Itís Charming!

Travel Stories: World Hum opens a non-scientific and purely subjective inquiry into the most overused words in travel writing. First in an occasional series.

03.05.02 | 12:43 AM ET

Oh, it's soooo charming!Photo illustration by Michael Yessis

If you read much travel writing—and we do—you know that travel writers tend to rely on certain words. Country inns, for instance, are often “quaint,” and the eight rooms therein just might be “rustic.” We’ve seen these kinds of all-purpose adjectives over and over and over, and it got us thinking: Which are the most hackneyed words in travel writing?

To answer this very important question, we compiled a list of repeated words and phrases found in the travel stories we’ve read during the last three months. Then we did what anyone with reasonable computer skills would do: We used Google to sniff out more examples. During the upcoming months we’ll reveal, in no particular order, what we’ve determined are the most overused words in travel writing, and we’ll excerpt our favorite usages from publications around the globe.

Publication names have been withheld because we’re kind. Herewith, the results for “charming.” Next is “quaint.”

BEST USE INVOLVING A WATERCRAFT ACCIDENT
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound of a 32-foot houseboat slamming against the inside wall of a charming stone bridge.” - major Midwestern daily newspaper

BEST USE TO DESCRIBE A STONE BRIDGE NOT INVOLVED IN A WATERCRAFT ACCIDENT
“The canal at Tannay flows under a charming stone bridge.” - major Midwestern daily newspaper

BEST TWO USES IN SENTENCES THAT ALSO FEATURE THE WORD “COZY”
“The charming storefronts of downtown Dahlonega cozy up around the historic square with its courthouse.” - major southern American newspaper “Inside the main building, rooms sport exposed beams, shuttered balconies, and other cozy touches; beyond the sparkling pool, the rest of the 29 units are more mod in style but equally crisp and charming.” - major American glossy travel magazine

BEST USE TO DESCRIBE 16TH CENTURY ARCHITECTURE

“The charming and elegant 16th Century Museu Nacional Machado de Castro was formerly the Bishop’s palace and is now the depository of some of Portugal’s finest sculpture.” - Europe-focused travel website

BEST USE TO DESCRIBE 17TH CENTURY ARCHITECTURE
“The 17th-century villa has a charming, old-world feel to it, and its frescos, library and creaky floors all add to the effect.” - regional American newspaper

BEST USE TO DESCRIBE A PLACE THAT, UPON FURTHER REVIEW, THE WRITER ISN’T SO SURE IS ACTUALLY CHARMING
“It’s undoubtedly arrogant to think of some place as poor as Yangon as charming; it’s only that way if you’re a foreigner for whom the $1 taxi fare or $4 lunch for two is so cheap it’s laughable.” - major southern American newspaper

BEST CONTRADICTORY USE
“The fairytale scenes before us on the Dream Flight were cheesy but charming, and beautifully done: the smells and temperature changing as we moved from one set to the other; fairies perched in trees; a rainy wood full of goblins and trolls.” - major British newspaper

BEST USE IN A SENTENCE ALSO CONTAINING THE PHRASE “OUTLET STORES”
“London has a charming, old-fashioned downtown, yet it is close to antiques malls and outlet stores.” - Midwestern newspaper

BEST TWO USES TO DESCRIBE INNS
“My snorkel comes courtesy of Matthew the innkeeper at Hotel Cocoplaya, a charming 12-room waterfront hotel near town.” - major American men’s magazine

“I stayed at a charming inn, the Gingerbread, on Admiralty Bay, in a room straight out of Caribbean casting—fans, mosquito netting, large windows.” - major American glossy travel and adventure magazine

BEST GENERIC USE THAT LEAVES READERS WITH NO SPECIFIC IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A HOTEL, RESTAURANT OR DESTINATION
“You feel all cozy and warm in this charming, beautiful little space.” - national American newspaper

BEST TWO USES INVOLVING DESTINATIONS IN FLORIDA
“For non-Florida ambience, though, the prize goes to Mount Dora, a charming lakeside town that resembles a New England village” - major eastern American newspaper

“There are dozens of charming small inns that can make your Florida weekend memorable.” - major southern American newspaper

BEST USE IN A SENTENCE THAT PREDICTS THE READER’S LIFE, NOT UNLIKE A FORTUNE COOKIE

“As for the setting, the restaurant is small and charming. You will have a nice, relaxing meal.” - major travel website

BEST USE THAT ALSO REVEALS A WRITER’S HYGIENE CONCERNS
“We spent the morning, the Wife and I, just strolling about this charming hillside village, enjoying its gardens and its cleanliness.” - major Midwestern newspaper



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