Definition of Prose

Prose is a literary device referring to writing that is structured in a grammatical way, with words and phrases that build sentences and paragraphs. Works wrote in prose feature language that flows in natural patterns of everyday speech. Prose is the most common and popular form of writing in fiction and non-fiction works.

As a literary device, prose is a way for writers to communicate with readers in a straightforward, even conversational manner and tone . This creates a level of familiarity that allows the reader to connect with the writer’s expression, narrative , and characters. An example of the effective familiarity of prose is J.D. Salinger’s  The Catcher in The Rye :

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.

Salinger’s prose is presented as first-person narration as if Holden Caulfield’s character is speaking to and conversing directly with the reader. This style of prose establishes familiarity and intimacy between the narrator and the reader that maintains its connection throughout the novel .

Common Examples of First Prose Lines in Well-Known Novels

The first prose line of a novel is significant for the writer and reader. This opening allows the writer to grab the attention of the reader, set the tone and style of the work, and establish elements of setting , character, point of view , and/or plot . For the reader, the first prose line of a novel can be memorable and inspire them to continue reading. Here are some common examples of first prose lines in well-known novels:

  • Call me Ishmael. ( moby dick )
  • It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ( A Tale of Two Cities )
  • It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. ( Pride and Prejudice )
  • It was love at first sight. ( catch 22 )
  • In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ( The Great Gatsby )
  • It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. ( 1984 )
  • i am an invisible man . ( Invisible Man )
  • Mother died today. ( the stranger )
  • They shoot the white girl first, but the rest they can take their time. ( Paradise )
  • All this happened, more or less. ( Slaughterhouse-Five )

Examples of Famous Lines of Prose

Prose is a powerful literary device in that certain lines in literary works can have a great effect on readers in revealing human truths or resonating as art through language. Well-crafted, memorable prose evokes thought and feeling in readers. Here are some examples of famous lines of prose:

  • Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird . ( To Kill a Mockingbird )
  • In spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart. ( Anne Frank : The Diary of a Young Girl )
  • All Animals are Equal , but some animals are more equal than others. ( Animal Farm)
  • It is easier to start a war than to end it. ( One Hundred Years of Solitude )
  • It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both. ( Charlotte’s Web )
  • I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. ( The Color Purple )
  • There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you, ( I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings )
  • The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42. ( The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy )
  • The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you. ( The Book Thief )
  • Just remember: If one bird carried every grain of sand, grain by grain, across the ocean, by the time he got them all on the other side, that would only be the beginning of eternity. ( In Cold Blood )

Types of Prose

Writers use different types of prose as a literary device depending on the style and purpose of their work. Here are the different types of prose:

  • Nonfiction: prose that recounts a true story, provides information, or gives a factual account of something (such as manuals, newspaper articles, textbooks, etc.)
  • Heroic: prose usually in the form of a legend or fable that is intended to be recited and has been passed down through oral or written tradition
  • Fiction : most familiar form of prose used in novels and short stories and featuring elements such as plot, setting, characters, dialogue , etc.
  • Poetic Prose: poetry written in the form of prose, creating a literary hybrid with occasional rhythm and/or rhyme patterns

Difference Between Prose and Poetry

Many people consider prose and poetry to be opposites as literary devices . While that’s not quite the case, there are significant differences between them. Prose typically features natural patterns of speech and communication with grammatical structure in the form of sentences and paragraphs that continue across the lines of a page rather than breaking. In most instances, prose features everyday language.

Poetry, traditionally, features intentional and deliberate patterns, usually in the form of rhythm and rhyme. Many poems also feature a metrical structure in which patterns of beats repeat themselves. In addition, poetry often includes elevated, figurative language rather than everyday verbiage. Unlike prose, poems typically include line breaks and are not presented as or formed into continuous sentences or paragraphs.

Writing a Prose Poem

A prose poem is written in prose form without a metrical pattern and without a proper rhyme scheme . However, other poetic elements such as symbols metaphors , and figurative language are used extensively to make the language poetic. Writing a prose poem involves using all these poetic elements, including many others that a poet could think about.

It is not difficult to write a prose poem. It, however, involves a step-by-step approach.

  • Think about an idea related to a specific theme , or a choose topic.
  • Think poetically and write as prose is written but insert notes, beats, and patterns where necessary.
  • Use repetitions , metaphors, and similes extensively.
  • Revise, revise and revise to make it melodious.

Prose Edda vs. Poetic Edda

Prose Edda refers to a collection of stories collected in Iceland, or what they are called the Icelandic Saga. Most of the Prose Edda stories have been written by Snorri Sturluson while has compiled the rest written by several other writers. On the other hand, most of the poems about the Norse gods and goddesses are called the Poetic Edda. It is stated that almost all of these poems have been derived from the Codex Regius written around the 13 th century though they could have been composed much earlier. Such poems are also referred to as Eddaic poetry. In other words, these poetic outputs and writings are classical poetic pieces mostly woven around religious themes.

Examples of Prose in Literature

Prose is an essential literary device in literature and the foundation for storytelling. The prose in literary works functions to convey ideas, present information, and create a narrative for the reader through the intricate combinations of plot, conflict , characters, setting, and resolution . Here are some examples of prose in literature:

Example 1: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.

Steinbeck’s gifted prose in this novel is evident in this passage as he describes the last moment of sunset and the onset of darkness. Steinbeck demonstrates the manner in which a writer can incorporate figurative language into a prose passage without undermining the effect of being straightforward with the reader. The novel’s narrator utilizes figurative language by creating a metaphor comparing the sun to a drop of liquid, as well as through personifying dusk and darkness as they “crept.” This enhances the novel’s setting, tone, and mood in this portion of the story.

However, though Steinbeck incorporates such imagery and poetic phrasing in this descriptive passage, the writing is still accessible to the reader in terms of prose. This demonstrates the value of this literary device in fictional works of literature. Writers can still master and offer everyday language and natural speech patterns without compromising or leaving out the effective descriptions and use of figurative language for readers.

Example 2: This Is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold

In this poem by Williams, he utilizes poetic prose to create a hybrid work of literature. The poem is structured in appearances like a poetic work with line breaks and stanzas . However, the wording of the work flows as prose writing in its everyday language and conversational tone. There is an absence of figurative language in the poem, and instead, the expression is direct and straightforward.

By incorporating prose as a literary device in his poem, Williams creates an interesting tension for the reader between the work’s visual representation as a poem and the familiar, literal language making up each individual line. However, rather than undermine the literary beauty of the poem, the prose wording enhances its meaning and impact.

Example 3: Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

This passage introduces Vonnegut’s work of short fiction. The narrator’s prose immediately sets the tone of the story as well as foreshadows the impending conflict. The certainty and finality of the narrator’s statements regarding equality in the story establish a voice that is direct and unequivocal. This unambiguous voice set forth by Vonnegut encourages trust in the narration on behalf of the reader. As a result, when the events and conflict in the story turn to science fiction and even defy the laws of physics, the reader continues to “believe” the narrator’s depiction of the plot and characters.

This suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader demonstrates the power of prose as a literary device and method of storytelling. By utilizing the direct and straightforward nature of prose, the writer invites the reader to become a participant in the story by accepting what they are told and presented through the narrator. This enhances the connection between the writer as a storyteller and a receptive reader.

Synonyms of Prose

Prose has a few close synonyms but cannot be used interchangeably. Some of the words coming near in meanings are unlyrical, unpoetic, factual, literal, antipoetic, writing, prosaic and factual.

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How to Write the AP Lit Prose Essay + Example

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AP Literature and Composition (AP Lit), not to be confused with AP English Language and Composition (AP Lang), teaches students how to develop the ability to critically read and analyze literary texts. These texts include poetry, prose, and drama. Analysis is an essential component of this course and critical for the educational development of all students when it comes to college preparation. In this course, you can expect to see an added difficulty of texts and concepts, similar to the material one would see in a college literature course.

While not as popular as AP Lang, over 380,136 students took the class in 2019. However, the course is significantly more challenging, with only 49.7% of students receiving a score of three or higher on the exam. A staggeringly low 6.2% of students received a five on the exam. 

