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Prose is a type of writing that does not use the structured line breaks and form usually associated with poetry. It resembles the patterns of everyday speech and writing, including short paragraphs comprised of sentences with normal punctuation. Prose can include the use of figures of speech, rhyme, assonance, imagery, and consonance. This type of creative writing can still retain the qualities usually associated with poetry, such as vivid imagery, flowery language, and emotional effect.

Prose can be anywhere from a one sentence creative effort to 1000+ page novel. It does not have to follow a specific rhyme pattern, but many writers add rhyme or employ other creative licenses to prose to make it more poetic. There is no particular meter that a writer has to follow. 

Prose is not to be confused with Prose Poetry.

Examples of Prose

Examples of prose poetry include writings such as the Iliad and the Odyssey, and The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper. Prose

The Port

A Port is a delightful place of rest for a soul weary of life's battles. The vastness of the sky, the mobile architecture of the clouds, the changing coloration of the sea, the twinkling of the lights, are a prism marvellously fit to amuse the eyes without ever tiring them. The slender shapes of the ships with their complicated rigging, to which the surge lends harmonious oscillations, serve to sustain within the soul the taste for rhythm and beauty. Also, and above all, for the man who of mysterious and aristocratic pleasure in contemplating, while lying on the belvedere or resting his elbows on the jetty-head, all these movements of men who are leaving and men who are returning, of those who still have the strength to will, the desire to travel or to enrich themselves.

— Charles Baudelaire

The Bell Jar

“I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

— Sylvia Plath

Types of Prose

  • Fiction Prose: writings that describe imaginary events and people. It features elements such as plot, setting, characters, dialogue, etc.

    • novels

    • screenplays

    • short stories

  • Nonfiction Prose: writing based on facts, true stories, actual events, and authentic individuals. This type of prose provides information or gives a factual account of something.

    • autobiographies

    • biographies

    • encyclopedias

    • essays

    • magazine articles

    • manuals

    • news articles

    • textbooks

  • Heroic Prose: narrative stories written in prose that are intended to be recited.

    • fables

    • folktales

    • legends

    • parables

Prose vs. Poetry - What is the difference?

Prose is writing distinguished from poetry by its greater variety of rhythm and its closer resemblance to everyday speech patterns. The word prose comes from the Latin prosa, meaning straightforward. This describes the type of writing that prose embodies, unadorned with obvious stylistic devices.

Prose writing is usually adopted for the description of facts or the discussion of ideas. Thus, it may be used for newspapers, magazines, novels, encyclopedias, screenplays, films, philosophy, letters, essays, history, biography, and many other forms of media.

The Difference Between Prose and Poetry

Conversely, poetry has rhythm, like a song. It has cadence, like a drum. Poetry may rhyme and may have a visual structure. Poetry often follows a set pattern, rhyme scheme, and meter. It is an art form in which human language is used for its aesthetic qualities. Prose is simply regular writing, like a story, a letter, or everyday speech that can also have aesthetic qualities. There are usually no patterns, just sentences, and paragraphs.

Prose can be poetic and has recently given rise to the term Prose Poetry.  Prose Poetry is usually considered a form of poetry written in prose that breaks some of the normal rules associated with prose to create heightened imagery or emotional effect.

Discussion continues as to whether prose poetry is a form of poetry or a form of prose (or a separate genre altogether), like poetry (intense, sculpted) but without line breaks.

Prose Characteristics

Poetry Characteristics

  • Uses conventional sentence and paragraphs characteristics.
  • Uses conventional punctuation.
  • Usually the language of prose is straightforward without much flowery or decorated language.
  • There are no predetermined line breaks. Sentences and paragraphs run to the margins.
  • The first word of each sentence is capitalized.
  • Visually, it looks like the type of text blocks you would find in a novel or newspaper.
  • Typically has a predifined format.
  • Tends to be more expressive or decorated, with comparisons, rhyme, and rhythm contributing to a different sound and feel.
  • Ideas and lines are usually arranged as stanzas and not as sentences with traditional punctuation.
  • Uses line breaks to create aesthtic effects or a metered flow and rhythm when read. 
  • The shape of poetry can vary depending on the form of poetry chosen or the rythmic feel the poet wants to convey.

Example of Prose and Poetry

Prose Example

Poetry Example

Mother Goose in Prose

Humpty Dumpty

At the very top of the hay-mow in the barn, the Speckled Hen had made her nest, and each day for twelve days she had laid in it a pretty white egg. The Speckled Hen had made her nest in this out-of-the-way place so that no one would come to disturb her, as it was her intention to sit upon the eggs until they were hatched into chickens.

Each day, as she laid her eggs, she would cackle to herself; saying, "This will in time be a beautiful chick, with soft, fluffy down all over its body and bright little eyes that will look at the world in amazement. It will be one of my children, and I shall love it dearly."

She named each egg, as she laid it, by the name she should call it when a chick, the first one being "Cluckety-Cluck," and the next "Cadaw-Cut," and so on; and when she came to the twelfth egg she called it "Humpty Dumpty."

Mother Goose in Poetry

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses
And all the King's men
Cannot put Humpty together again.

Related Information

More Prose Links

  • See poems containing the word: Prose.
  • See quotes containing the word: Prose.
  • How many syllables are in Prose.
  • What rhymes with Prose?