Are clichés killing your content?

It's hard to visualise a hotel when it's veiled in   clichés.

It's hard to visualise a hotel when it's veiled in clichés.

It’s the mistake every rookie writer makes – resorting to clichés and hackneyed phrases to “liven up” copy. But when your content is riddled with the tired words, readers will soon click away - because you’re not telling them anything interesting or useful. Boredom breeds short read times and a low level of engagement – which is the last thing you want from content.

Banish clichés and you should see read times improve, and find your audience coming back to your blogs or website pages for more.

How to put clichés in Room 101

I made up this one-sentence hotel description and put it into Google. It came back with more than six million pages that featured a selection of these phrases.

“Nestled in the countryside, our stylish hotel rooms boast views over a stunning garden and out to a turquoise sea.”

Now we’re going to rip out all the meaningless words and rewrite this description.

1.       Let’s start with “nestled”

I’m not sure when hotels started “nestling”, but it’s what all non-city hotels do now. Are you trying to say it’s in a secluded spot, far from other houses or businesses? Or that it’s in a sheltered position to protect it from storms? Whatever you’re trying to say here, you can be sure that many of your competitors are just as confusingly nestled, and readers have no idea what image this is trying to convey, so ditch it. NOTE: please don’t “tuck” or “perch” your hotel anywhere either. They’re the new “nestled”.

2.       And what exactly is “countryside”

OK, you’re not in a city. I get it. But where are you? “Not in a city” is an awfully big place. You could be amid farms or forests or wasteland. I have no idea.

3.       Next, we have “stylish”

Ask 10 people to describe a “stylish” hotel room, and you’ll get 10 different opinions. I’ve been to hotels described as “stylish” that I thought were gauche, and others that were bland. Replace this with a description of your actual décor, if that’s what you’re trying to get across. If you can’t identify your hotel’s décor, apart from the equally meaningless “modern” or “contemporary”, then speak to an interior designer or do some Google research of key pieces of furniture or architecture because just as with “stylish”, “modern” and “contemporary” mean different things to different people. At a minimum, you should know when your hotel was built, so if it’s old at all, you could default to that “19th century” says more than “stylish”.

4.       Anthropomorphism isn’t always bad, but…

…rooms don’t “boast”. You’re trying to say your hotel has sea views. So just say that instead of turning your hotel into a building with ego issues.

5.       Please stop “stunning” people

Do you know what’s stunning? The number of hoteliers who think their properties are stunning. Unless your hotel garden is so extraordinary that it’s stopping visitors in their tracks, jaws agape, then it’s not stunning. And frankly, even if it is stunning, that word is so overused that telling people it’s stunning has now become trite. What you want here is a description of the type of garden you have. That’s going to help people visualise it.

6.       Finally, the ubiquitous "turquoise sea"

According to travel agents and inexperienced travel writers, every body of water on earth is either turquoise or azure. What are you trying to get across here? That you’re by the sea? Then say that. Ditch the colour. But the worst part of the turquoise sea cliché? Even if the body of water adjacent to your hotel genuinely is turquoise blue – and here’s what that colour is, in case you need to see it - your thunder has been stolen by the cliché crowd, so all this is going to do is make me think you’re being hyperbolic, not realistic.

Ah, that's more like it! This vintage postcard of a hotel on the British coast makes me want to head to the seaside.

Ah, that's more like it! This vintage postcard of a hotel on the British coast makes me want to head to the seaside.

We’ve ripped it apart, now let’s rewrite it

“All seven rooms in our hillside Art Deco hotel have views over the cottage garden and out to sea.”

Why is that better?

“Seven rooms” - I now know that it’s a small hotel. But it doesn’t matter if it’s small, medium or large. This just helps me understand more about your hotel, so simply state if you have seven, 70 or 700 rooms.

“Hillside” – you’re on a hill. Lovely!

“Art Deco” – many people know this popular architectural style, so now they can start to piece together an image of your hotel’s look. Yours isn’t so easy to define? It could be “seaside-themed” or “antique-filled” or “simple, minimalist décor”.

“Views” - it’s great that all seven rooms have views, but if your hotel doesn’t, then be honest. “Stay in our seven-room Art Deco hotel, and lounge on sunny days in our plant-filled conservatory with sea views”. You’re subtly telling me here that not all rooms have sea views, but at least I know one key public area does. And best of all, you’re not “boasting” about it; you’re just stating a fact.

“Cottage garden” - who doesn’t love a cottage garden? I get the image that it’s filled with flowers most of the year, and might be somewhat rambling. This is instantly evocative. Alternatives for your hotel might be “landscaped topiary garden” or “fernery” or “over the lawns and out to sea”. These all work better than the meaningless “stunning”.

“Sea” - your hotel has sea views, so you’re already winning. No need to oversell it with hyperbole. As the almost-cliché goes, “You had me at sea”.

If your website's content or company blog is riddled with clichés, we can help. Get in touch or +44 (0)20 3532 4121.