The AP Lit exam is similar to the AP Lang exam in format, but covers different subject areas. The first section is multiple-choice questions based on five short passages. There are 55 questions to be answered in 1 hour. The passages will include at least two prose fiction passages and two poetry passages and will account for 45% of your total score. All possible answer choices can be found within the text, so you don’t need to come into the exam with prior knowledge of the passages to understand the work. 

The second section contains three free-response essays to be finished in under two hours. This section accounts for 55% of the final score and includes three essay questions: the poetry analysis essay, the prose analysis essay, and the thematic analysis essay. Typically, a five-paragraph format will suffice for this type of writing. These essays are scored holistically from one to six points.

Today we will take a look at the AP Lit prose essay and discuss tips and tricks to master this section of the exam. We will also provide an example of a well-written essay for review.  

The AP Lit prose essay is the second of the three essays included in the free-response section of the AP Lit exam, lasting around 40 minutes in total. A prose passage of approximately 500 to 700 words and a prompt will be given to guide your analytical essay. Worth about 18% of your total grade, the essay will be graded out of six points depending on the quality of your thesis (0-1 points), evidence and commentary (0-4 points), and sophistication (0-1 points). 

While this exam seems extremely overwhelming, considering there are a total of three free-response essays to complete, with proper time management and practiced skills, this essay is manageable and straightforward. In order to enhance the time management aspect of the test to the best of your ability, it is essential to understand the following six key concepts.

1. Have a Clear Understanding of the Prompt and the Passage

Since the prose essay is testing your ability to analyze literature and construct an evidence-based argument, the most important thing you can do is make sure you understand the passage. That being said, you only have about 40 minutes for the whole essay so you can’t spend too much time reading the passage. Allot yourself 5-7 minutes to read the prompt and the passage and then another 3-5 minutes to plan your response.

As you read through the prompt and text, highlight, circle, and markup anything that stands out to you. Specifically, try to find lines in the passage that could bolster your argument since you will need to include in-text citations from the passage in your essay. Even if you don’t know exactly what your argument might be, it’s still helpful to have a variety of quotes to use depending on what direction you take your essay, so take note of whatever strikes you as important. Taking the time to annotate as you read will save you a lot of time later on because you won’t need to reread the passage to find examples when you are in the middle of writing. 

Once you have a good grasp on the passage and a solid array of quotes to choose from, you should develop a rough outline of your essay. The prompt will provide 4-5 bullets that remind you of what to include in your essay, so you can use these to structure your outline. Start with a thesis, come up with 2-3 concrete claims to support your thesis, back up each claim with 1-2 pieces of evidence from the text, and write a brief explanation of how the evidence supports the claim.

2. Start with a Brief Introduction that Includes a Clear Thesis Statement

Having a strong thesis can help you stay focused and avoid tangents while writing. By deciding the relevant information you want to hit upon in your essay up front, you can prevent wasting precious time later on. Clear theses are also important for the reader because they direct their focus to your essential arguments. 

In other words, it’s important to make the introduction brief and compact so your thesis statement shines through. The introduction should include details from the passage, like the author and title, but don’t waste too much time with extraneous details. Get to the heart of your essay as quick as possible. 

3. Use Clear Examples to Support Your Argument 

One of the requirements AP Lit readers are looking for is your use of evidence. In order to satisfy this aspect of the rubric, you should make sure each body paragraph has at least 1-2 pieces of evidence, directly from the text, that relate to the claim that paragraph is making. Since the prose essay tests your ability to recognize and analyze literary elements and techniques, it’s often better to include smaller quotes. For example, when writing about the author’s use of imagery or diction you might pick out specific words and quote each word separately rather than quoting a large block of text. Smaller quotes clarify exactly what stood out to you so your reader can better understand what are you saying.

Including smaller quotes also allows you to include more evidence in your essay. Be careful though—having more quotes is not necessarily better! You will showcase your strength as a writer not by the number of quotes you manage to jam into a paragraph, but by the relevance of the quotes to your argument and explanation you provide.  If the details don’t connect, they are merely just strings of details.

4. Discussion is Crucial to Connect Your Evidence to Your Argument 

As the previous tip explained, citing phrases and words from the passage won’t get you anywhere if you don’t provide an explanation as to how your examples support the claim you are making. After each new piece of evidence is introduced, you should have a sentence or two that explains the significance of this quote to the piece as a whole.

This part of the paragraph is the “So what?” You’ve already stated the point you are trying to get across in the topic sentence and shared the examples from the text, so now show the reader why or how this quote demonstrates an effective use of a literary technique by the author. Sometimes students can get bogged down by the discussion and lose sight of the point they are trying to make. If this happens to you while writing, take a step back and ask yourself “Why did I include this quote? What does it contribute to the piece as a whole?” Write down your answer and you will be good to go. 

5. Write a Brief Conclusion

While the critical part of the essay is to provide a substantive, organized, and clear argument throughout the body paragraphs, a conclusion provides a satisfying ending to the essay and the last opportunity to drive home your argument. If you run out of time for a conclusion because of extra time spent in the preceding paragraphs, do not worry, as that is not fatal to your score. 

Without repeating your thesis statement word for word, find a way to return to the thesis statement by summing up your main points. This recap reinforces the arguments stated in the previous paragraphs, while all of the preceding paragraphs successfully proved the thesis statement.

6. Don’t Forget About Your Grammar

Though you will undoubtedly be pressed for time, it’s still important your essay is well-written with correct punctuating and spelling. Many students are able to write a strong thesis and include good evidence and commentary, but the final point on the rubric is for sophistication. This criteria is more holistic than the former ones which means you should have elevated thoughts and writing—no grammatical errors. While a lack of grammatical mistakes alone won’t earn you the sophistication point, it will leave the reader with a more favorable impression of you. 

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Here are Nine Must-have Tips and Tricks to Get a Good Score on the Prose Essay:

  • Carefully read, review, and underline key instruction s in the prompt.
  • Briefly outlin e what you want to cover in your essay.
  • Be sure to have a clear thesis that includes the terms mentioned in the instructions, literary devices, tone, and meaning.
  • Include the author’s name and title  in your introduction. Refer to characters by name.
  • Quality over quantity when it comes to picking quotes! Better to have a smaller number of more detailed quotes than a large amount of vague ones.
  • Fully explain how each piece of evidence supports your thesis .  
  • Focus on the literary techniques in the passage and avoid summarizing the plot. 
  • Use transitions to connect sentences and paragraphs.
  • Keep your introduction and conclusion short, and don’t repeat your thesis verbatim in your conclusion.

Here is an example essay from 2020 that received a perfect 6:

[1] In this passage from a 1912 novel, the narrator wistfully details his childhood crush on a girl violinist. Through a motif of the allure of musical instruments, and abundant sensory details that summon a vivid image of the event of their meeting, the reader can infer that the narrator was utterly enraptured by his obsession in the moment, and upon later reflection cannot help but feel a combination of amusement and a resummoning of the moment’s passion. 

[2] The overwhelming abundance of hyper-specific sensory details reveals to the reader that meeting his crush must have been an intensely powerful experience to create such a vivid memory. The narrator can picture the “half-dim church”, can hear the “clear wail” of the girl’s violin, can see “her eyes almost closing”, can smell a “faint but distinct fragrance.” Clearly, this moment of discovery was very impactful on the boy, because even later he can remember the experience in minute detail. However, these details may also not be entirely faithful to the original experience; they all possess a somewhat mysterious quality that shows how the narrator may be employing hyperbole to accentuate the girl’s allure. The church is “half-dim”, the eyes “almost closing” – all the details are held within an ethereal state of halfway, which also serves to emphasize that this is all told through memory. The first paragraph also introduces the central conciet of music. The narrator was drawn to the “tones she called forth” from her violin and wanted desperately to play her “accompaniment.” This serves the double role of sensory imagery (with the added effect of music being a powerful aural image) and metaphor, as the accompaniment stands in for the narrator’s true desire to be coupled with his newfound crush. The musical juxtaposition between the “heaving tremor of the organ” and the “clear wail” of her violin serves to further accentuate how the narrator percieved the girl as above all other things, as high as an angel. Clearly, the memory of his meeting his crush is a powerful one that left an indelible impact on the narrator. 

