Does Your Writing Suck This Badly?


I was diagnosed with a terrible disease a couple of weeks ago. But I only recently learned its clinical name and discovered the large extent of its infection.

“Purple prose” denotes writing that is overly extravagant and flowery. It takes away from the story and calls attention to itself, like that hipster in your class who thinks his hat is so cool but doesn’t realize etiquette calls for him to take it off indoors.

You might’ve heard the opening phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.” It’s by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a writer famous for purple prose. So famous, in fact, that there’s an annual fiction contest celebrating each year’s worst piece of prose in his name.

My favorite is the winner of 1993:

She wasn’t really my type, a hard-looking but untalented reporter from the local cat box liner, but the first second that the third-rate representative of the fourth estate cracked open a new fifth of old Scotch, my sixth sense said seventh heaven was as close as an eighth note from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, so, nervous as a tenth grader drowning in eleventh-hour cramming for a physics exam, I swept her into my longing arms, and, humming “The Twelfth of Never,” I got lucky on Friday the thirteenth.

– Wm. W. “Buddy” Ocheltree, Port Townsend, Washington (1993 Winner)