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Five Top Content Editing Tips for Hotels

Killer turns of phrase and spot-on metaphors are all well and good, but hotel customers need useful content to nudge them to the point of purchase.

Even the most eloquent hotel website copy can benefit from an editor’s eye and giving your hotel’s existing content the once-over can reap immediate rewards. With a tweak here and a snip there, it can be transformed from something so-so into the best and most readable version possible.

Whether it’s a room description or a blog post about local attractions, editing is an essential way to make sure your hotel’s written content does its job as well as it possibly can. Here are five tips to ensure the effectiveness of your editing process.

1. Avoid overusing adverbs and intensifiers

The goal of editing it to tighten things up. One of the best ways to do this is to cull unnecessary adverbs (words that modify a verb or noun, such as ‘ran quickly’ or ‘move snappily’) and intensifiers (words that make adjectives stronger, such as ‘very’ and ‘really’).

Start by nixing the intensifiers and replacing them with stronger, more illustrative adjectives. For instance, instead of saying an ‘extremely good night’s sleep’, say an ‘undisturbed’ or ‘restful night’s sleep’.

Adverbs are fine in moderation. The problem arises when your copy relies on them too much, which can make it seem laboured. Take for instance: “Walk slowly across beautifully soft sands … ”. This sentence can be tightened up by swapping out the verb-adverb (“walk slowly”) and intensifier-adjective (“beautifully soft”) pairings for a single more descriptive word: “Amble across powdery sands.”

2. Remove redundancies

Another way to firm up flabby prose is by removing redundancies. For example:

descend down (you can’t descend up)
every single person (single is unnecessary)
close proximity (proximity implies closeness)

Redundancies are difficult to spot, particularly when self-editing, so weeding them out requires a conscious effort. Consider writing up a list for reference and keeping it beside you as you edit.

3. Steer clear of the passive voice

The passive voice has a bad rep, but there is a time and a place for it – usually when you don’t want to emphasise the subject. For instance, in your hotel’s history section, it may serve your purpose to obscure the agent (e.g. “the west wing was added in 1931” as opposed to “the hotel management, in conjunction with partner agencies, ordered the building of the west wing in…”). Overuse, however, can make copy confusing and it should be kept to a minimum.

The easiest way to identify the passive voice? Rebecca Johnson, an ethics professor at USMC, found a method that’s hard to beat: “If you can insert ‘by zombies’ after the verb, you have passive voice.”

For example: “Survey the view from our penthouse balcony and let your breath be taken away… “ by zombies. If it works, then it’s passive.

4. Hone in on comma-heavy sentences

Another way of tightening up copy is to chop rambling sentences. Scan the copy and be on alert for sentences with lots of commas. There is nothing wrong with a few commas… but any more than a handful and a sentence can seem interminable.

For instance: “The sculpture, designed by local artist Joe Bloggs, was commissioned by the hotel’s owners, who, together with the local authorities, attempted to select the best design from a competition that saw more than 10,000 entrants, so many that the organisers found it difficult to narrow down a shortlist and enlisted the help of the public in the selection process, opening it up to online voting on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites as well as inviting hotel guests to have their say by filling in forms at reception.”

Sometimes, all you need to do is insert a full stop or two. Other times, you may need to prune.

5. Don’t nominalise

Your hotel’s website isn’t required reading. Just as people may choose to visit it, so too can they choose to leave it – a likely outcome if the content is loaded with bureaucratese and jargon.

Nominalisation, a fancy-pants linguistic term, occurs when a verb is used as a noun creating what’s known as a ‘camouflaged verb’. For example:

“The hotel gives a reduction of rates during low season.” -> “The hotel reduces rates during low season”
“The staff undertook a search.” -> “The staff searched.”

While nominalisation isn’t grammatically incorrect, it is boring, and likely to turn off potential visitors. Probably not the effect you hoped for.

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