Category Archives: cliches

Seven Deadly Sins of Writing: #4 Purple Prose

Recently, I beta-read a piece for a friend, and I noticed many of my suggestions involved cutting words or tightening sentences. Since it’s been on my mind, I decided to dig up the following excerpt from our “Seven Deadly Sins of Writing” tip sheet. I hope this as helpful to all of you as it was to me as I assisted my friend with her story. Happy writing!

~Jessica Nelson

DEADLY SIN FOUR: PURPLE PROSE

By strict definition, “purple prose” refers to writing that is overly descriptive and/or detailed (overwritten), drawing attention to itself. However “purple prose” can also refer to poor writing habits that add nothing but fluff. Here are some things you should avoid:

UNNECESSARY WORDS. This is the easiest place to start looking for fat. Any word that doesn’t add to your story detracts from it. If a sentence reads equally well with or without a word (such as “that”), cut the extra word. Examine your prose for words like these: started to, began to, proceeded to, could, would, there was, there are, there is, there were, seemed to, tried to. Try using seotoolscentre.com to rewrite your sentences and make a better structured article for your business.

Bad: She began to walk to the store.
Good: She walked to the store.

Bad: It appeared that the suitcase was heavy.
Good: It appeared the suitcase was heavy.
Better: Marcus struggled to lift the suitcase.

Bad: Jackie would run to the bus stop each day.
Good: Jackie ran to the bus stop each day.

Bad: Jarod could hear laughter coming from the basement.
Good: Jarod heard laughter coming from the basement.
Better: Laughter erupted from the basement.

INTENSIFIERS. Very, really, totally, completely, truly and so on. Is completely empty any more empty?

Bad: The room was totally quiet.
Good: The room was quiet.

CLICHÉS. Instead of reusing phrases that you’ve heard before, find fresh ways of saying things. Common clichés, such as “happy as a pig in a poke” are fairly easy to find. However, be aware that emotions, descriptions, characters, etc. can also be cliché. If it’s been said before or used before, it’s cliché.

ADVERBS AND ADJECTIVES. Instead of using an adverb to make a weak verb stronger or an adjective to make a weak noun stronger, omit the adverb or adjective and choose a stronger verb or noun. Also resist the urge to stack adjectives. Select the one (at most two) adjectives that are the most descriptive and omit the rest.

Bad: She quickly and purposefully walked to Blaine and sharply hit his arm.
Good: She strode to Blaine and punched his arm.

Bad: Janet was tired, worn out and exhausted.
Good: Janet was exhausted.
Better: Janet forced her leg to raise, move forward, step back down. Then the other. It felt as though her legs were encased in concrete.

EUPHEMISMS. Instead of using euphemisms (attention: romance and love-scene writers!) for parts of the body, use real words. Too much fluff is just like too much dessert—it leaves us heaving.

Seven Deadly Sins of Writing: #4 Purple Prose



Recently, I beta-read a piece for a friend, and I noticed many of my suggestions involved cutting words or tightening sentences. Since it’s been on my mind, I decided to dig up the following excerpt from our “Seven Deadly Sins of Writing” tip sheet. I hope this as helpful to all of you as it was to me as I assisted my friend with her story. Happy writing!

~Jessica Nelson


DEADLY SIN FOUR: PURPLE PROSE

By strict definition, “purple prose” refers to writing that is overly descriptive and/or detailed (overwritten), drawing attention to itself. However “purple prose” can also refer to poor writing habits that add nothing but fluff. Here are some things you should avoid:

UNNECESSARY WORDS. This is the easiest place to start looking for fat. Any word that doesn’t add to your story detracts from it. If a sentence reads equally well with or without a word (such as “that”), cut the extra word. Examine your prose for words like these: started to, began to, proceeded to, could, would, there was, there are, there is, there were, seemed to, tried to.

Bad: She began to walk to the store.
Good: She walked to the store.

Bad: It appeared that the suitcase was heavy.
Good: It appeared the suitcase was heavy.
Better: Marcus struggled to lift the suitcase.

Bad: Jackie would run to the bus stop each day.
Good: Jackie ran to the bus stop each day.

