Monday, September 21, 2015


I’m currently in the throes of a major rewrite. What started as tweaking has turned into an entirely different story. I didn't intend for this to happen but I wrote the manuscript years ago and I’ve grown as a writer.

As I worked, I noticed something about my manuscript. I had an affinity for certain phrases and they popped up on every few pages.  You’ve heard of purple prose? I had purple phrases. In other words, those irritating, repetitive phrases that make the reader roll her eyes until she has a headache.

This isn’t only a beginning writer’s problem. Purple phrases even happen to authors who are New York Times best sellers. I recently read a book by a well-known novelist who used a phrase repeatedly in reference to the heroine's eyes: Her eyes were cornflower blue. Tears welled in her cornflower blue eyes. She glared at him through cornflower blue eyes. 

All right! All right! I get it! Her eyes were cornflower blue! Geeze.

The phrases that kept finding their way in my novel were: A sigh escaped her. A sly grin stole over his face. She grabbed her throat. The throat thing was particularly noticeable to the point my editor asked why I felt it was necessary for the heroine to choke herself every time something upset her. When I read his comment I wanted to choke him, but he was right—sigh.

Another thing I noticed, my characters were constantly drinking coffee. Hmm, maybe because I’m usually drinking coffee while writing?

I knew I had to do something in order to keep from aggravating my reader, so I made a purple phrase list and taped it to my computer screen. This helps to remind me to keep escaping sighs and sly grins and throat grabbing heroins in check. And when I notice a new PP, I add it to the list.

What about you? Do you have any purple phrases? What are they? And what do you do to avoid them while writing?
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  1. I don't know about "purple," but I do know authors have pet phrases they use to death. I recently read a novel by one of my favorite authors. Every few pages, the main character "couldn't help but to" do something. She simply couldn't help herself. Each and every time.

  2. Actually, I do...really, really, very very, yeah, I say, shrugging and grimacing and letting my eyes roll around in my head. Oy, I flap my hands while taking a sip from my mug. "I'll say," I sigh with a shrug as I check my wristwatch and flip my hair. Again.

    People who like to read should never, ever, ever, be an editor.

    1. First of all Lisa, you are as cute as a button! :) I'm writing the second novel in my series and I'm paranoid asking myself, "Have I used this too much? Have I used it before?" I'm reading a book where the characters have - locked eyes - about 28 times now! aback!