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What are the general forms of prose and its types? What are the the styles of prose (e.g., common style and cheap style)? What is the distinction between fictional and non-fictional prose?

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Prose is defined as anything which is not written in verse. Thus, the first step in defining prose is to define what is meant by the term "verse" or "poetry."

Verse is defined by having meter or an organizational pattern beyond the syntax of the language it is written in. In many languages, this patterning involves a regular use of sound, such as alternation of long and short or stressed and unstressed syllables, or repetition of similar sounds (e.g., rhyme or alliteration). In other traditions, such as in the Hebrew poetry of the Bible, poetry may be structured around syntactic repetitions and parallelisms.

Ordinary language is prose. M. Jourdain, the foolish comic protagonist of Moliere's Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, when taking lessons on how to speak like a gentleman, famously stated,

"For more than forty years I have been speaking prose while knowing nothing of it."

Written prose which tells stories about imaginary characters is referred to as fiction, and that which does not tell stories about imaginary characters is nonfiction.

Classical theorists (particularly Demetrius in his treatise On Style) divided prose into three styles:

Grand style

This denotes elevated language used on serious formal occasions, such as eulogies. It often includes numerous figures of speech and elaborate clausal structures.

Middle style

This is the graceful style of "gentleman speaking to gentleman" that uses a moderate amount of figuration. It is the language of most essays and academic work.

Plain style

Favored for letters and technical manuals, this is a style that uses simple language and syntax, avoids figures of speech, and prioritizes clarity above all else.

Further Reading:

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There are several different types of prose—which, in general, is any non-poetic writing. The main categories of prose are nonfiction prose, fictional prose, heroic or legendary prose, and poetic prose. Nonfiction and fiction are straightforward enough—they are the generic categories of fiction or nonfiction work, written in a non-poetic manner. Heroic prose typically consists of folklore or legends that tell the tales of heroes, real or mythical (e.g., Paul Bunyan, Daniel Boone, Odysseus, Beowulf). Poetic prose is prose that is written to evoke the feelings and imagery of poetry but is not written in verse.

Common style is a standard version of prose. The writing is direct and straightforward. There can be imagery, but it is not as figurative or imaginative as in other styles. Cheap style is a more crude or base style of writing with less decorum, involving crude humor or imagery, vulgarity, sloppy writing, and/or misused language. It is more commonly used in realist literature or when using slang.

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Prose is any kind of writing without a metrical structure. Poetry, in contrast, includes meter, rhyme, and rhythm, so none of these elements are related to prose. Prose solely relies on sentences and paragraphs. It does not include verses or lines like poetry does.

Types of prose are:

  • Nonfictional Prose - it includes biographies, essays, journals, letters, memoirs, etc.
  • Fictional Prose - it includes novels, novellas, short stories, etc.
  • Heroic Prose - it includes legends, tales, etc.
  • Prose Poetry - it emphasizes emotions and images, but its works are still written in prose, not in verse.

Style is the literary element which consists of the words author uses, specific sentence structure, figurative language, etc. All these elements create a certain mood, image or message in the text. Therefore, style describes how the author depicts some ideas, messages, events, places or characters in the text.

There are many styles in prose, and various authors use various styles (formal, informal, journalistic, etc.). Very often, they use a combination of more styles. However, we can divide prose into two major styles - common and cheap. Common style is simple, clear, strong, and direct. It is generally thought to be a good style. Cheap style, in contrast, is the style generally characterized by heavy ornamentation, the misuse of words, exaggerations, vulgarisms and sloppy sentences (Boulton 83). It is considered inappropriate.

Fictional prose is a type of prose which is partly or completely imagined, describing imaginary events or people. The common works of fictional prose are novels, short stories, etc.

Nonfictional prose is a type of prose which mostly relies on fact, although it may consist of some fictional elements. The common works of nonfictional prose are the essay and biography.

  Works Cited:

Boulton, Marjorie. "Common Style and Cheap Style." Anatomy of Prose (Routledge Revivals). N.p.: Routledge, 2014. 79-84. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.

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