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Beige Prose
"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 Wiki.

Contrast Wall of Text, Purple Prose.

A Terse Talker speaks in this.note 


Examples

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    Advertising 
  • HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead.
  • Burma Shave:
    A Miss
    A Curve
    He Kissed the Miss
    And Missed the Curve
    Burma Shave
  • Many advertising spots end with various disclaimers being spouted in this way by a motor mouth.
    Dealer may sell or lease for less. Transport and preparation included. Taxes extra. See dealer for details.
    • For pharmaceutical advertisements, this may actually be half of the spot in itself.

    Comics 
  • Watchmen. Rorschach speaks in short sentences and fragments. Journal doesn't. Must remember to investigate further.
  • Sin City.
    "Old Man Dies. Young girl lives. Fair trade."
  • X-23, an escaped Tykebomb with few social skills, talks like this. For most of her childhood, she was trained to be a mindless slave who never spoke back or questioned orders, and her main occupation was one in which communication wasn't important. Her Beige Prose dialogue is likely the reason we never hear any narration from her perspective. (Before certain Character Development occurred, she didn't speak at all, implying that her ability to express emotions and concepts is gradually evolving.)
  • ACG's Herbie spoke like this. (ex. "Don't need doctor. Very healthy" (Herbie #10, Jun. 1965) )

    Fan Works 
  • An entire subgenre called "script format", by people who have no idea what a script is like.
  • My Immortal, usually. Except when discussing Enoby Ebory Ebola Ebony's appearance. Then it turns purple.
  • legolas by laura: "and then one of the orcs striped her and then he raped her and then laura said 'go away you bastard'."
  • Soulless Shell
    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.
    • Reads like fiction written by a computer, once offered in The Book of Lists II.
  • Gurren Jesus, a crossover fic. Gurren Lagann and The Bible. Makes it better.
  • Anything by S-Michael.
  • Dark Secrets. Its sequel? Moreso.
  • Daughter of Niënor: "Only a few months later, the sons of Fëanor came and my world was again destroyed. This time, it was less scary and more sad and annoying, like I was getting used to it."
  • A good majority of what Incendiarist writes is in this style. Notable is Perennial Tears (Descend In Gems). Because Tropes Are Not Bad.
    Green light, unnatural shine.
    Voice grating, ethereal.
    Prophetic nightmare, she's terrified.
    ("What did I say?")
  • The majority of Ojamajo Doremi Rise Of The Shadows and its sequel is written with little, if any, description. The author does try to turn it purple during action scenes and whatever other scene is important.
    "Let me go!" Jou-Sama started to struggle in Evil Rin's hold, but it was no use. "Let me go!"
    "Fighting will do you no good." Black Queen said. "Besides, with you, my other prisoner won't be so lonely."
  • Used to hilarious effect in Twillight Sparkle's awesome adventure.
    “You foal! Why did you capture Liara? She’s just a background pony so Twillight will not care if I kill her.” screamed Celesia and started to kill the guard.
    “No we captured the other lesbian called Rainbow Dash. The one who’s part of the harmony elements.” said the almost death guard.
    “Oh that are very good news so I’m not killing you.” said Celesia and stopped killing the guard.
    “Thanks my Queen.” said the guard and left the room and lived happily even after.
  • Some of POV chapters in the Gensokyo 20 XX series can be more or less written like this, depending on who is narrating and how much they have to say. In 20XXV, this is noted, when Reimu narrates chapter 87. She isn't very descriptive and neither are the sentences very long, although it is to show how detached from world that she is, as such a worldview doesn't give her much an understanding, along with the fact that she doesn't talk much. However, Reimu will only narrate like that if a chapter demands.