[3] Upon reflecting on this memory and the period of obsession that followed, the narrator cannot help but feel amused at the lengths to which his younger self would go; this is communicated to the reader with some playful irony and bemused yet earnest tone. The narrator claims to have made his “first and last attempts at poetry” in devotion to his crush, and jokes that he did not know to be “ashamed” at the quality of his poetry. This playful tone pokes fun at his childhood self for being an inexperienced poet, yet also acknowledges the very real passion that the poetry stemmed from. The narrator goes on to mention his “successful” endeavor to conceal his crush from his friends and the girl; this holds an ironic tone because the narrator immediately admits that his attempts to hide it were ill-fated and all parties were very aware of his feelings. The narrator also recalls his younger self jumping to hyperbolic extremes when imagining what he would do if betrayed by his love, calling her a “heartless jade” to ironically play along with the memory. Despite all this irony, the narrator does also truly comprehend the depths of his past self’s infatuation and finds it moving. The narrator begins the second paragraph with a sentence that moves urgently, emphasizing the myriad ways the boy was obsessed. He also remarks, somewhat wistfully, that the experience of having this crush “moved [him] to a degree which now [he] can hardly think of as possible.” Clearly, upon reflection the narrator feels a combination of amusement at the silliness of his former self and wistful respect for the emotion that the crush stirred within him. 

[4] In this passage, the narrator has a multifaceted emotional response while remembering an experience that was very impactful on him. The meaning of the work is that when we look back on our memories (especially those of intense passion), added perspective can modify or augment how those experiences make us feel

More essay examples, score sheets, and commentaries can be found at College Board .

While AP Scores help to boost your weighted GPA, or give you the option to get college credit, AP Scores don’t have a strong effect on your admissions chances . However, colleges can still see your self-reported scores, so you might not want to automatically send scores to colleges if they are lower than a 3. That being said, admissions officers care far more about your grade in an AP class than your score on the exam.

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How to Write the AP Lit Prose Essay with Examples

March 30, 2024

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AP Lit Prose Essay Examples – The College Board’s Advanced Placement Literature and Composition Course is one of the most enriching experiences that high school students can have. It exposes you to literature that most people don’t encounter until college , and it helps you develop analytical and critical thinking skills that will enhance the quality of your life, both inside and outside of school. The AP Lit Exam reflects the rigor of the course. The exam uses consistent question types, weighting, and scoring parameters each year . This means that, as you prepare for the exam, you can look at previous questions, responses, score criteria, and scorer commentary to help you practice until your essays are perfect.

What is the AP Lit Free Response testing? 

In AP Literature, you read books, short stories, and poetry, and you learn how to commit the complex act of literary analysis . But what does that mean? Well, “to analyze” literally means breaking a larger idea into smaller and smaller pieces until the pieces are small enough that they can help us to understand the larger idea. When we’re performing literary analysis, we’re breaking down a piece of literature into smaller and smaller pieces until we can use those pieces to better understand the piece of literature itself.

So, for example, let’s say you’re presented with a passage from a short story to analyze. The AP Lit Exam will ask you to write an essay with an essay with a clear, defensible thesis statement that makes an argument about the story, based on some literary elements in the short story. After reading the passage, you might talk about how foreshadowing, allusion, and dialogue work together to demonstrate something essential in the text. Then, you’ll use examples of each of those three literary elements (that you pull directly from the passage) to build your argument. You’ll finish the essay with a conclusion that uses clear reasoning to tell your reader why your argument makes sense.

AP Lit Prose Essay Examples (Continued)

But what’s the point of all of this? Why do they ask you to write these essays?

Well, the essay is, once again, testing your ability to conduct literary analysis. However, the thing that you’re also doing behind that literary analysis is a complex process of both inductive and deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning takes a series of points of evidence and draws a larger conclusion. Deductive reasoning departs from the point of a broader premise and draws a singular conclusion. In an analytical essay like this one, you’re using small pieces of evidence to draw a larger conclusion (your thesis statement) and then you’re taking your thesis statement as a larger premise from which you derive your ultimate conclusion.

So, the exam scorers are looking at your ability to craft a strong thesis statement (a singular sentence that makes an argument), use evidence and reasoning to support that argument, and then to write the essay well. This is something they call “sophistication,” but they’re looking for well-organized thoughts carried through clear, complete sentences.

This entire process is something you can and will use throughout your life. Law, engineering, medicine—whatever pursuit, you name it—utilizes these forms of reasoning to run experiments, build cases, and persuade audiences. The process of this kind of clear, analytical thinking can be honed, developed, and made easier through repetition.

Practice Makes Perfect

Because the AP Literature Exam maintains continuity across the years, you can pull old exam copies, read the passages, and write responses. A good AP Lit teacher is going to have you do this time and time again in class until you have the formula down. But, it’s also something you can do on your own, if you’re interested in further developing your skills.

AP Lit Prose Essay Examples 

Let’s take a look at some examples of questions, answers and scorer responses that will help you to get a better idea of how to craft your own AP Literature exam essays.

In the exam in 2023, students were asked to read a poem by Alice Cary titled “Autumn,” which was published in 1874. In it, the speaker contemplates the start of autumn. Then, students are asked to craft a well-written essay which uses literary techniques to convey the speaker’s complex response to the changing seasons.

The following is an essay that received a perfect 6 on the exam. There are grammar and usage errors throughout the essay, which is important to note: even though the writer makes some mistakes, the structure and form of their argument was strong enough to merit a 6. This is what your scorers will be looking for when they read your essay.

Example Essay 

Romantic and hyperbolic imagery is used to illustrate the speaker’s unenthusiastic opinion of the coming of autumn, which conveys Cary’s idea that change is difficult to accept but necessary for growth.

Romantic imagery is utilized to demonstrate the speaker’s warm regard for the season of summer and emphasize her regretfulness for autumn’s coming, conveying the uncomfortable change away from idyllic familiarity. Summer, is portrayed in the image of a woman who “from her golden collar slips/and strays through stubble fields/and moans aloud.” Associated with sensuality and wealth, the speaker implies the interconnection between a season and bounty, comfort, and pleasure. Yet, this romantic view is dismantled by autumn, causing Summer to “slip” and “stray through stubble fields.” Thus, the coming of real change dethrones a constructed, romantic personification of summer,  conveying the speaker’s reluctance for her ideal season to be dethroned by something much less decorated and adored.

Summer, “she lies on pillows of the yellow leaves,/ And tries the old tunes for over an hour”, is contrasted with bright imagery of fallen leaves/ The juxtaposition between Summer’s character and the setting provides insight into the positivity of change—the yellow leaves—by its contrast with the failures of attempting to sustain old habits or practices, “old tunes”. “She lies on pillows” creates a sympathetic, passive image of summer in reaction to the coming of Autumn, contrasting her failures to sustain “old tunes.” According to this, it is understood that the speaker recognizes the foolishness of attempting to prevent what is to come, but her wishfulness to counter the natural progression of time.

Hyperbolic imagery displays the discrepancies between unrealistic, exaggerated perceptions of change and the reality of progress, continuing the perpetuation of Cary’s idea that change must be embraced rather than rejected. “Shorter and shorter now the twilight clips/The days, as though the sunset gates they crowd”, syntax and diction are used to literally separate different aspects of the progression of time. In an ironic parallel to the literal language, the action of twilight’s “clip” and the subject, “the days,” are cut off from each other into two different lines, emphasizing a sense of jarring and discomfort. Sunset, and Twilight are named, made into distinct entities from the day, dramatizing the shortening of night-time into fall. The dramatic, sudden implications for the change bring to mind the switch between summer and winter, rather than a transitional season like fall—emphasizing the Speaker’s perspective rather than a factual narration of the experience.

