The word “prose” comes from the Latin “prosa oratio” meaning “straightforward discourse.” Prose is the usual or the normal form of written, or spoken language. It is a form of writing that is natural and uses grammatical structure. Most forms of writing and speaking are done in prose. It is written in full grammatical sentences and paragraphs. The term prose is used as a contrast to verse.
It is the most common form of writing which is usually straightforward and may utilize figurative language. This is what we see in novels, novellas, and short stories. Each of this is made up of a setting, a plot, characters, themes, and stylistic devices.
Prose can also be defined as:
- a form of language that has no formal metrical structure. It applies a natural flow of speech, and ordinary grammatical structure, rather than rhythmic structure.
- the ordinary or the normal form of written or spoken language that follows regular grammatical conventions and has no metrical pattern.
Prose practices a natural flow of speech and common grammatical structure rather than a rhythmic formation. It also tends to focus on plot and characters.
Varieties of prose include novels, novellas, and short stories, journals, diaries, letters, essays, letters, travelogues, biographies, autobiographies, fairy tales, fables, and speeches.
Kino awakened in the near dark. The stars still shone and the day had drawn only a pale wash of light in the lower sky to the east. The roosters had been crowing for some time, and the early pigs were already beginning their ceaseless turning of twigs and bits of wood to see whether anything to eat had been overlooked. Outside the brush house in the tuna clump, a covey of little birds chittered and flurried with their wings.
Kino’s eyes opened, and he looked first at the lightening square which was the door and then he looked at the hanging box where Coyotito slept. And last he turned his head to Juana, his wife, who lay beside him on the mat, her blue head-shawl over her nose and over her breasts and around the small of her back. Juana’s eyes were open too. Kino could never remember seeing them closed when he awakened. Her dark eyes made little reflected stars. She was looking at him as she was always looking at him when he awakened. (Extract from “The Pearl” by John Steinbeck)
The types of prose
Nonfictional prose: It refers to prose that is a true story or factual account of events or information. This literary work is mainly based on fact or reality, though it may contain some fictional elements. Examples include biographies, essays, journals, textbooks, newspaper articles, and instruction manuals, etc.
Fictional prose: A literary work that is imaginary. It may be wholly or partly imagined or theoretical; and generally, has characters, plot, setting, and dialogue.
Heroic prose: A prose work that may be written down or preserved through oral tradition, but is meant to be recited. It employs many of the formulaic expressions found in oral tradition. Examples include legends and tales.
Prose poetry: Poetry written in prose form instead of using verse form. This work maintains poetic qualities like heightened imagery and emotional effects. This literary work can sometimes have rhythmic and rhyming patterns.
Prose is very important as most writers feel comfortable while expressing or conveying their ideas and thoughts in this style. It is the normal style of writing and speaking. Prose is also the common language used in newspapers, magazines, literature, encyclopedias, broadcasting, philosophy, law, history, the sciences, and many other forms of communication.
Characteristics of prose
- It is written in paragraphs.
- It tells a story rather than describing.
- It generally has a plot and characters.
Based on the characteristics given above, prose can be broken into four categories, divided by purpose:
Narrative: It is a writing which tells a story (fiction or non-fiction); usually told in chronological order. It has characters; follows the basic plot-line/ development/chart/diagram which comprises exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
Expository: This writing gives basic information; used often in speeches and essays and does not tell a story or argue.
Descriptive: It describes something in detail, again without telling a story or arguing a point. It is used most often in combination with another mode of writing, but alone is often found in scientific or medical reports.
Persuasive: This one tries to convince (persuade) someone to take a particular issue or point. It argues a point (or two sides of a question) or gives evidence in favour or against.