Purple Prose

I recently discovered my writer’s journal from my junior year of high school. My teacher required us to write fill up three pages of that journal every week. We could write about anything and everything we wanted. We just had to write. I remember loving this class so incredibly much, because it made me discover my passion and write with freedom. Only, I may have had a little too much freedom.

Looking back at this journal was slightly cringe-worthy, because the language I used was flowery almost to the point of incomprehension. I used to think that the best way to communicate something through writing was to attach as many adverbs and adjectives to it as possible. Knowing what I know now, it was clear to me that some of my points were probably lost on my teacher as she tried to navigate her way through my similes and semicolons.

I do think there is a place for overly descriptive language. Sometimes, it’s necessary for a writer to paint a picture in their readers’ minds, to do more than just say it. However, it’s all about the execution. There are certainly ways to be descriptive without being confusing. The term “purple prose” refers to this flowery language. The number one piece of advice I can give as a former “Purple Proser” is this: step away from the thesaurus. If the word doesn’t come to your head easily, you probably shouldn’t be using it. Don’t say “inscribe” instead of “write”. Don’t say “verbalize” instead of “talk.” Start learning to say what you mean without all the extra nonsense.

Although I am still guilty of this crime, I would like to think my style of writing has improved since my days of heavy purple prose.



2 thoughts on “Purple Prose

  1. Jasmine Ly April 23, 2015 / 5:03 am

    Ooh, I am definitely guilty of purple prose! I once wrote a letter using a thesaurus for every single word; though, in my defense it was to scare a guy off for my friend on facebook. It was so dense and confusing and strange that the guy never talked to my friend again, but I thought it sounded so intelligent that I tried to bring some of those words into my lexicon and it made my writing horrible. I still love flowery prose; I practically eat it up while I’m reading it. But I think there’s a certain point when writing, that moment where what you’re writing is so dense and full of descriptors that you honestly do not know what the subject of the sentence is anymore, that you should step away from the purple prose.


  2. stephaniebaur April 23, 2015 / 11:34 pm

    I think that word counts are one reason we fall into the trap of “purple prose.” I believe writing succinctly is something to be celebrated. Whenever I have had to stretch my writing to reach a word count, it gets jumbled in flowery rubbish. When I have to chip away at my writing to meet a lower word count, that is when I have found the diamonds.


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