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No, you did not ‘leave the modern world behind’: some phrases should be banned from travel writing

19 September 2013

12:00 PM

19 September 2013

12:00 PM

Clichés and travel writing, sadly, often go hand in hand. I look after the travel pages at the Daily Mail and have felt compelled to compile a list of banned words and phrases for writers. The list gets longer by the week.

Because the Spectator’s Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing is underway, I thought I’d pull out my list again. Here are just a few of the offending words and phrases on it. I’m sure you can think of more.


city of contrasts
breathtaking
jaw-dropping
leaving the modern world behind
chilled out
pampering
nothing but the sound of waves
bygone era
stunning (includes ‘simply stunning’)
nightmare (includes ‘complete nightmare’, ‘total nightmare’)
dream
clear blue sky
cobbled streets
barefoot luxury
mouth-watering local delicacies (or worse, ‘eye-watering local delicacies’)
smiling staff
romantic
summer’s lease
vibrant
teeming
azure
hearty
rustic
dazzling
under the stars
priceless treasures
steamy
je ne sais quoi
untrammelled
tranquility
paradise
heaven
airport hell
powder-white sand
lapping waves
as far as the eye can see

Of course, since the Shiva Naipaul prize is for unconventional travel writing, you probably weren’t going to write this anyway. But it still helps to know.

Mark Palmer is the travel editor of the Daily Mail. He once had to edit a travel piece from a Booker Prize-shortlisted author that contained ‘city of contrasts’.

Enter the Spectator’s £2,000 Shiva Naipaul prize for travel writing. The winner gets published in our triple Christmas issue. Details here.


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