Guide to Literary Terms

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What are the types of prose?

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M. Jourdain in Moliere's play Le Bourgeois gentilhomme famously said: "Par ma foi! il y a plus de quarante ans que je dis de la prose sans que j'en susse rien." (By Jove! I've been speaking prose for over forty years without knowing it!) Any discourse that is not poetry is prose and thus prose includes ordinary speech.

In literature, we distinguish between fiction and nonfiction, with fiction being prose about imaginary events and nonfiction discussing real events. Fictional or creative prose works can be divided by length into novels, novellas and short stories. Prose works meant to be performed on stage are called dramas or plays, although dramas can be written in either prose or verse. 

Nonfiction is categorized by subject matter. A work written about one's own life is an autobiography, but a work about someone else's life is a biography. Textbooks, essays, scholarly books, history, reviews, blog posts, journalism, and many other types of writing are all prose genres distinguished by their subject matter and type of audience. 

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