What is Purple Prose?

plain englishI was contacted by a regular client last week to re-work a report written by one of his other writers.  As per the client the content was laden with ‘purple prose’.

What is purple prose? Purple prose is used to describe writing that is so flowery, that it distracts the reader from the real meaning.  While there is no clear-cut definition of what constitutes purple prose, it indicates the use of too many fancy words and expressions, or the use of words and expressions that have similar meaning.

Here is a perfect example of purple prose borrowed from Urban Dictionary:

Normal writing: She lay on her bed dreaming.

Purple prose:  She lay upon her silken sheets in her ornately embellished robes of satin, her chest ascending and descending easily with every passing second, deep inside the caverns of her subconscious mind.

Purple prose – To be or not to be?

Writing in purple prose suits more creative forms of writing, such as novels, spiritual/ motivational content and plays.  In fact, many readers enjoy reading a more elaborate style of writing. A pro-purple prose reader may describe it as ‘ jam to my toast’.

One of the main drawbacks of purple prose is that it takes too long to read. The writer meander’s about the same point, which can be annoying . Excessive use of descriptive wordings can alienate the reader. When you are writing for the internet, drafting a business communication, or preparing an academic paper, grandiosity in expression serves as a death knell for capturing the reader’s interest.

Avoiding purple prose helps you convey the greatest possible information to your reader, in the fewest possible words.

plain english 2Tips on avoiding purple prose

  • Write as you would speak.
  • Avoid using repetitive adjectives and adverbs.
  • Don’t use several lines to communicate a thought that can be expressed as intelligently in a single sentence.
  • Follow a stringent editing process once you have completed the writing.

Do you enjoy reading purple prose?  Or do you think that flowery language should be avoided? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Happy Writing!

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2 thoughts on “What is Purple Prose?

  1. kkrige says:

    I know that I am guilty of a fair amount of “purple prose”. Like you suggest, sometimes it is okay in creative writing, but there is a line. I tread it often.

    Like

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