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Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Few More Gnomes....

You may think, from the recent dearth of posts, that I have been suffering from writer's block. In part, this is true. But in part, I have been so busy doing travel stories for my lovely outlets like The Washington Post, NewsChannel 8 and Groupon City Guides (coming soon to a computer near you), that I simply haven't had time to write the pithy prose that the treasured readers of this blog have come to expect.

However, after a lengthy session reading travel magazines cover to cover, I have once again been inspired to return to one of my favorite topics--my beefs with travel writing drivel. In the past, I have written several columns filled with gnomes...


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

...about travel writing. Some of these beefs are worth repeating and I have cooked up a few new gnomes. Let me note that I am unlikely immune to some of these gno-gno's (except #1). No one's perfect, but I try to avoid them like the plague (click link for my commentary on cliches). 

1. During the past week, I have come to learn that--
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 unique, absolutely essential, or old adage?

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 (!) to see Destination X. This whether/or construction is simply overused in travel writing. See whether or not you can avoid it.

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