Purple Prose
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Purple Prose

In literary criticism, purple prose is prose text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself.[1] Purple prose is characterized by the excessive use of adjectives, adverbs, and metaphors. When it is limited to certain passages, they may be termed purple patches or purple passages, standing out from the rest of the work.

Purple prose is criticized for desaturating the meaning in an author's text by overusing melodramatic and fanciful descriptions. As there is no precise rule or absolute definition of what constitutes purple prose, deciding if a text, passage, or complete work has fallen victim is a somewhat subjective decision. According to Paul West, "It takes a certain amount of sass to speak up for prose that's rich, succulent and full of novelty. Purple is [widely seen as] immoral, undemocratic and insincere; at best artsy, at worst the exterminating angel of depravity."[2]


The term purple prose is derived from a reference by the Roman poet Horace[3][4] (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 BC) who wrote in his Ars Poetica (lines 14-21):[5]


Liz Bureman explains purple prose while intentionally using purple prose in the explanation itself:

On occasion, one finds oneself immersed in the literary throes of a piece of prose where there is very little in the way of advancement of the plot or development of the characters, but the pages are still filled with words. Since the esteemed author has allowed their writing to take a turn for the dry and dull, they gallantly attempt to overcompensate for the lack of stimulation by indulging in elaborate turns of phrase.[8]

See also


  1. ^ "A Word a Day - purple prose". Wordsmith.org. Retrieved 2014. 
  2. ^ West, Paul (15 December 1985). "IN DEFENSE OF PURPLE PROSE". New York Times. Retrieved 2014. 
  3. ^ Nixon, Cheryl (2008-12-30). Novel Definitions. Broadview Press. pp. 194-. ISBN 9781770482074. Retrieved 2013. 
  4. ^ Macrone, Michael (1994-05-18). It's Greek to Me. HarperCollins. pp. 147-. ISBN 9780062720443. Retrieved 2013. 
  5. ^ Horace (18 BC). Ars Poetica. Lines 14-21.
  6. ^ HORATII FLACCI ARS POETICA - epistulae 3 - Translated by A. S. Kline, 2005
  7. ^ Alternative translation: "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?"
  8. ^ Bureman, Liz. "How to Know If Your Prose Is Purple." The Write Practice, Wordpress, 20 Jan. 2014, thewritepractice.com/purple-prose/. Accessed 1 Mar. 2017.
  • Coles Editorial Board, Dictionary of Literary Terms, Rama Brothers, 2001.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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