She says “the proud meadow-pink hangs down her head/Against the earth’s chilly bosom, witched with frost”. Implying pride and defeat, and the word “witched,” the speaker brings a sense of conflict, morality, and even good versus evil into the transition between seasons. Rather than a smooth, welcome change, the speaker is practically against the coming of fall. The hyperbole present in the poem serves to illustrate the Speaker’s perspective and ideas on the coming of fall, which are characterized by reluctance and hostility to change from comfort.

The topic of this poem, Fall–a season characterized by change and the deconstruction of the spring and summer landscape—is juxtaposed with the final line which evokes the season of Spring. From this, it is clear that the speaker appreciates beautiful and blossoming change. However, they resent that which destroys familiar paradigms and norms. Fall, seen as the death of summer, is characterized as a regression, though the turning of seasons is a product of the literal passage of time. Utilizing romantic imagery and hyperbole to shape the Speaker’s perspective, Cary emphasizes the need to embrace change though it is difficult, because growth is not possible without hardship or discomfort.

Scoring Criteria: Why did this essay do so well? 

When it comes to scoring well, there are some rather formulaic things that the judges are searching for. You might think that it’s important to “stand out” or “be creative” in your writing. However, aside from concerns about “sophistication,” which essentially means you know how to organize thoughts into sentences and you can use language that isn’t entirely elementary, you should really focus on sticking to a form. This will show the scorers that you know how to follow that inductive/deductive reasoning process that we mentioned earlier, and it will help to present your ideas in the most clear, coherent way possible to someone who is reading and scoring hundreds of essays.

So, how did this essay succeed? And how can you do the same thing?

First: The Thesis 

On the exam, you can either get one point or zero points for your thesis statement. The scorers said, “The essay responds to the prompt with a defensible thesis located in the introductory paragraph,” which you can read as the first sentence in the essay. This is important to note: you don’t need a flowery hook to seduce your reader; you can just start this brief essay with some strong, simple, declarative sentences—or go right into your thesis.

What makes a good thesis? A good thesis statement does the following things:

  • Makes a claim that will be supported by evidence
  • Is specific and precise in its use of language
  • Argues for an original thought that goes beyond a simple restating of the facts

If you’re sitting here scratching your head wondering how you come up with a thesis statement off the top of your head, let me give you one piece of advice: don’t.

The AP Lit scoring criteria gives you only one point for the thesis for a reason: they’re just looking for the presence of a defensible claim that can be proven by evidence in the rest of the essay.

Second: Write your essay from the inside out 

While the thesis is given one point, the form and content of the essay can receive anywhere from zero to four points. This is where you should place the bulk of your focus.

My best advice goes like this:

  • Choose your evidence first
  • Develop your commentary about the evidence
  • Then draft your thesis statement based on the evidence that you find and the commentary you can create.

It will seem a little counterintuitive: like you’re writing your essay from the inside out. But this is a fundamental skill that will help you in college and beyond. Don’t come up with an argument out of thin air and then try to find evidence to support your claim. Look for the evidence that exists and then ask yourself what it all means. This will also keep you from feeling stuck or blocked at the beginning of the essay. If you prepare for the exam by reviewing the literary devices that you learned in the course and practice locating them in a text, you can quickly and efficiently read a literary passage and choose two or three literary devices that you can analyze.

Third: Use scratch paper to quickly outline your evidence and commentary 

Once you’ve located two or three literary devices at work in the given passage, use scratch paper to draw up a quick outline. Give each literary device a major bullet point. Then, briefly point to the quotes/evidence you’ll use in the essay. Finally, start to think about what the literary device and evidence are doing together. Try to answer the question: what meaning does this bring to the passage?

A sample outline for one paragraph of the above essay might look like this:

Romantic imagery

Portrayal of summer

  • Woman who “from her golden collar… moans aloud”
  • Summer as bounty

Contrast with Autumn

  • Autumn dismantles Summer
  • “Stray through stubble fields”
  • Autumn is change; it has the power to dethrone the romance of Summer/make summer a bit meaningless

Recognition of change in a positive light

  • Summer “lies on pillows / yellow leaves / tries old tunes”
  • Bright imagery/fallen leaves
  • Attempt to maintain old practices fails: “old tunes”
  • But! There is sympathy: “lies on pillows”

Speaker recognizes: she can’t prevent what is to come; wishes to embrace natural passage of time

By the time the writer gets to the end of the outline for their paragraph, they can easily start to draw conclusions about the paragraph based on the evidence they have pulled out. You can see how that thinking might develop over the course of the outline.

Then, the speaker would take the conclusions they’ve drawn and write a “mini claim” that will start each paragraph. The final bullet point of this outline isn’t the same as the mini claim that comes at the top of the second paragraph of the essay, however, it is the conclusion of the paragraph. You would do well to use the concluding thoughts from your outline as the mini claim to start your body paragraph. This will make your paragraphs clear, concise, and help you to construct a coherent argument.

Repeat this process for the other one or two literary devices that you’ve chosen to analyze, and then: take a step back.

Fourth: Draft your thesis 

Once you quickly sketch out your outline, take a moment to “stand back” and see what you’ve drafted. You’ll be able to see that, among your two or three literary devices, you can draw some commonality. You might be able to say, as the writer did here, that romantic and hyperbolic imagery “illustrate the speaker’s unenthusiastic opinion of the coming of autumn,” ultimately illuminating the poet’s idea “that change is difficult to accept but necessary for growth.”

This is an original argument built on the evidence accumulated by the student. It directly answers the prompt by discussing literary techniques that “convey the speaker’s complex response to the changing seasons.” Remember to go back to the prompt and see what direction they want you to head with your thesis, and craft an argument that directly speaks to that prompt.

Then, move ahead to finish your body paragraphs and conclusion.

Fifth: Give each literary device its own body paragraph 

In this essay, the writer examines the use of two literary devices that are supported by multiple pieces of evidence. The first is “romantic imagery” and the second is “hyperbolic imagery.” The writer dedicates one paragraph to each idea. You should do this, too.

This is why it’s important to choose just two or three literary devices. You really don’t have time to dig into more. Plus, more ideas will simply cloud the essay and confuse your reader.

Using your outline, start each body paragraph with a “mini claim” that makes an argument about what it is you’ll be saying in your paragraph. Lay out your pieces of evidence, then provide commentary for why your evidence proves your point about that literary device.

Move onto the next literary device, rinse, and repeat.

Sixth: Commentary and Conclusion 

Finally, you’ll want to end this brief essay with a concluding paragraph that restates your thesis, briefly touches on your most important points from each body paragraph, and includes a development of the argument that you laid out in the essay.

In this particular example essay, the writer concludes by saying, “Utilizing romantic imagery and hyperbole to shape the Speaker’s perspective, Cary emphasizes the need to embrace change though it is difficult, because growth is not possible without hardship or discomfort.” This is a direct restatement of the thesis. At this point, you’ll have reached the end of your essay. Great work!

Seventh: Sophistication 

A final note on scoring criteria: there is one point awarded to what the scoring criteria calls “sophistication.” This is evidenced by the sophistication of thought and providing a nuanced literary analysis, which we’ve already covered in the steps above.

There are some things to avoid, however:

  • Sweeping generalizations, such as, “From the beginning of human history, people have always searched for love,” or “Everyone goes through periods of darkness in their lives, much like the writer of this poem.”
  • Only hinting at possible interpretations instead of developing your argument
  • Oversimplifying your interpretation
  • Or, by contrast, using overly flowery or complex language that does not meet your level of preparation or the context of the essay.

Remember to develop your argument with nuance and complexity and to write in a style that is academic but appropriate for the task at hand.

If you want more practice or to check out other exams from the past, go to the College Board’s website .

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Brittany Borghi

After earning a BA in Journalism and an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa, Brittany spent five years as a full-time lecturer in the Rhetoric Department at the University of Iowa. Additionally, she’s held previous roles as a researcher, full-time daily journalist, and book editor. Brittany’s work has been featured in The Iowa Review, The Hopkins Review, and the Pittsburgh City Paper, among others, and she was also a 2021 Pushcart Prize nominee.

