Guide to Literary Terms

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Features Of Prose

what are the characteristics of prose?

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Prose can be best defined formally and can be defined in contrast to poetry and to other forms of writing (like certain lists or certain kinds of directions/instructions). 

"Prose - the ordinary form of spoken and written language whose unit is the sentence, rather than the line as it is in poetry. The term applies to all expressions in language that do not have a regular rhythmic pattern" (eNotes).

Prose is perhaps the most common mode of writing and uses the conventional forms of grammatically complete sentences. In prose, sentences are almost always presented on the page within a paragraph structure

Here is an example of a prose passage:

"Reading is the foundation of language arts. To be a competent writer, one must first be a good reader. Reading begins with learning that a language's alphabet is formed of individual letters that compose words, sentences, and paragraphs. Reading, however, is also being able to understand the larger meanings that exist within the printed word and often beyond it" (eNotes).

Notice that the writing in the passage above uses complete sentences structured into a paragraph format. 

If we take the same language and utilize a different form/format, we will see how prose differs from poetry. 

Reading is

the foundation

of language arts. 

Here, the form is poetic (although the language remains "prosaic"). The difference between prose form and poetic form is noticeable in the way the words are laid out on the page. Poetic form uses line-breaks and utilizes a stanza structure instead of a paragraph structure. 

If the writing uses complete sentences in paragraph form, it can be considered prose. This includes "prose poetry," which is something of a grey area between poetic language/expression and formal prose conventions (i.e., complete sentences and paragraph structure). 

If writing uses phrasing that does not amount to grammatically complete sentences then we will not consider it prose. For instance, a list of your favorite movies written with titles only in a...

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Prose is a form of narrative writing without poetic form (rhyme scheme). It can either be fiction (novel, folktale/fable, short story) or non-fiction (biography, autobiography, essay, articles)

Its characteristic are:

-  utilize some figurative language (metaphor/simile) to entice the interest of the readers but more focused on telling a story.

-  straight-forward approach as a form of information or persuasion.

-  a medium to express ideas or point of view.

- written in a form of paragraphs that can be accompanied by dialogues, graphics, headings and/or subheadings.


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