Mark Palmer

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

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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