Beige Prose

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"Omit needless words."
The Elements of Style

Brief descriptions. Simple sentence structure. Plain words. Few figures of speech. Sometimes intentional.

Witty when effective. Otherwise, dull. Use carefully.

Compare Minimalism, Fun with Acronyms, Brevity Is Wit, Laconic.

Contrast Wall of Text, Purple Prose.

A Terse Talker speaks in this.[1]

Examples of Beige Prose include:

Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

A Miss
A Curve
He Kissed the Miss
And Missed the Curve

Burma Shave

Comics[edit | hide]

  • Dilbert
  • Watchmen Rorschach speaks in short sentences and sentence fragments. His journal doesn't. Must remember to investigate further.
  • Sin City.

"Old Man Dies. Young girl lives. Fair trade."


Fan Works[edit | hide]

Ahh he yelled as he slashed him his blood hit the floor

  • Mark Moore a.k.a. Tuxedo Mark writes some of the most boring fanfics imaginable. Here's an example that's sometimes nicknamed "Linda! Laundry!"

She got a plastic box off of the shelf in the closet and opened it. She put the comforter into the box and closed the box. She put the box back on the shelf in the closet.
Linda put fresh sheets on the bed.
She put the old sheets in the laundry basket.

Green light, unnatural shine.
Voice grating, ethereal.
Prophetic nightmare, she's terrified.
("What did I say?")

Literature[edit | hide]

  • How Not to Write A Novel.
  • Ernest Hemingway is known for his simple writing style that lacks flowery language and keeps descriptions to a minimum. He called it "the theory of omission" or "The Iceberg Principle." While some authors criticized him for it, his style is widely considered to be very effective. Hemingway himself attributed his terse style to his training as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. Because he had to communicate from Europe to North America by the expensive medium of cable, it was naturally expected that he should compose his reports to be as succinct as possible while including all the story's salient information.
  • Albert Camus' The Stranger. Done to ape Hemingway, and Meursault is supposed to be emotionally detached.
  • 1940s and 50s pulp novels. Readers wanted books full of plot, with no introspection or relationships. Writers happy to oblige. Iconic example: James M. Cain. (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice)
  • The X Wing Series'
    • Michael A. Stackpole. Great ideas. Plain description.
    • Aaron Allston, from the same series, is completely different. The shift is a bit shocking, moreso when it switches back.
  • Parts of The Bible, especially Leviticus. Major stories and incidents, including Sodom & Gomorrah and the Tower of Babel, are dispensed and dismissed in 3-4 verses. The creation of man is summed up in a page. One time in the Bible, someone saves all the Israelites, equaling what Moses did earlier. This is told in two paragraphs.
  • Terrance Dicks's novelisations of Doctor Who. Can be forgiven, since he was doing many, but it made them dull to read. His original novels can be better.
  • The Notebook (The Notebook, The Proof, and The Third Lie, not any other novel).
  • Cash's sections in As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. First section is a list of what to do to properly construct Addie's casket. Next two sections, the third being 1 1/2 sentences long, are about the casket's imbalance.
  • Victor Hugo sent a letter to his publisher about Les Misérables sales. The text: "?" The reply: "!"
    • According to Guinness Book of World Records, the shortest correspondence ever.
    • "Such brevity is all the more remarkable when one considers that Les Misérables contains one of the longest sentences in the French language -- 823 words without a period." Felton and Fowler's Best, Worst, and Most Unusual, p. 26
  • 1984: In-story; "Newspeak".
  • Charles Bukowski tells you only what you need to know. Very rarely uses multisyllabic words. The times when he breaks those rules are powerful.
  • Candide, by Voltaire. 1,000 page epic, shrunk into 75 pages. Very few details. Quickly advancing.
  • James Ellroy. Early works aren't too bad, but White Jazz and Blood's A Rover and after? Every. Sentence. Is. Like. This. Brevity is one thing, but what about bookisms? When told White Jazz overran its intended length, he took out everything that wasn't Beige Prose. Made it short enough but hard to read.
  • Shortest Science Fiction Story: "Time stopped. Yesterday]" by David Gerrold. Shortest short story ever?
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy. A post-apocalyptic wasteland isn't much to describe.
  • "Knock" by Fredric Brown is an expansion of a 17-word horror story: "The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door." An alternate version ends with: "There was a lock on the door."
  • Tao Te Ching, the text of taoism. One hundred pages in book form. Even shorter in the original Chinese. Spoken, modern speakers don't grasp it : the homophones.
  • Certain parts of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Other parts use needless Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness.
    • One could argue, though, that the author is parodying both of these tropes. The default narrator setting is "mockery."
  • Much of the Goosebumps series is written like this.
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, being narrated by a simple zek.
  • Made into an art form by minimalist writers from the 70's/80's. Inspired mainly by Hemingway. Most famous: Raymond Carver.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, in virtually every sentence. This troper doesn't remember seeing more than ten sentences with multiple clauses.
    • This leads to several instances where the text would really have flowed better if the sentences were joined together. Instead, almost every sentence starts with "and", and almost all of them are short.
    • This is, of course, done on purpose as the narrator, Stephen, is autistic and so writes his account in a very logical manner avoiding metaphors and such which he considers to be 'lying'.
  • Luis Sepúlveda, faithful follower of Hemingway.
  • Ronald Syme wrote The Roman Revolution like this: a book on the Republic's fall and the Empire's rise.[2] Syme was writing like Tacitus.
    • In the words of my Roman History Professor: "Syme wrote in an abrupt, punchy style, writing sentences without verbs, or nouns, or sometimes even words."


