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Prose is a form or technique of language that exhibits a natural flow of speech and grammatical structure. Novels, textbooks and newspaper articles are all examples of prose. The word prose is frequently used in opposition to traditional poetry, which is language with a regular structure and a common unit of verse based on metre or rhyme. However, as T. S. Eliot noted, whereas "the distinction between verse and prose is clear, the distinction between poetry and prose is obscure"; [1] developments in modern literature, including free verse and prose poetry, have led to the two techniques indicating two ends on a spectrum of ways to compose language, as opposed to two discrete options.



Prose in its simplicity and loosely defined structure is broadly adaptable to spoken dialogue, factual discourse, and to topical and fictional writing. It is systematically produced and published within literature, journalism (including newspapers, magazines, and broadcasting), encyclopedias, film, history, philosophy, law, and in almost all forms and processes requiring human communication.


The word "prose" first appears in English in the 14th century. It is derived from the Old French prose, which in turn originates in the Latin expression prosa oratio (literally, straightforward or direct speech). [2]


Isaac Newton in The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms wrote "The Greek Antiquities are full of Poetical Fictions, because the Greeks wrote nothing in Prose, before the Conquest of Asia by Cyrus the Persian. Then Pherecydes Scyrius and Cadmus Milesius introduced the writing in Prose." [3]


Prose lacks the more formal metrical structure of verse that can be found in traditional poetry. Prose comprises full grammatical sentences, which then constitute paragraphs while overlooking aesthetic appeal, whereas poetry often involves a metrical or rhyming scheme. Some works of prose contain traces of metrical structure or versification and a conscious blend of the two literature formats known as prose poetry. Verse is considered to be more systematic or formulaic, whereas prose is the most reflective of ordinary (often conversational) speech. On this point, Samuel Taylor Coleridge jokingly requested that novice poets should know the "definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose—words in their best order; poetry—the best words in their best order." [4]

Monsieur Jourdain asked for something to be written in neither verse nor prose. A philosophy master replied there is no other way to express oneself than with prose or verse, for the simple reason being that everything that is not prose is verse, and everything that is not verse is prose. Molière, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme [5]

... I believe a story can be wrecked by a faulty rhythm in a sentence— especially if it occurs toward the end—or a mistake in paragraphing, even punctuation. Henry James is the maestro of the semicolon. Hemingway is a first-rate paragrapher. From the point of view of ear, Virginia Woolf never wrote a bad sentence. I don't mean to imply that I successfully practice what I preach. I try, that's all. [6]


Many types of prose exist, which include nonfictional prose , heroic prose , [7] prose poem , [8] polyphonic prose , alliterative prose , prose fiction , and village prose in Russian literature. [9] A prose poem is a composition in prose that has some of the qualities of a poem. [10]

Many forms of creative or literary writing use prose, including novels and short stories. Writer Truman Capote thought that the short story was "the most difficult and disciplining form of prose writing extant". [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

Free verse is an open form of poetry which in its modern form arose through the French vers libre form. It does not use consistent metre patterns, rhyme, or any musical pattern. It thus tends to follow the rhythm of natural speech.

In poetry, metre (British) or meter is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study and the actual use of metres and forms of versification are both known as prosody.

Poetry Form of literature

Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.

In poetry, a stanza is a grouped set of lines within a poem, usually set off from other stanzas by a blank line or indentation. Stanzas can have regular rhyme and metrical schemes, though stanzas are not strictly required to have either. There are many unique forms of stanzas. Some stanzaic forms are simple, such as four-line quatrains. Other forms are more complex, such as the Spenserian stanza. Fixed verse poems, such as sestinas, can be defined by the number and form of their stanzas. The term stanza is similar to strophe, though strophe sometimes refers to irregular set of lines, as opposed to regular, rhymed stanzas.

Poetry analysis is the process of investigating a poem's form, content, structural semiotics and history in an informed way, with the aim of heightening one's own and others' understanding and appreciation of the work.

Prose poetry is poetry written in prose form instead of verse form, while preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery, parataxis, and emotional effects.

Doggerel is poetry that is irregular in rhythm and in rhyme, often deliberately for burlesque or comic effect. Alternatively, it can mean verse which has a monotonous rhythm, easy rhyme, and cheap or trivial meaning. The word is derived from the Middle English dogerel, probably a derivative of dog. In English it has been used as an adjective since the 14th century and a noun since at least 1630.

Alliterative verse form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal structuring device

In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal ornamental device to help indicate the underlying metrical structure, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of the Germanic languages, where scholars use the term 'alliterative poetry' rather broadly to indicate a tradition which not only shares alliteration as its primary ornament but also certain metrical characteristics. The Old English epic Beowulf, as well as most other Old English poetry, the Old High German Muspilli, the Old Saxon Heliand, the Old Norse Poetic Edda, and many Middle English poems such as Piers Plowman, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Alliterative Morte Arthur all use alliterative verse.

