‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs.’ – Stephen King
For most, the beauty of writing is its fluidity. Whatever you write on whatever topic, you can manoeuvre your vocabulary in an endless choice of directions. But when producing content for a brand, you’ll have strict brand guidelines to follow, and all of sudden your creative license can become somewhat restricted.
As a content agency, we’re used to adopting brand tones. We cover a variety of industries, from insurance to fitness and nutrition, all of which require entirely different styles of writing. However, having delivered a wealth of large-scale travel content projects over the years, we’re especially well-versed in the travel industry, and know travel and holiday lingo like the back of our sunglasses. But could this mean we’re in dangerous territory?
There could certainly be worse topics to ‘make’ interesting, but with such a descriptive genre as travel, it’s important to be vigilant not to fall into a pattern. It can be all too easy to turn to that trusty bank of adjectives and phrases – and yes, a well-placed adjective can have a truly wonderful, evocative, visual effect but too many will cause the reader to…oh, you’ve switched off? It was the adjectives, wasn’t it?
As we’re all about ‘doing it differently, and doing it better’, here are our honest learnings from over a decade of collective years producing travel content, including how to avoid the typical vocabulary traps.
Easy on the adjectives
Not everywhere is stunning and picturesque.
Ah, the go-to favourites. If you’re looking for an instant way to sell a location, these words tend to do the job, right? Wrong. The best travel writing is honest. Not everywhere is breathtakingly beautiful, and your reader knows that. Force your topic, or your content, to be something it’s not and you risk losing authenticity or expertise. Focus on the real selling points of the destination – Marrakech is wonderfully hectic and charmingly chaotic, Tenerife doesn’t just offer soft white sands. Describe the historical landmarks, specific cuisine, varied weather, as travel is about variation and unique experiences, not about what you think the reader wants to hear.
Appealing to the senses is a great way to develop your piece
If you find yourself writing typical sentences you’ve read countless times before, stop. Take a break. Mix your writing up and approach the subject from a different angle. Have you imagined or experienced this place with all of your senses? What can you smell in the market? What can you hear on the beach? What flavours can you taste in the restaurant? Describing these sorts of aspects using metaphors and similes is a great way to create a unique expression or to evoke a specific emotion about a destination. But be warned – too much of this will have your readers running for the hills – less is more.
If you haven’t been to the place, use Google maps to visualise
At this point you might be thinking, ‘how can I write about a place I’ve never even been to?!’ Enter Google Street View. This is a tip we’ve mentioned before, and we’re going to do it again. Although it’s not quite the same as actually being there (if only the budget allowed!), it does help to immerse yourself in a location. We think Google’s little yellow man is a bit of a life-saver, and this is a brilliant way to get a feel for a destination, and what it really looks like.
Don’t just use one website for attractions
There’s no denying that websites such as TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet are a fantastic source of travel information, but they’re not the be all and end all. Have a browse around and see where your search takes you. You may find a hidden gem of an attraction that makes your piece stand out and gives it that edge of expertise. But be warned, if you haven’t experienced it and there are a lack of reviews online, don’t go claiming it’s the destination’s ‘must-see’ attraction!