written by those in the know, not those in the throes of a deadline.
So, here are my best tips on how to write cliché-free travel copy.
1. Read as much as you can
Horror-writing hotshot, Stephen King, said: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Travel copywriting is, first and foremost, writing. If you want to get better at telling travel tales but in your spare time you’re a sucker for a good horror novel, read away! Top authors and journalists can teach us a lot about writing. Inspire yourself by studying their use of sentence structure, metaphor, and tone of voice.
It really is one of the best possible ways to improve your writing. The more time you spend around words, the more confident you’ll get at using them to your advantage.
So, curl up with a good book (whoops, there goes another one!) and learn as you read.
2. Write from experience
Now, if you’re a travel copywriter, rather than a journalist or blogger, this one’s obviously going to be trickier. We’re usually the ones who end up with a huge list of places we want to go, instead of a proud collection of countries visited.
That’s not to say we travel copywriters don’t love exploring the world, but our copy is usually based on extensive research, rather than on-the-ground experience. It’s impossible to visit every city, country, hotel, or resort we’re describing.
So how do you make your copy sound authentic when you’ve never been there?
First of all, read and learn all you can from multiple different sources to make your description as well-rounded and accurate as possible. Online travel guides, blogs, and literature provided by tourist boards are all brilliant sources of information.
Look at photos and watch videos of the destination, too, and if you can talk to someone who’s been there, even better.
You can easily cram your brain with enough facts and details to make it sound as though you’ve just arrived home from a holiday there.
But if I still haven’t triggered that ‘just back from holiday’ mindset, I occasionally like to immerse myself in the virtual realm of Google Maps. I take a little ‘walk’ through the places I’m writing about. It really helps me get a better feel from the destination beyond what someone else’s words can tell me.
If I can see things like market squares, cobbled streets, and ocean views for myself, inspiration might strike, and my words will flow out of me more authentically.
You can still call it travel experience, even if it’s only virtual… right?
3. Always edit your work
Even if you’re in a rush, I’d always recommend editing once you’ve finished the initial draft.
A first and second draft will usually look really different. As well as spotting repeated words, typos, and awkwardly-structured sentences, I’m on alert for clichés in this stage. Now I’ve got everything down on the page, how can I make it sound even better? How can I turn that vague cliché into something more evocative and interesting?
You can always reword the cliché to make it sound more original, of course. But another thing I like to do is go into more specifics and detail about whatever I’m describing. Not only will this eliminate the cliché, but it will be much more useful for your reader.
Instead of writing about a ‘bustling market’, why not describe the smell of the spices and sight of the brightly-coloured silks on display? Or instead of describing something as a ‘city of contrasts’, just tell the reader that centuries-old churches stand next to glass-walled skyscrapers, and let them come to that conclusion themselves if they want to.
Travel copywriting your audience will love
Once you’ve got the hang of writing original, inspiring travel copy, you’ll certainly stand out to your audience as something special.
On the other hand, if you’d rather hire a travel copywriter to persuade people to book with you, write high-quality content for your website, or provide you with a consistent stream of blogs and e-newsletters, get in touch with me.
I’ll do all the fun work of travelling the world virtually from my home office, eliminating clichés, and providing you with words that entertain, inspire and persuade your audience.