Sunday, September 18, 2011

Purple Pleonasm

I love the "Word of the Day." Very often, the word is new to me, and I like to try to put it to use in a thought or a sentence.

Today's word is pleonasm:

\PLEE-uh-naz-uhm\, noun;
1) The use of more words than are necessary to express an idea.
2) A superfluous word or expression.

Synonyms: copiousness, garrulity, loquaciousness, verbosity

I've been accused of purple prose before, but after today's word, I've decided purple pleonasm is so much more descriptive of the writing style into which I sometimes drift.

Allow me to "expose" myself. Here's an excerpt of a story I wrote several years ago:

The rising sun bade goodbye to the night’s moon glow with a kiss of violet, pink, orange and finally golden yellow.  Earth accepted Sun’s kiss and blushed with color.

And here is the critique given to me by a prominent college professor/editor:

"Oh. . . my . . . God."

I smiled. I knew she'd love it. Then, I saw her pulling her hair out.

"No. No. No!!" she continued. "This is so purple. Purple, I say. Purple!"

As you might imagine, I went pale and queasy all at once. She'd torn it to pieces. My masterpiece! My child!

I think. . . I hope . . . my writing has come a long way. At least when I read that passage now, I feel the same kind of yucky sickness one might feel after eating eight servings of tiramisu.

So, I've grown as a writer, and though a critique can often feel like standing by and watching someone beat your child, it has helped - a lot. I've come a long way in dropping the purple. Now, if I can let go of the pleonasm.

Still, it does have a distinctive ring to it.


  1. What can I say? A perfect word to describe what I myself am guilty of doing. I am learning, too. But in my world of forgiveness, I also understand that there is a love of words in a writer, in particular, that influences this phenomenon. "Less is more." Repeat.

  2. Ring is definitely the word. Reminiscent of the bells in the third movement of Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Kijé's Wedding.

  3. Well, knock me down with a soft, white, fluffy feather. Who would've thought I'd be guilty of pleonasm.

  4. I do believe all (or 98%) of fiction writers do this in the early days of learning the craft. I know I did.

    Great post, Jan!

  5. Guilty. I think we all are in the beginning. Thanks for the post. I'll be extra conscientious of my pleonasm now--especially since I just learned the word :)

  6. Reminds me of Leonard. Ask him what time it is and he'll tell you how to build a watch.

  7. I know that most times less is more, but then sometimes more is just needed. lol I so relate. I loved this post so much that I shared it on My Life.'s face book page. I am a new GFC follower from Author Central. Hope you'll have time to pop over to my blog for a follow. Hope to see you there. Donna

  8. I'm guilty of pleonasm, especially in the science writing I did for my degree, and my advisers nailed me for it. I've tried to stay away from purple (even if it is my favorite color), but I don't know how successful I've been. Loved your post! :)


  9. If ever in a million years I fell guilty to using too many words to express a thought, well then I'd expect . . . well, never mind. Good post, Jan. Nothing better than tightening our work by cutting out excess words, especially in description.