Bad: Jarod could hear laughter coming from the basement.
Good: Jarod heard laughter coming from the basement.
Better: Laughter erupted from the basement.

INTENSIFIERS. Very, really, totally, completely, truly and so on. Is completely empty any more empty?

Bad: The room was totally quiet.
Good: The room was quiet.

CLICHÉS. Instead of reusing phrases that you’ve heard before, find fresh ways of saying things. Common clichés, such as “happy as a pig in a poke” are fairly easy to find. However, be aware that emotions, descriptions, characters, etc. can also be cliché. If it’s been said before or used before, it’s cliché.

ADVERBS AND ADJECTIVES. Instead of using an adverb to make a weak verb stronger or an adjective to make a weak noun stronger, omit the adverb or adjective and choose a stronger verb or noun. Also resist the urge to stack adjectives. Select the one (at most two) adjectives that are the most descriptive and omit the rest.

Bad: She quickly and purposefully walked to Blaine and sharply hit his arm.
Good: She strode to Blaine and punched his arm.

Bad: Janet was tired, worn out and exhausted.
Good: Janet was exhausted.
Better: Janet forced her leg to raise, move forward, step back down. Then the other. It felt as though her legs were encased in concrete.

EUPHEMISMS. Instead of using euphemisms (attention: romance and love-scene writers!) for parts of the body, use real words. Too much fluff is just like too much dessert—it leaves us heaving.

Avoid Clichés: Get Past the Mundane Use Your Brain!

by Stacy Tritt

Her face fell. Fear gripped her. She was all bent out of shape.

Clichés are everywhere. They infect our writing, and make what we thought was a fantastic, captivating piece of work… well, boring to our readers. So how can we fight the pandemic of clichés? There are several approaches to this battle. First we must know how to identify clichés. Next, we must learn to guard ourselves against them. And last, we can use the basic idea of a cliché against itself in order to eradicate it. Here’s how:

Many of you may be wondering, how can I tell whether something is a cliché? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to find out:

1. Have you read those words or actions in the same context you are writing them in before? If your answer is yes, then the phrase is either cliché—or you’re plagiarizing. Either way, you want to avoid it.

2. Can the words you’re writing be considered a common figure of speech? For instance, in “her face fell,” did her face really fall, as in trip, tumble, or slide off of her head? Of course not! That would mean something entirely different. It’s a figure of speech, one that the majority of English speakers know, and is therefore considered a writing cliché. A good technique to get rid of clichés from your writing is to go back and read your work aloud so you can better recognize whether or not you have heard a specific phrase before.

So, you’ve found the clichés in what you’ve already written, and you’re ready to move on, but you want to break the habit of naturally writing clichés into your work. But how? Second guess yourself. If the words flow from your fingers like you didn’t even have to think about them, then chances are you didn’t, because you already know the words you’re writing, because they are cliché. Clichés are often the result of writing the way we speak in everyday life. The problem with this is that people don’t want to be told things they already know, they want to read what you have to say because it is exciting, and lets them see the world (whether this one, or a world you created) in a fresh, new way in which they’ve never seen something before. The hard part is giving them that fresh new take on the world.

One great technique to eradicate clichés is to use them—but not as they are. Take the cliché that is giving you problems, and change it to make it surprising and different; something the reader can’t see coming. Something that makes it your own. Here are a few examples:

“Her face fell” could become “His words shoved the smile right off of her cheeks.”

“Fear was gripping her” could become “Fear embraced her like a small child who refused to let go.”

And “She was getting all bent out of shape” could become “Her rage peaked at a new high, forcing all other emotion from her body and bending her once soft demeanor into a callous giant.”

Actions and reactions can also be cliché. Something scary happens when the storm begins, or a fight between lovers ends with a huge, sappy kiss. In those cases, do you really want your reader to know what will happen before they experience it on your page? I don’t think so. What is the point of reading? Throw in a few twists, lead them down one road, then force them to take another. Get past the mundane, and use your brain! As Nathanial Hawthorne once said, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” You just have to have to keep trying until you get it right.