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What Is Prose In Writing? Find A Definition And Examples

As a creative writing teacher, a common question I get asked is “what is prose?” The term prose simply refers to spoken or written language. In the context of writing books, it describes a style of written words, distinct from poetry, numbers and metrics.

One of the biggest tasks many writers face is improving their ability to write prose. This guide offers the quickest and easiest solutions.

Below, we take a look at the different styles of writing prose, examples of each one, and advice from expert writers on getting better.

You can jump to the section you’re most interested in below:

Choose A Chapter

What is prose writing an easy definition, what are the main styles of prose, orwellian prose: the clear pane of glass, florid prose: the stained glass window, can you use a hybrid approach, examples of different styles of prose, 13 tips to help you write clear prose, learn more about writing prose, frequently asked questions (faq), join an online writing community.

So what is prose ?

It’s spoken or written language that does not rhyme or contain numbers. How we think, speak and write would be described as prose. When we write prose, we often apply a grammatical structure.

How Are Prose And Poetry Different?

Prose and poetry are different because poetry applies a rhythmic structure whereas prose follows a more standard mode of written language that follows natural speech patterns—an example being this very article you’re reading now.

Prose and poetry are therefore considered opposites.

What Is Purple Prose In Writing?

Purple prose is when a writer uses too many fancy words or describes things in a flowery, exaggerated way. It’s like adding too much frosting on a cupcake; it might look pretty, but it’s too much and can make it hard to enjoy.

There are a few main styles of writing prose. They are:

  • Clear, concise prose, referred to as ‘Orwellian’, or the ‘clear pane of glass’, and;
  • Florid, literary prose, referred to as the ‘stained glass window’.
  • A hybrid of the two, which is an approach I favour. 

First, we’ll have a look at each, before looking at some examples.

a clear pane of glass: an example of one style of prose writing

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “good prose is like a window pane” and wanted to know the meaning behind it, here it is.

George Orwell in his essay, Politics and the English Language , set out what he thinks good prose writing ought to consist of, all the while attacking the British political system for the destruction of good writing practices.

Orwell was very much against the over-complication of language, which at the time (1946), was the direction politics was taking, and unfortunately still takes today.

Orwell believed prose should be like looking through a clear pane of glass at the story unfolding on the other side. It should be clear to understand. The writing should be invisible, drawing as little attention to itself as possible. The reader shouldn’t have to stop to re-read a sentence due to poor construction or stumble over a word used in the wrong way.

Words should be chosen because of their meaning, and to make them clearer, images or idioms, such as metaphors and similes, should be conjured. He encouraged the use of ‘newly invented metaphors’ which “assists thought by evoking a visual image”. Orwell encouraged writers to use the fewest and shortest words that will express the meaning you want.

“ Let the meaning choose the word.” 

If you can’t explain something in short, simple terms, you don’t understand it, was his argument. 

A change in the language used by politicians provoked Orwell to write his essay. Pretentious diction, as he called it—words such as phenomenon, element, objective, eliminate and liquidate—is used to dress up simple statements. He blamed politics for this, and how politicians adopt hollow words and phrases, mechanically repeating them over and over until they become meaningless.

I’m sure we can all agree we’re fed up of hearing such phrases. Orwell used ‘stand shoulder to shoulder’ as an example, and more recently we’ve seen Theresa May butcher the phrase ‘strong and stable’. These phrases are vague and bland and do not evoke any imagery, and if you’re a writer, they’re things you ought to avoid, Orwell argued.

Orwell’s Six Rules For Achieving Clear Prose

Orwell provided six rules to remember when writing prose. In following them, he argued, you could achieve clear prose that could be understood and enjoyed by all readers:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print;
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do;
  • If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out;
  • Never use the passive [voice] where you can use the active;
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent;
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

So in summary, Orwellian prose is writing which is short, simple and understandable. And if you’re looking for a simple and effective method of how to write good prose, this is it.

They’re great guidelines to test out with short stories. With that type of narrative writing you need to make every word count, so they’re a great way to get used to them. It’s also a more preferred prose form among many literary agents, publishers , and editors.  

A Video Explainer On Orwellian Prose

If you’d like a more visual explainer on writing Orwellian prose, check out this brilliant video from bestselling author, Brandon Sanderson.

When we explore answers to the question, what is prose writing, one approach we inevitably turn to is the stained glass window—the antithesis to Orwell’s clear pane method.

With a stained glass window approach, you can still see the story on the other side, but the stained glass is colouring it in interesting ways. Language and structure are therefore florid and more creative. And it also tends to lean more heavily on the side of descriptive writing.

It’s used more in literary fiction and requires a mastery of language to pull off well. Brandon Sanderson refers to it as the artist’s style of prose, whereas Orwellian prose he regards as the craftsman’s style.

Above we mentioned the phrase ‘purple prose’. This is an attempt at creating a stained glass window, but the description and structure are poor , rendering the prose incomprehensible.

a grand and intricate stained glass window

A blend of the clear pane and stained pane can work well. JRR Tolkien often adopted this, particularly with his descriptions, and other writers, Sanderson and David Gemmell to name but two, like to start chapters in a florid way before transitioning into the clear pane. Sometimes it can depend on the scene.

In fight scenes , for example, simple language is best adopted so the reader’s flow isn’t disrupted. When describing places, people or settings colourful language works well to liven up what would otherwise be quite mundane passages.

My personal preference is toward Orwellian prose writing. Writing should be clear and accessible to all. As writers, that’s what we want—to have our stories read and enjoyed by as many people as possible.

Having spent years working as a lawyer I know it’s not the case, and Orwell’s fears back in 1946 continue to materialise. In the end, I regarded my role as a lawyer as more of a translator of legal jargon. Writing shouldn’t be this way.

So we’ve taken a look at the different styles of prose writing. Now let’s take a look at some examples to better illustrate the different approaches. 

Examples Of A Clear Prose Style

One of my favourite writers of clear prose is Ernest Hemingway. His stories are immersive and gripping because they’re simple to follow. A clear pane of glass approach if ever there was one. 

Here’s an extract from Old Man And The Sea:

“He was happy feeling the gentle pulling and then he felt something hard and unbelievably heavy. It was the weight of the fish and he let the line slip down, down, down, unrolling off the first of the two reserve coils. As it went down, slipping lightly through the old man’s fingers, he still could feel the great weight, though the pressure of his thumb and finger were almost imperceptible.”

You can see here how clear the language is. “Imperceptible” may be the most difficult word used, but it almost doesn’t matter because what has come before it is so clear and vivid, we can picture the scene in our minds. 

Examples Of Flowery Prose

On the other side of the coin, we have flowery prose. One of my favourite writers of florid prose is JRR Tolkien. Some people find The Lord Of The Rings quite challenging to read when they first begin, and I was one of them, and it’s down to Tolkien’s unqiue voice. But once you grow accustomed to it, there’s something quite enchanting about it.

So to illustrate this style, here’s an extract from The Lord of The Rings (Book One):

an extract from the lord of the rings by jrr tolkien to illustrate florid and flowery prose

So far in this guide on how to write prose, we’ve looked at the different approaches. Now we’re looking at the practical side of things—how we actually write great prose. Here are a few writing tips to help you achieve a clear style :

  • Resist the temptation to get fancy . We all do it. Only the other day I was going through a story of mine with a friend. I’d written the phrase “after thrice repeating the words,” and he pulled me up on it, and rightly so. “Why not just say ‘after the third time’?” he asked. Simpler, more effective.
  • Make good use of nouns and verbs, and refrain from indulging in adjectives and adverb s. Check out my 7 nifty editing tips which look at the impact too many adjectives and adverbs can have on your writing.
  • Show don’t tell . This has cropped up a few times on the blog over the past few weeks, and for good reason. Telling the reader how a character feels is boring! Show it! 
  • Behead the passive voice . Seek to use active verbs. But this can be harder than it looks. Check out my full guide to passive voice here.
  • Use effective dialogue. You can find dialogue writing examples here 
  • Try poetry and flash fiction . These facets of the craft will teach you the importance of each and every word. You’ll learn the power a single word can have, how it can provoke images, emotions or memories in the reader’s mind.
  • Try using deliberate line breaks . Not only does this break up the wall of text to make it easier on the eye for the reader, it can help you emphasise key points as well as a structural device to build tension and suspense.
  • Varying line lengths and sentence structure . This is a good one to help you build rhythm to your writing. Go back through your written prose and see how long each sentence is. If your sentences have similar strcutures, it can help to mix them up. Shorter sentences can help build suspense, longer sentences are useful for explanations and description. Keep this in mind as you go back through and edit, breaking up longer sentences into shorter ones or joining others together.  
  • Cut out extraneous words. Remove unnecessary words that balloon sentences. Let’s look at some prose writing examples:

He quickly crossed to the opposite side of the road.

