Purple prose is prose that has too much of many things - too many words, too much repetition, too many figures of speech, too many foreign or Latinate words, too many cultural references to Latin and Greek myth. Purple prose is overblown, too elaborate and ornate, and, increasingly, over used.
Purple prose appears everywhere - in fiction, in business writing, in academia, in blogs, in articles, especially on the internet.
Purple prose is hard to read and requires much effort by the reader. For years, writing instructors advised beginners to be kind to their readers, to keep them in mind while writing. Part of the process was to envision who one's audience was and write directly to and for them.
Anyone writing for magazines must please the editor who is the gatekeeper to the publication's readership. If the editor does not believe the readers will be interested in a writer's work, the piece will not be published. The same is true for book publishing; editors accept books based on what they believe will sell, what they believe readers will like and buy.
The internet has changed the dynamics of who can be and what will be published. Much has been written about citizen journalists and their lack of objectivity and in-depth discussion. Anyone can say pretty much anything, with a libel suit the only gatekeeper.
Self-publishing allows even the worst writers to see their names on a book's cover. E-zines and sites that publish mediocre work abound to capitalize on the enormous amount of money to be made online. The internet is insatiable when it comes to copy.
It's all about the writers, their feelings, their "art," their self-expression. Worrying about readers is too restrictive. My writing is about me, after all, isn't it?
In millions (billions?) of blogs, writers ramble on and wax purplish about everything from the minute details of breakfast (or far more unpleasant daily occurrences!) to the angst of what to wear or who is saying what about whom - and almost all of it in gushing style (and bad spelling and grammar - but that is another post!).
Many factors contribute to the hyperbole of the "me" writers, and the trend will probably get worse before style cycles around again to clear, concise, concrete, and correct prose.
There is a place for well-written, artistic, purposeful purple prose in this world, just as there is now, with the internet, a place for writers of all abilities to have their say. We can only hope the old adage that "cream will rise to the top" is true and that most of the horrible, sickly, self-indulgent, overblown prose will sink out of sight forever.