    Literature 
  • Isaac Asimov is well known for this. A tendency that he pokes fun at later in Gold, where a bunch of frustrated film writers desperately try to cobble together a screen adaptation of an Asimov story (The Gods Themselves), cursing Asimov's dialogue-laden, non-descriptive, and beige prose the entire way.
  • 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—Camus admired "manly" American writers. 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.
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel The Pit is written entirely in this.
  • 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.
    • And it was a telegram, not a letter, which makes more sense since you had to pay by the word.
    • "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".
    • George Orwell in general prefers to write in this fashion; his five writing rules include "never use a long word when a short one will do" "if it's possible to cut out a word then do so" and "don't write in jargon." Of course, when he does decide to expand himself, i.e Clover's internal monologue in Animal Farm, it's quite magnificent.
  • 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?
  • Everything by Cormac McCarthy. His books, Blood Meridian in particular, switch between this and purple prose.
  • "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.
    • Also notable for not simply for using Beige Prose, but also advocating its usage:
    "True words aren't eloquent; eloquent words aren't true."
  • 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.
  • Some of the narrator's lines can be this in The Book Thief.
  • 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. You'd be hard pressed to find 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, Christopher, is autistic and so writes his account in a very logical manner avoiding metaphors and such. (He considers that to be 'lying'.)
  • Ronald Syme wrote The Roman Revolution like this: a book on the Republic's fall and the Empire's rise.note  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."
  • Mannie's minimal narration in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, intended as "Loonie" speech.
  • Much of The Hunger Games series (the last two books in particular) are written with this. This is probably where the joke about the books being written entirely in sentence fragments comes from. It's used to demonstrate Katniss's emotional withdrawal, what with her living in Panem.
  • Humorist Will Stanton would often lapse into terse sentence fragments in his written works. Still very funny.
  • Kurt Vonnegut wrote in this style in a lot of his books, and it's very effective. In Slaughterhouse-Five we see a reason/parallel to it: He's imitating the writing style of his fictional aliens, the Trafalmadorians.
  • Historical fiction author Ron Hansen's writing is a hybrid of this and Purple Prose.
  • A key ingredient of Richard Brautigan's trademark style.
  • There was a long stretch around the mid-twentieth century where the prevailing literary orthodoxy decreed that everyone write like Hemingway (see above): Beige Prose and bleak realist stories about war, hunting, and other manly pursuits. Fashionable writing was constantly being described as "lean," "muscular," and other macho-sounding adjectives (because masculine is good and feminine is bad, right?) Thank the Narrative Gods this lockstep fad is over...and that many "genre" or "outsider" authors of the period from Tolkien to Mervyn Peake to the Beats cheerfully thumbed their noses at it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Beetleborgs villain's description of last time they tried this plan: "Been there. Done that. Got beat."
  • Screen Wipe 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 
  • 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.
  • The title to track to The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails. The lyrics are sparse, spoken instead of sung, and are mostly bare description. "Eraser," from the same album, could count as well - it only has a few lines, all two words long with just a verb and a noun (either "you" or "me").

    New Media 

    Poetry 
  • 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?
  • Some poetry by Yoko Ono :
    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 

    Webcomics 
  • Used in The Order of the Stick for sending spells, which have limited word count. This strip is an example (spoilers within beware)note 

    Web Original 

     Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • 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!"
  • The Spartans, whose simplicity of speech gave rise to the word "laconic," after their dialect of Greek.
  • Calvin Coolidge, a.k.a. "Silent Cal." Possibly apocryphal example:
    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
  • Simple English Wikipedia.
  • Omit needless words.
  • 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.
  • San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is known for speaking like this. Here's a sample interview:
    ESPN sportscaster Doris Burke: Pop, what happened offensively in that period?
    Popovich: Turnovers.
    Burke: What about on the defensive end? They had their most productive quarter, what'd you see there?
    Popovich: Turnovers.
    Interview ends.
  • "The enemy came. He was beaten. I am tired. Goodnight." Vicomte Turenne, Message sent after the battle of Dunen, 1658
  • Some Latin American Spanish dialects (like Mexican Spanish) prefers to going straight to the point, compared with the European Spanish dialect, who prefers the opposite.


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