He crossed the road.

Remember Orwell’s rule: if you can cut out a word, do it. When it comes to writing clear prose, less is more . That’s a good guideline to remember.

  • Be specific and concrete . Seek to conjure vivid images and avoid vague phrases. Orwell provides a wonderful example from the book Ecclesiastes of how specificity can create vivid images:

“… The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet the bread to the wise, nor yet the riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill …”

  • Pay attention to sentence structure, a.k.a. syntax. Sentences of a similar structure disrupt the flow and creates an awful rhythm. Short sentences increase the pace as well as tension, are effective at hitting home points, or signalling a change in tone. A short sentence I’d say is one less than half a line. Be warned: do not overuse them. A short sentence packs a punch, and you don’t want to bludgeon your reader. For an example of short sentences used well, check out Anna Smith Spark’s debut novel The Court of Broken Knives . Then come the medium-length sentences—one to two lines—which keeps the pace at a steady level. Anything over two lines and I’d say that’s a pretty long sentence. Long sentences are useful for pieces of description, slowing the pace or reducing tension. You can even be clever and use them to throw the reader off-guard. Watch out for your use of commas too and keep an eye on syllables. Read your work aloud to reveal these problems.
  • Trust your reader . At some stage, we’ve all been guilty of holding the reader’s hand. Seek to create intrigue by withholding details.
  • Avoid clichés and be mindful of tropes . It cheapens your writing and gives the reader the impression of laziness.
  • What am I trying to say?
  • What words will express it?
  • What image or idiom (a group of words that establish a meaning that a single word cannot) will make it clearer?
  • Is the image/idiom fresh enough to have an effect?
  • Could I put it more shortly?
  • Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

I’ve included a few other materials for you to further your reading.

Check out this English literature writing guide by the University of Edinburgh

If you’d like to study creative writing , check out this writing course offered by the University of East Anglia. If you’d like more resources like this, you can also check out my online writing classes .

To learn more about using the 5 senses in writing , which is a vital part of prose, check out this guide.

For some of the best tips around on writing a book for the first time , head here. You can find lots of brilliant advice for first time authors. 

A great way to improve your prose is by writing short stories . Head here for a complete guide

Learn about sensory language examples here which can immensely improve your prose.

And head here for advice on when to rewrite your story .

And for more on character development and how to write a plot , head here.

Prose relates to ordinary everyday speech, so it’s arguably easier to write than poetry. However, many writers fall into the trap of writing ‘purple prose’, which is easy to write but not very good to read.

Prose carries with it no formal or set structure. It does, however, apply the general principles of grammar. It often reflects common or conversational speech.

Prose means the ordinary, everyday language that’s spoken or written. It is often distinguished from poetry due to its lack of a rhythmic structure.

In writing, prose relates to any form of written work in which the general rules of grammar and structure are followed. This is distinct from poetry, which follows a more rhythmic structure.

In the context of writing, prose refers to words assembled in a way that we wouldn’t otherwise describe as poetry or non-rthymic.

Written in prose simply means that a piece of text has been written down in a non-rhythmic way.

There are two main types of prose style—George Orwell’s the clear pane of glass, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, the stained glass window. Orwell believed in clear and simple, plain language. The stained glass window, on the other hand, opts for a more florid style.

Thank you for reading this guide on how to write prose. Hopefully, this post has shed light on the mysteries of prose and how you can achieve that clear, readable style.

If you’d like more help with your writing or would like to connect with like-minded writers, why not join my online writing community. There are hundreds of us all sharing advice, tips, calls for submissions, and helping each other out with our stories.  We congregate on Facebook and Discord. To join, just click below. 

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If you need any more help with your prose writing, get in contact .

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essay on prose

richiebilling

About author, related posts, 15 amazing words to describe the moon, with definitions and example sentences, examples of the 5 senses in writing and how to use them, mastering dialogue: the very best tips, 14 comments.

essay on prose

Reblogged this on Richie Billing and commented:

For my 50th post I thought I’d take a look back at the past 5 or so months at what I’ve thrown out into the world for your enjoyment. I was going to share the most popular post to date, but instead I’ve decided to share my personal favourite—the one that’s helped me the most in researching and writing it. So here it is, my guide to writing Orwellian prose.

Thank you to everyone who’s so far subscribed to this blog. It means a hell of a lot. In the months to come I’ll be looking to giveaway more free content and of course keep the articles coming. Here’s to the next 50!

essay on prose

Guess I”m more George Orwel than John Milton … 🙂 Just one thing (from a Jesuit-trained Old Xav with penchant for Latin grammar) The Passive voice gets a lot of ‘bad press’ which IMHO is often undeserved. You use an Active verb when you’re doing somehing. But you still need a Passive verb when someone is DOInG SOMETHING to you! Also: it’s almost impossible to write a grammatical French sentence without using a Reflexive verb. The Reflexive (s’asseoir, ‘to sit’ OR se plaire, ‘to please’) is a variation on Passive. They also use what in English grammar is called the subjunctive Mood, particularly in speech and even when Grammar insists that an Active verb is required … you can’t trust the French! LOL

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What Is Prose? Definition, Usage, and Literary Examples

Prose definition.

Prose  (PROHzuh) is written language that appears in its ordinary form, without metrical structure or line breaks. This definition is an example of prose writing, as are most textbooks and instruction manuals, emails and letters, fiction writing, newspaper and magazine articles, research papers, conversations, and essays.

The word  prose  first entered English circa 1300 and meant “story, narration.” It came from the Old French  prose  (13th century), via the Latin  prosa oratio , meaning “straightforward or direct speech.” Its meaning of “prose-writing; not poetry” arrived in the mid-14th century.

Types of Prose Writing

Prose writing can appear in many forms. These are some of the most common:

  • Heroic prose:  Literary works of heroic prose, which may be written down or recited, employ many of the same tropes found in the oral tradition. Examples of this would include the  Norse Prose Edda  or other legends and tales.
  • Nonfictional prose:  This is prose based on facts, real events, and real people, such as  biography ,  autobiography , history, or journalism.
  • Prose fiction:  Literary works in this style are imagined. Parts may be based on or inspired by real-life events or people, but the work itself is the product of an author’s imagination. Examples of this would include novels and short stories.
  • Purple Prose:  The term  purple prose  carries a negative connotation. It refers to prose that is too elaborate, ornate, or flowery. It’s categorized by excessive use of adverbs, adjectives, and bad  metaphors .

Prose and Verse

While both are styles of writing, there are certain key differences between prose, which is used in standard writing, and verse, which is typically used for  poetry .

As stated, prose follows the natural patterns of speech. It’s formed through common grammatical structures, such as  sentences  that are built into paragraphs. For example, in the opening paragraph of Diana Spechler’s  New York Times  article “ Among the Healers ,” she writes:

We arrive at noon and take our numbers. The more motivated, having traveled from all over Mexico, began showing up at 3 a.m. About half of the 80 people ahead of us sit in the long waiting room on benches that line the walls, while others stand clustered outside or kill the long hours wandering around Tonalá, a suburb of Guadalajara known for its artisans, its streets edged with handmade furniture, vases as tall as men, mushrooms constructed of shiny tiles. Rafael, the healer, has been receiving one visitor after another since 5. That’s what he does every day except Sunday, every week of his life.

