How to not be pretentious?

In my writing, one of my friends always comments on this.
She said this was pretentious

> **Transitioning to a star in the desolate lonely sky, paint exploded on the quiet canvas that was her gracefully, like a butterfly that moves among a group of moths, unaware of who they were and their small but noteworthy position in changing someone’s life."

I’m just wondering what I have to do. Should I stop trying to be deep when I write? And what idioms should I watch out for? etc, etc, etc. Do you guys have any tips to stop my pretentious writing? I would appreciate it a lot.

It’s not necessarily pretentious. It’s just very purple. Which isn’t bad either, purple prose has its place. But if you write your whole novel like this, it’s going to be exhausting to read.

So sprinkle in purple prose and just good ol’ regular prose. A good balance is the way to go.


It’s not a novel I’m writing. It was a vingette of someone. But thanks. I will apply that advice to my WIP too.

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What did you use the vingette for? Now I’m curious :joy:

One of my random guy-friends paid me a couple of dollars to describe his girlfriend in the most beautiful way possible. I’m not finished with it yet. I just shared that single sentence with someone, and they said it was pretentious.

Aaaah okay, then yeah go nuts. Some people don’t like purple prose and that’s just their own personal opinion.

I don’t think it’s pretentious, if it that makes better for ya. It’s just a little long, so maybe consider breaking it up a little? Right now it’s one very long sentence. Maybe it’ll also help your friend find it less pretentious. :crossed_fingers:


The dictionary of the English language is a very large book. There are no dictionary police. Write to your audience. Develop your style.Be happy.


Everything is subjective, especially whether things are pretentious. If you feel like you want to change your style of writing to something a little more accessible, I would look at your grammar and sentence structure. Breaking this into two sentences and making the grammar more “conventional” would change the impression. I personally don’t find it pretentious, but I do think that it’s conceptually and linguistically convoluted. The more clarity that can be added (though keep in mind I have no context for this quote) the better it will be for comprehension, especially for the first part of her sentence.

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Absolutely what he said, @EjayOtaku - don’t keep pulling over to see if you hit anything - if your creative engine is running and you’re moving forward, keep going until you have nothing in the tank - if you start checking to see who will like what you’ve done, you’re killing the next paragraph or thought that was inside you. It sounds hippy / silly but honestly - if you have it in you, get it on the page, good bad or ugly - keep going until you’re dry, and that’s when you can step back and be critical. What @FAHyatt wrote above about developing your style? (some refer to it as “your voice”) - it’s an imperfect, and highly personal, process - it is yours. Enjoy it!

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Calling a work “pretentious” implies that the author wrote it with an air of superiority. If you wrote these words from a place of joy and truth, then it’s nobody else’s right to tell you what you intended. I’m with these guys—write what makes you happy, and write your heart out. Everything’s a matter of taste. Your friend should remember to critique the work, not the person.


Something like that is meant to be over the top. Go wild with it.


Balance is key. Don’t overload it, but pepper a few here and there and you’re okay

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wait if that is the goal, it’s not pretentious at all. That’s the exact context you would want to go over the top. I actually like purple prose, so I’m the worst person to come in here, but if this is a vignette to exalt a girl… go nuts. It’s wonderful

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I honestly cannot understand this sentence no matter how many times I read it… (´;ω;`) I just don’t know what you’re trying to say. Pretentious? No. It’s just a bit overly complicated and quite purple.

in five words:

just say what you mean

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and now i’m gonna go on a rant about one of my favorite authors.

imo the simplicity of Backman’s writing style is what makes it beautiful and easy to read, and even though this scene isn’t serious, it’s emotional in a different way, and he gets it across just fine.


Very literally, your writing would be pretentious if you were pretending something [about yourself]. So if you’ve written something where you don’t totally understand what you’re saying, but you’re pretending you do because you reckon it looks cool, or if you’re namedropping schools of philosophy to seem educated, but with minimal understanding, that would be pretentious. If you understand exactly what you’re trying to say and you think your writing conveys that, then someone else is making assumptions. And you might also just go ‘eh it’s pretentious, I don’t care, I like it’. But I wonder what ‘trying to be deep’ in this context means-- trying to come up with unusual images? Trying to write something that ‘sounds good’?

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Honestly, it depends on what your goal is. Yeah, there are conventions for types of publication or genres or story or whatever that would probably make sense to follow if that’s the path you want to put yourself on, but outside of that I’m pro finding (and experimenting with) your own voice and leaning into it.

I’m so bored of prescriptive writing ‘rules’. I figure do what you want, unless you’re specifically trying to do something that requires you to write in a certain way. Some people are going to love what you do, some people are going to hate it, most people won’t care. That’s true of anyone btw, I don’t mean people won’t care specifically about what you do!

As other people have said here, it’s totally subjective. If you want to explore different ways to expand your craft, go for it, but outside of that just remember that nothing is ever going to be to everyone’s taste.


Tbh, after reading through the thread and understanding the purpose of the passage, it sounds to me that your friend is jealous because he/she/they apparently couldn’t write like this. Personally, I would break it up so it’s easier to digest, but for a vignette, it’s neither over-the-top nor pretenious.

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