Inspiration Engagement Pieces 2018-07-09 00:00

Improve Your Writing Tip #9: Beware of Purple Prose

Improve your writing

I'm clever. I want others to know I'm clever, too.

Thinking like this can lead you into one of the biggest pitfalls of the aspiring writer: Purple Prose. Purple Prose is writing that is so extravagant and flowery that it draws excessive attention to itself. This includes clever words, adverbs, and adjectives.

The phrase "Purple Prose" comes from a paragraph by the Roman poet Horace: "Your opening shows great promise, and yet flashy purple patches; as when describing a sacred grove, or the altar of Diana, or a stream meandering through fields, or the river Rhine, or a rainbow; but this was not the place for them. If you can realistically render a cypress tree, would you include one when commissioned to paint a sailor in the midst of a shipwreck?"

There are plenty of ways to be clever in writing aside from using phrases like "preternaturally diaphanous." Use direct prose that effectively communicates a feeling or idea. Words that distract from those goals are likely purple.

Use our writing improvement software to catch your Purple Prose.

Next improve your writing tip: Improve Your Writing Tip #10: Chop away deadwood.

Be confident about grammar

Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.