Although Spechler utilizes some of the literary devices often associated with verse, such as strong  imagery  and  simile , she doesn’t follow any poetic conventions. This piece of writing is comprised of sentences, which means it is written in prose.

Unlike prose, verse is formed through patterns of  meter ,  rhyme , line breaks, and  stanzaic  structure—all aspects that relate to writing  poems . For example, the  free verse  poem “ I am Trying to Break Your Heart ” by Kevin Young begins:

I am hoping
to hang your head

While this poem doesn’t utilize meter or rhyme, it’s categorized as verse because it’s composed in short two-line stanzaic units called  couplets . The remainder of the poem is comprised of couplets and the occasional monostich (one-line stanza).

  • Prose Poetry

Although verse and prose are different, there is a form that combines the two: prose poetry. Poems in this vein contains poetic devices, such as imagery, white space,  figurative language ,  sound devices ,  alliteration ,  rhyme ,  rhythm , repetition, and heightened emotions. However, it’s written in prose form—sentences and paragraphs—instead of stanzas.

Examples of Prose in Literature

1. José Olivarez “ Ars Poetica ”

In this prose poem, Olivarez writes:

Migration is derived from the word “migrate,” which is a verb defined by Merriam-Webster as “to move from one country, place, or locality to another.” Plot twist: migration never ends. My parents moved from Jalisco, México to Chicago in 1987. They were dislocated from México by capitalism, and they arrived in Chicago just in time to be dislocated by capitalism. Question: is migration possible if there is no “other” land to arrive in. My work: to imagine. My family started migrating in 1987 and they never stopped. I was born mid-migration. I’ve made my home in that motion. Let me try again: I tried to become American, but America is toxic. I tried to become Mexican, but México is toxic. My work: to do more than reproduce the toxic stories I inherited and learned. In other words: just because it is art doesn’t mean it is inherently nonviolent. My work: to write poems that make my people feel safe, seen, or otherwise loved. My work: to make my enemies feel afraid, angry, or otherwise ignored. My people: my people. My enemies: capitalism. Susan Sontag: “victims are interested in the representation of their own sufferings.” Remix: survivors are interested in the representation of their own survival. My work: survival. Question: Why poems? Answer:

Olivarez crafted this poem in prose form rather than verse. He uses literary techniques such as surprising syntax, white space, heightened emotion, and unexpected turns to heighten the poetic elements of his work, but he doesn’t utilize verse tools, such as meter, rhyme, line breaks, or stanzaic structure.

2. Herman Melville,  Moby Dick

Melville’s novel is a classic work of prose fiction, often referenced as The Great American Novel. It opens with the following lines:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.

3. Toni Morrison,  Playing in the Dark

Playing in the Dark , which examines American literature through the lens of race, freedom, and individualism, was originally delivered while Morrison was a guest speaker at Harvard University. She begins:

These chapters put forth an argument for extending the study of American literature into what I hope will be a wider landscape. I want to draw a map, so to speak, of a critical geography and use that map to open as much space for discovery, intellectual adventure, and close exploration as did the original charting of the New World—without the mandate for conquest.

Further Resources on Prose

David Lehman edited a wonderful anthology of prose poetry called  Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present .

For fans of prose in fiction, the editors of Modern Library put together a list of the  100 greatest novels .

Nonfiction prose fans may enjoy  Longform , which curates and links to new and classic nonfiction from around the web.

Related Terms

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I've got an assignment to write a prose essay, but I'm not exactly sure what that means. Can any of you help me understand the definition of a prose essay and maybe some tips on how to write one?

A prose essay is a type of essay written in prose, which is a natural, flowing form of language, as opposed to verse or poetry. Essentially, when you're asked to write a prose essay, you're being asked to write an essay in complete sentences, organized into paragraphs, that clearly communicates your thoughts and ideas.

To write a prose essay, follow these steps:

1. Understand the prompt: Read the essay prompt or question carefully and make sure you fully comprehend what is being asked of you. Ask your teacher if you're unclear about what the point of the question is.

2. Brainstorm and outline: Jot down your thoughts and ideas related to the prompt and begin organizing them into a logical structure. Create an outline to serve as the framework for your essay, with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion.

3. Introduction: Start with an engaging opening line that grabs the reader's attention and introduces the topic. Provide some background information and outline the main points you plan to cover in the essay.

4. Body paragraphs: Each paragraph should focus on a single main point that supports your overall argument. Use evidence, examples, and analysis to back up your claims and explain how they connect to the essay's central theme.

5. Transitions: Smoothly transition between paragraphs and ideas with appropriate phrases and sentences. This will help improve the readability and flow of your essay.

6. Conclusion: Summarize the most important points made in the body paragraphs and restate the thesis or main argument. Offer some insight or thoughts about the implications of your analysis.

7. Edit and revise: Carefully review your essay for clarity, coherence, grammar, and spelling errors—even small typos may give your reader the impression that you don't care all that much about what you're writing about. Make necessary changes to improve readability and ensure that your essay effectively addresses the prompt. Reading your essay out loud can sometimes be a good way of identifying snag points.

Finally, remember to keep your language clear and concise, while still using a variety of sentence structures and vocabulary to make your essay more engaging. Good luck with your prose essay assignment!

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  • Literary Terms
  • When & How to Write a Prose
  • Definition & Examples

How to Write Prose

There’s just one rule for writing prose: don’t write verse by mistake. If you grew up in the modern world, chances are you’ve been writing prose since the day you started stringing sentences together on a page. So all you have to do now is keep it up!

  • In general, prose does not have line breaks; rather, it has complete sentences with periods or other punctuation marks.
  • There’s another very important kind of line break that makes your prose easier to understand: paragraph breaks. Paragraphs break up your writing into manageable chunks that the reader can digest one at a time as they read. This is especially important in essays , where each paragraph contains a single “step” in the argument. Without paragraph breaks, prose becomes pretty ugly: just a huge block of words without any breaks or structure at all!

When to Use Prose

Unless you’re writing poetry, you’re writing prose. (Remember that prose has a negative definition.) As we saw in §2, essays use prose. This is mainly just a convention – it’s what readers are used to, so it’s what writers use. In the modern world, we generally find prose easier to read, so readers prefer to have essays written that way. The same thing is true for stories – we have an easier time following the story when it’s written in prose simply because it’s what we’re accustomed to.

So you can use prose pretty much anywhere – poetry is the only kind of writing that frequently uses verse, meaning prose covers everything else . And even poetry, as we’ve seen, can be written in prose. So when should you use prose? The answer is: all over the place.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
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  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
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Prose: Understanding, Examples & Writing Tips

What is prose.

  • Prose classifications
  • Examples of prose
  • How to write prose
  • Tips for writing effective prose

Ever wondered what makes a piece of writing engaging, readable, and relatable? A lot of it has to do with its structure and form. One such form of writing is prose. In this blog, we'll unravel the definition of prose, its various classifications, examples, and even some handy tips for writing effective prose. So, let's jump right in!

At its simplest, the definition of prose refers to any form of writing that doesn't have a strict metrical structure. Unlike poetry, which often relies on rhythm and rhyme, prose follows the natural patterns of everyday speech. Now, let's explore some key characteristics and types of prose.

The Characteristics of Prose

Prose is a versatile form of writing with several distinct characteristics:

  • Ordinary Language: Prose uses everyday language, the kind you use when chatting with friends or writing an email. It's easy to understand, without any fancy or poetic elements.
  • Structured Sentences: Sentences in prose follow grammatical rules and have a clear beginning, middle, and end. This structure makes prose easy to read and comprehend.
  • No Rhyme or Rhythm: Unlike poetry, prose doesn’t have to rhyme or follow a specific rhythm. It flows naturally, just like spoken language.

Types of Prose

Prose can take on many forms, depending on its purpose. Here are a few you may recognize:

  • Narrative Prose: This type of prose tells a story. It's what you'll find in novels, short stories, and biographies.
  • Nonfiction Prose: This form of prose shares real-life experiences, facts, or ideas. Think newspaper articles, essays, and textbooks.
  • Dramatic Prose: Dramatic prose is used in plays and scripts. It's written to be performed, rather than read silently.