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Beetleborgs villain's description of last time they tried this plan: "Been there. Done that. Got beat."
  • Screenwipe once did an hour special on writers. One of them was famed for writing realistic dialogue on Eastenders, his method was to write the sentence and then cut down any unnecessary words. So "See you later, we must do this again some time" would after a series of cuts simply become "Later".


Music[edit | hide]

  • Jon Lajoie's "I Kill People" rap is written this way to lay bare common rap subjects. Sample lyrics:

I buy a lot of expensive things, because I have a lot of money
You can't afford expensive things 'cause you don't have a lot of money
Ha ha, you want these things, but you cannot afford them
That means that you're not cool 'cause you're just a poor person

  • The Minutemen's "Take 5, D":

Tub has to be properly caulked prior to any showering
Walls are drenched
Both roofer and plumber here
Had to pay for two service calls

    • Lyrics taken straight from a landlady's note about a leaky bathtub. D. Boon thought Mike Watt's old lyrics for the song were "too spacey". He changed them to something mundane.


New Media[edit | hide]

Poetry[edit | hide]

  • Haiku, the poetic form, is essentially this.
  • William Carlos Williams.

The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends / upon / a red wheel / barrow
glazed with rain / water / beside the white / chickens.

This Is Just To Say
I have eaten / the plums / that were in / the icebox
and which / you were probably / saving / for breakfast
Forgive me / they were delicious / so sweet / and so cold

  • This poem from Ogden Nash:

Fleas
Adam
Had 'em

    • Also:

I...
Why?

Water
(Grapefruit, 1964)

  • Epigrams, the Greek ones however could be a lot longer and almost indistinguishable from elegies. Modern ones are only a couple of lines long. The most famous one was written by a Roman named Catullus.

Video Games[edit | hide]


Web Original[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • This is the entire shtick of "Blac-U" Weather forecaster Ollie Williams, from Family Guy. The man gets his weather forecasting across with this, and a combination of No Indoor Voice.

Tom Tucker: We now go to Ollie Williams, for the "Blac-U" weather report. Ollie?
Ollie: IS' GON' RAIN!
Tom Tucker: Thanks Ollie.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • telegrams charge per word STOP
  • &their grandchild txt msgs & Twitter w/chr lmts
    • Subverted with the rise of smartphones, which allow you to type sentences as long and as fluently as you want to.
  • Newsprint article titles, news copy in general.
  • Low-word-count English reports.
  • Manuals, memos.
  • Dr. Nakamats' speech upon getting the Ig Nobel Prize for nutrition:

"Life should be lived long. Speech should be short!"

Party Guest: Mister Vice-President, I bet my friends over there I could get you to say three words tonight.
Coolidge: You lose. (he leaves the party)

    • Some versions of the story have the party guest being Dorothy Parker.
    • Another example:

After church one Sunday, notoriously terse Calvin Coolidge was asked what the preacher had talked about.
"Sin", replied Coolidge.
"What did he say about it?"
"He's against it."

  • Police reports.
  • Many military messages
  • Twitter makes this into art.
  • Simple English Wikipedia.
  • Omit needless words.
  • Even This Wiki invokes this trope. See Word Cruft for details.
  • The artificial language Toki Pona based on Taoist philosophy of the virtue of simple thought, life, and communication. It takes this to pretty extreme levels - for example, "pona", the word for "good", is intentionally designed to also mean "simple", and "ike" for "bad" or "evil" intentionally also means "complicated".
  • Guy Steele once gave a talk on computer language design, "Growing A Language", in which he restricted himself to using English words of one syllable, and allowed himself to use longer words only when he defined them first.
  1. Brevity doesn't on its own make prose beige. The defining characteristic is that it's unadorned and to the point.
  2. Roman, not another