We discussed purple prose a few weeks ago, and as Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Or something like that; my college Practical Physics class involved making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. And the equal and opposite reaction to purple prose is beige prose.

beige prose

Photo by Edward Musiak

Beige prose has its advantages. It is direct, comprised of brief descriptions and terse sentences. It is important to note that brevity does not make a sentence beige prose. It is beige because it’s to the point and lacking descriptors.

Authors who are known for their beige prose include Asimov and Hemingway, but more contemporary examples include the Hunger Games series, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, which is written from the perspective of an autistic teenager.

While beige prose is clear and effective, it’s important to note that it can sometimes inhibit the flow of text. Due to its brief nature, beige prose generally does not allow for any clauses, similes, or metaphors. Adding these pieces to a sentence can enhance the readability of the work, and maintain the flow and interest of the words on the page. As with purple prose, it’s important to remember that moderation is key.

What do you prefer, purple prose or beige prose? 

PRACTICE

Write for fifteen minutes about someone experiencing the post-Valentine’s Day slump/relief/tension. Incorporate as much beige prose as you can. Post your practice in the comments and leave notes for your fellow writers.

Liz Bureman
Liz Bureman

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she’s not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.