Tips for Compiling a Voice Style Guide for Writing about Houses?
February 6, 2017 1:45 PM   Subscribe

I have some downtime at my new job and have offered to help build out our voice style guide. Yay! I'm feeling a little unfocused though. We're a real-estate startup that sells low-to-mid range houses in several cities, mostly in the suburbs, mostly built in 1960 or after. I'd love to bone up on reading about suburban homes but I can't seem to find any good reading about middle-of-the road, standard-issue American dwellings. I'm looking for recommendations for compelling writing about non-luxury real estate (books, magazines, websites, and advertising) and links to your favorite voice style guides as a jumping off point. What makes for interesting, original real estate copy? What do you wish real estate listings were better at doing?
posted by macrowave to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am not in the business, but as someone who went through the buying/selling process recently, there are some really overused phrases that are pretty much devoid of meaning and started to drive me crazy: "ideal for dining al fresco", "perfect for entertaining"/"entertainer's dream", "chef's kitchen" (what's next, "sleeper's bedroom"?), and anything involving the words "retreat" or "oasis"
posted by karbonokapi at 2:17 PM on February 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

there are some really overused phrases that are pretty much devoid of meaning and started to drive me crazy: ... "chef's kitchen" (what's next, "sleeper's bedroom"?)

I used to read a lot of shelter magazines. One did a series profiling the actual home kitchen's of actual professional chefs. Many of them had some tiny little kitchen with some dinky little table and at least one of them explicitly stated in the interview "If I am going to entertain over 4 people, I just do it at my restaurant."

Don't get me wrong, their kitchens were gorgeous and had awesome equipment. But they were for throwing together breakfast before going to work. Real cooking was done at work for these people.

So, I would just roll my eyes if I ran across this phrase to describe some property listing.

House Beautiful magazine turned 120 years old in 2016. They did an anniversary issue and it was filled with retrospectives on old articles from the magazine's history. In other words, there was stuff in there from before the time that most shelter publications were turned into Shelter Porn/Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless tripe. Google tells me this was their November 2016 issue. I especially enjoyed their retrospective on kitchens.

Try to get a copy of it. You may be able to find it at your local library or you may be able to buy a copy somewhere (ebay?).
posted by Michele in California at 2:55 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes, pretty much take every other agent's copy and avoid their phrasing like the plague. Factual information is what's needed and is sorely lacking in most descriptions.

Sort of unrelatedly, I sell a lot of collectible items online via auction sites. I am fairly well known as being ruthlessly honest and sometimes fairly derogatory about the condition of the things I sell. I believe this is why I get good prices for things, because people bidding tend to be more confident that they're getting what they expect. If your descriptions are pitched in such a way as to expect the reader to be dumb, it's going to turn off those who aren't.
posted by tillsbury at 3:02 PM on February 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

As a queer person married to another woman, the phrases 'his and her sinks' 'Jack and Jill closets' etc. make me roll my eyes. If you use "double sinks" "enough closet space for two" "large, separate walk-in closets" - anything not heternormative - I will notice, and for the good.
posted by joycehealy at 3:13 PM on February 6, 2017 [14 favorites]

Another phrase to avoid: "minutes to downtown". Uh, how many minutes? 99? 260? Such a horrible, useless phrase. I know you can't estimate how many minutes, but you can say "close freeway access", or "2 blocks from public transit line."
posted by hydra77 at 9:29 AM on February 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

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