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Friday, January 15, 2016

A Few More Gnomes....

Now that everyone and his or her brother claims to be a travel writer, it's high time to improve the craft.  The response to a recent column I re-posted on travel writing taboos makes it clear that there's a demand for more travel writing advice. So, here goes.


 2  [nohm, noh-mee]  Show IPA
a short, pithy expression of a general truth; aphorism  

Let's talk more about the gnomes of bad travel writing. First, however, let me note that during the course of two decades of travel writing, a sharp-eyed reader might discover I have employed a gno-gno (except #1 below) on rare occasion. No one's perfect, but I try to avoid them like the plague (click link for my commentary on cliches). 

1. Can a destination have something for everyone? NO, NO and NO

The Lake Lucerne region has something for everyone (e-mail from Lucerne Tourism)

Spain has something for everyone (a powerpoint presentation shown at Academic Travel Abroad)

There's something for everyone in Santa Barbara's wine country (Destination California supplement in Meetings and Conventions) 

Quintana Roo (Mexico) has something for everyone (Travel Weekly) 

Who knew? However, I beg to differ. Lake Lucerne does not have a nude beach; Spain does not have a desert; Santa Barbara's wine country does not have skiing; nor, for that matter, does Quintana Roo. No  matter how amazing a place is, I defy you, dear reader, to find  a location that actually has something for everyone. If you are an aspiring travel writer, my #1 piece of advice is to NEVER use this lazy phrase.

2. Awkward uses of words

While technically correct, writers often use words that are passé, grammatically questionable, or of questionable connotation. For example, I recently read that "Northern California is fraught with something for everyone, offering meeting planners all they could ever wish for." 

Let's ignore for a minute that my favorite phrase is used, and that the sentence ends in a preposition. As soon as I read the word fraught, my heart starts beating faster. True, it officially is defined as filled or laden, but in common parlance, it is usually used with a negative connotation (the mission was fraught with danger, it was a fraught situation). Therefore, using the word to connote a beneficial thing seems off.  

Similarly, a 20-something travel writer, in discussing his visit to Estonia, talks about the Communistic era. Yes, communistic is a word, officially, but never, in 20 years of writing about Eastern Europe, had I ever seen the word used. Try to redline words that make readers stop in their tracks. 

3. Redundancy

  [ri-duhn-duhn-see]  Show IPA
noun, plural re·dun·dan·cies.
1. Superfluous repetition or overlapping, especially of two words.

How about truly uniqueabsolutely essential, or old adage? I'd go on, but I don't want to be redundant.

4. Of quaint hidden gems nestled in breathtaking mountains populated by friendly locals...

5. And just because it bothers me...

Whether you love ice skating or swimming; whether you are into history or metallurgy; whether you are a man, woman or hermaphrodite, it is absolutely essential (see #3) to see Destination X. 

The whether/or construction is simply overused in travel writing. See whether or not you can avoid it.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

#TravelToppers on Twitter is Back Today 1 PM ET

Do you ever feel like Mr. Bill when traveling?  If so, today's #TravelToppers on Twitter is for you. Top travel pros will be offering advice and answering your questions at 1 PM in New York; 6 PM in London. You can't be there? Mr. Bill says, "Oh, noooo..............."  For more on the chat, feel free to contact me on Twitter @dailysuitcase 

Q1: What’s the best piece of travel advice you gleaned in 2015? Please share.

Q2: What is your top travel tip for saving money?

Q3: What is your top travel tip for flying?

Q4: What is your top travel tip for travel planning?

Q5: What is your top tip for travel bloggers?

Q6: What do you foresee as three of the year’s hottest travel trends?

Q7: What topics would you like #TravelToppers to cover in 2016?