Literary Terms

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What is the definition of prose?

The definition of prose is language that resembles common speech in its emphasis on sentences rather than rhythms or sounds.


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Prose simply refers to language written in sentences and paragraphs rather than verse (i.e. language other than poetry). It applies to all language without a regular rhythmic pattern or metrical structure.

Correct example:

  • “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
  • The first sentence of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is an excellent example of prose.

Incorrect example:

  • “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun / Coral is far more red than her lips’ red: / If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; / If hairs be wire, black wires grow on her head” (lines 1-4).
  • These lines from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 are an example of verse.

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