What is Purple Prose?

What is Purple Prose?


In this article, we'll learn what Purple Prose is, how to identify it, and how to understand whether or not to use it.

What is Purple Prose?

Purple Prose has a few defining characteristics. In short, it uses:

  • Overly ornate language
  • Excessive adjectives and adverbs
  • Metaphors and similes that are over the top

Example of Purple Prose

Let's look at an example of Purple Prose:

The magnificent, shimmering, moonlit waves caressed the velvety, golden sands of the tranquil beach, their gentle whispers mingling with the sultry, intoxicating scent of jasmine that perfumed the air.

Next, let's rewrite the above in plain prose:

The moonlit waves gently touched the sandy beach, the air filled with the scent of jasmine

As we can see, while the overall message is the same, the first one is more evocative and descriptive. At the same time, it may feel too sweet or over the top to some people.

Purple Prose Is neither Good nor Bad

To some people, the term has an inherently negative connotation. However, using Purple Prose, like Showing vs Telling, is neither good nor bad; it's a matter of stylistic choice. That said, most modern Fantasy readers will likely find Purple Prose too over-the-top.

Some readers prefer concise prose, which communicates the most amount of information per word. These people may find purple prose too "sweet", or find it distracts them from the original story and message.

Other readers prefer more poem-like prose, with detailed descriptions of your world, the character's emotions, and the events that occur.

Above all, as a writer, you should ensure your approach is consistent whether you choose descriptive or concise prose. If you use Purple Prose in the first chapters, your readers will expect it for the entirety of the book (unless you purposely change your POV and writing style). If you then switch to concise, non-descriptive prose in the middle of your book, you might throw off your readers, which might, as a result, put down your book.

A Beginner's Pitfall

Overly descriptive language is a common pitfall for beginner writers. I've been there myself. While writing my first ever draft, I felt like I had to prove myself; who was I to attempt writing a novel? I felt that I needed to show off my lexical skills.

With my trusty thesaurus by my side, I wrote a few chapters of prose full of adjectives and verbs that felt over the top.

Although Purple Prose can be a powerful stylistic choice, it's difficult to do well. Therefore, I recommend beginners try to write concise prose, leveraging the most accurate word for what they are trying to describe. I recommend using Grammarly, a writing assistant tool that can help you identify opportunities to clarify and shorten your prose, improving its overall quality.

To this day, while I still struggle to write concise prose, I learned to appreciate the elegance of concise and descriptive language. I strive for elegance while writing fiction, but also when communicating with my friends and family, 


In this article, we learned what Purple Prose is, by looking at a practical example. We also explored some of the advantages and disadvantages of using it. Lastly, we looked at why and how Purple Prose might be an issue for beginner writers, and how they can best address the issue.


Andrea Cerasoni in Rome, Italy
Andrea Cerasoni

I'm Andrea, a Software Engineer, Technical Editor, and aspiring Fantasy Author. I'm originally from Rome, Italy, but am currently based in Glasgow, United Kingdom. I read and write classic Fantasy: the sword-and-shield, dragons, and wizards kind. In my articles, I talk about writing fantasy fiction, productivity, coding, building a website or platform, establishing a personal brand, and more!

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