Guide to Literary Terms

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Types Of Prose

What is the definition of prose? Kinds of prose, element of prose, characteristics of prose?

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We usually divide literature up into two categories: poetry and prose. So, prose can be thought of as everything that is not poetry—any writing in sentence or paragraph form that is not broken up into poetic lines. Prose typically sounds like natural speech (though it can be very formal), and most books are written in prose. Since it is such a broad term, there are many different kinds of prose, including fictional, nonfictional, dramatic, and heroic, to name a few.


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The term prose is used simply as a contrast to verse. It is what linguists call the "unmarked" form of language. In other words, the ordinary language we speak and write, such as your question and all the answers on this page, are examples of prose. Basically, you have been speaking in prose all your life. 

If you are being asked about types of prose within the context of a literature class, the typology is likely to be restricted to the types of prose studied in the literature classroom, as opposed to all non-verse language (something that linguists might study.)

Literary critics divide prose into fictional, dramatic, and non-fictional, with fiction including both exposition and dialogue, prose drama consisting exclusively of dialogue, and non-fiction being distinguished by recounting real as opposed to imaginary events. 

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Prose connotes spoken or written discourse that is not patterned into metric or free verse. To put it simply, prose is writing or speech that is not poetry.

Prose exists on a variety of different levels. For instance, at one end of the spectrum is ordinary, colloquial speech. In contrast, at the other end is distinguished written discourse, or what John Dryden called “that other harmony of prose.”

There are a variety of different types of prose. These include:

  1. Nonfictional Prose: A piece of writing based on fact. Examples include autobiographies, biographies, and non-fiction essays.
  2. Fictional Prose: Imaginative writing. Examples include novels, parables, short stories, and most drama.
  3. Heroic Prose: Writing based on the formulaic expressions found in oral tradition. Examples include legends and fables.

Additionally, prose can be narrative, expository, descriptive or persuasive. Narrative writing has a storyline and characters. It is often told chronologically. Expository writing denotes writing to explain. This form of writing explores particular topics and themes. Expository writing differs...

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