Articles related to literature include:

Danny Deever poem by Rudyard Kipling

"Danny Deever" is an 1890 poem by Rudyard Kipling, one of the first of the Barrack-Room Ballads. It received wide critical and popular acclaim, and is often regarded as one of the most significant pieces of Kipling's early verse. The poem, a ballad, describes the execution of a British soldier in India for murder. His execution is viewed by his regiment, paraded to watch it, and the poem is composed of the comments they exchange as they see him hanged.

Mysterious Music: Rhythm and Free Verse is a book by G. Burns Cooper, and published by Stanford University Press in 1998. It examines the rhythm of free verse, with particular reference to the works of T. S. Eliot, Robert Lowell, and James Wright. In attempting to understand the difference between free verse and prose, Burns Cooper analyses both the poems and prose writings of the authors.

This glossary of literary terms is a list of definitions of terms and concepts used in the discussion, classification, analysis, and criticism of all types of literature, such as poetry, novels, and picture books, as well as of grammar, syntax, and language techniques. For a more complete glossary of terms relating to poetry in particular, see Glossary of poetry terms.

Timothy Steele is an American poet, who generally writes in meter and rhyme. His early poems, which began appearing in the 1970s in such magazines as Poetry, The Southern Review, and X. J. Kennedy's Counter/Measures, are said to have anticipated and contributed to the revival of traditional verse associated with the New Formalism. He, however, has objected to being called a New Formalist, saying that he doesn't claim to be doing anything technically novel and that Formalism "suggests, among other things, an interest in style rather than substance, whereas I believe that the two are mutually vital in any successful poem." Notwithstanding his reservations about the term, Steele's poetry is more strictly "formal" than the work of most New Formalists in that he rarely uses inexact rhymes or metrical substitutions, and is sparing in his use of enjambment.

History of poetry

Poetry as an art form predates written text. The earliest poetry is believed to have been recited or sung, employed as a way of remembering oral history, genealogy, and law. Poetry is often closely related to musical traditions, and the earliest poetry exists in the form of hymns, and other types of song such as chants. As such poetry is a verbal art. Many of the poems surviving from the ancient world are recorded prayers, or stories about religious subject matter, but they also include historical accounts, instructions for everyday activities, love songs, and fiction. Many scholars, particularly those researching the Homeric tradition and the oral epics of the Balkans, suggest that early writing shows clear traces of older oral traditions, including the use of repeated phrases as building blocks in larger poetic units. A rhythmic and repetitious form would make a long story easier to remember and retell, before writing was available as a reminder. Thus many ancient works, from the Vedas to the Odyssey, appear to have been composed in poetic form to aid memorization and oral transmission, in prehistoric and ancient societies. Poetry appears among the earliest records of most literate cultures, with poetic fragments found on early monoliths, runestones and stelae.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and introduction to poetry:

Verse (poetry) single metrical line in a poetic composition

In the countable sense, a verse is formally a single metrical line in a poetic composition. However, verse has come to represent any division or grouping of words in a poetic composition, with groupings traditionally having been referred to as stanzas.

A line break in poetry is the termination of the line of a poem, and the beginning of a new line.

Literature Written work of art

Literature, most generically, is any body or collection of written works. More restrictively, literature refers to writing considered to be an art form or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, and sometimes deploys language in ways that differ from ordinary usage.

A line is a unit of language into which a poem or play is divided, which operates on principles which are distinct from and not necessarily coincident with grammatical structures, such as the sentence or single clauses in sentences. Although the word for a single poetic line is verse, that term now tends to be used to signify poetic form more generally.

Poetic devices are a form of literary device used in poetry. A poem is created out of poetic devices composite of: structural, grammatical, rhythmic, metrical, verbal, and visual elements. They are essentially tools that a poet uses to create rhythm, enhance a poem's meaning, or intensify a mood or feeling.


  1. Eliot T S 'Poetry & Prose: The Chapbook' Poetry Bookshop London 1921
  2. "prose (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary . Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  3. Newton, Isaac. The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended. Gutenberg. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  4. "Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (1913)". University of Chicago reconstruction. Archived from the original on 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  5. "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme". English translation accessible via Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  6. 1 2 Hill, Pati. "Truman Capote, The Art of Fiction No. 17". The Paris Review. Spring-Summer 1957 (16). Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  7. Merriam-Webster (1995). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature . Merriam-Webster, Inc. pp.  542. ISBN   0877790426.
  8. Lehman, David (2008). Great American Prose Poems. Simon and Schuster. ISBN   1439105111.
  9. "Prose". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  10. "Prose poem". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-05-27.

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