Now that we've covered the definition of prose and its types, you're well on your way to understanding this versatile form of writing. Next, we'll look at some examples of prose to solidify your understanding. But we'll save that for our next section. Stay tuned!

Prose Classifications

Having grasped the basic definition of prose, let's move on to the various ways prose can be classified. Understanding these classifications can help you better appreciate the depth and diversity of prose in literature.

Literary Prose

Literary prose is a term often used to describe works of fiction and certain types of creative nonfiction. This classification includes:

  • Novels: Long works of fiction with complex plots, subplots, and well-developed characters.
  • Short Stories: Brief works of fiction, typically focusing on a single event or character.
  • Essays: Short pieces of nonfiction that explore a particular topic from the author's perspective.

Functional Prose

Functional prose refers to writing that serves a practical purpose. This includes:

  • Instruction Manuals: Guides that provide step-by-step instructions on how to use a product or perform a task.
  • Reports: Formal documents that relay information or results in a structured format.
  • Business Letters: Professional correspondence often used in the corporate world.

Conversational Prose

Conversational prose emulates the style and tone of everyday speech. Some examples include:

  • Dialogues: Conversations between characters in novels, short stories, or plays.
  • Personal Letters: Informal written communication between friends, family, or acquaintances.
  • Blog Posts: Informal articles written in a conversational tone, such as this one!

With these classifications in mind, you'll start to see the breadth of prose in everyday life—from the books on your shelf to the instruction manual for your coffee maker. But how do these different types of prose come to life? Let's delve deeper into some examples in our next section. Stay tuned!

Examples of Prose

Now that you've got a solid understanding of the different types of prose, let's dive into some examples. This should help cement your understanding and give you a more tangible sense of what the definition of prose really entails.

Examples of Literary Prose

When it comes to literary prose, one can't help but think of classic novels. Take, for example, Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." In this novel, Austen's prose is elegant, witty, and deeply revealing of her characters' inner lives. Another example is "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, where the prose is simple yet powerful, and carries a heavy emotional impact.

Examples of Functional Prose

An example of functional prose could be the instruction manual included with your microwave. It's direct, clear, and serves a practical purpose—helping you figure out how to heat up your leftovers! Another example is a business report, such as a quarterly earnings report for a company, which provides structured and factual information about the company's financial performance.

Examples of Conversational Prose

In conversation, we use prose all the time without even realizing it. Think about the last text message you sent—it's likely a great example of conversational prose. Or consider the dialogue in your favorite sitcom. The characters' conversations are examples of prose that are designed to sound natural and spontaneous.

Hopefully, these examples have brought the definition of prose to life for you. Now, onto the fun part: how to write your own prose.

How to Write Prose

Writing prose isn't about fancy words or complex sentences. It's about clarity, rhythm, and meaning. If you've been wondering how to apply the definition of prose to your own writing, here are some steps to get you started.

Choose Your Purpose

First, decide why you're writing. Are you trying to entertain readers with a gripping story? Convey information in a clear and concise way? Or engage in a casual conversation? Your purpose will help shape the style and tone of your prose.

Plan Your Message

Next, consider your message. What do you want your readers to understand, feel or do after reading your prose? Keep this message in mind as you're writing—it will guide your choice of words and sentence structures.

Write with Clarity

When you write prose, strive for clarity. Use simple, everyday words. Make your sentences short and to the point. And remember, it's not about how complicated you can make the sentence, but how easily your reader can understand it.

Revise and Refine

Finally, always take the time to revise and refine your prose. Look for ways to make your writing more clear, concise, and engaging. Remember, the more you practice, the better you'll get at writing prose.

Now, you're ready to take your understanding of the definition of prose and put it into practice. But before you do, let's look at a few tips to make your prose even more effective.

Tips for Writing Effective Prose

Now that you've got a handle on the definition of prose and how to write it, let's delve a little deeper. Here are a few tips that can help make your writing more engaging and effective.

Use Active Voice

Active voice makes your writing more direct and engaging. So, instead of writing "The cake was eaten by the dog," write "The dog ate the cake." It's a simple change, but it can make a big difference in how your writing is received.

Keep Sentences and Paragraphs Short

Long sentences and paragraphs can be hard to follow. So, try to keep your sentences short and sweet. And break up your paragraphs into smaller chunks. This makes your writing easier to read and understand.

Choose the Right Word

Every word matters when you're writing prose. So, choose your words carefully. Use words that are precise and clear. And avoid jargon or overly complicated terms. Remember, your goal is to communicate, not to confuse.

Add Variety to Your Sentence Structures

Varied sentence structures can make your writing more interesting. So, don't be afraid to mix things up. Use short sentences. Use long sentences. Use sentences that start with "And" or "But." The key is to keep your reader engaged and interested.

By applying these tips, you'll be able to write prose that is clear, engaging, and effective. And remember, the best way to improve your prose is to write, write, and write some more. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start writing!

If you enjoyed this blog post on prose and want to further expand your writing skills, we recommend exploring Daisie's classes . Our platform offers a wide range of workshops and classes, led by experienced professionals, that will help you hone your craft and take your writing to the next level.

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What Is Prose?

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

Prose is ordinary writing (both fiction and nonfiction ) as distinguished from verse. Most essays , compositions , reports , articles , research papers , short stories, and journal entries are types of prose writings.

In his book The Establishment of Modern English Prose (1998), Ian Robinson observed that the term prose is "surprisingly hard to define. . . . We shall return to the sense there may be in the old joke that prose is not verse."

In 1906, English philologist Henry Cecil Wyld suggested that the "best prose is never entirely remote in form from the best corresponding conversational style of the period" ( The Historical Study of the Mother Tongue ).

From the Latin, "forward" + "turn"

Observations

"I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry: that is, prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in the best order." (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Table Talk , July 12, 1827)

Philosophy Teacher: All that is not prose is verse; and all that is not verse is prose. M. Jourdain: What? When I say: "Nicole, bring me my slippers, and give me my night-cap," is that prose? Philosophy Teacher: Yes, sir. M. Jourdain: Good heavens! For more than 40 years I have been speaking prose without knowing it. (Molière, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme , 1671)

"For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain and the noise of battle. It has the power to give grief or universality that lends it a youthful beauty." (John Cheever, on accepting the National Medal for Literature, 1982)

" Prose is when all the lines except the last go on to the end. Poetry is when some of them fall short of it." (Jeremy Bentham, quoted by M. St. J. Packe in The Life of John Stuart Mill , 1954)

"You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose ." (Governor Mario Cuomo, New Republic , April 8, 1985)

Transparency in Prose

"[O]ne can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a window pane." (George Orwell, "Why I Write," 1946) "Our ideal prose , like our ideal typography, is transparent: if a reader doesn't notice it, if it provides a transparent window to the meaning, then the prose stylist has succeeded. But if your ideal prose is purely transparent, such transparency will be, by definition, hard to describe. You can't hit what you can't see. And what is transparent to you is often opaque to someone else. Such an ideal makes for a difficult pedagogy." (Richard Lanham, Analyzing Prose , 2nd ed. Continuum, 2003)

" Prose is the ordinary form of spoken or written language: it fulfills innumerable functions, and it can attain many different kinds of excellence. A well-argued legal judgment, a lucid scientific paper, a readily grasped set of technical instructions all represent triumphs of prose after their fashion. And quantity tells. Inspired prose may be as rare as great poetry--though I am inclined to doubt even that; but good prose is unquestionably far more common than good poetry. It is something you can come across every day: in a letter, in a newspaper, almost anywhere." (John Gross, Introduction to The New Oxford Book of English Prose . Oxford Univ. Press, 1998)

A Method of Prose Study

"Here is a method of prose study which I myself found the best critical practice I have ever had. A brilliant and courageous teacher whose lessons I enjoyed when I was a sixth-former trained me to study prose and verse critically not by setting down my comments but almost entirely by writing imitations of the style . Mere feeble imitation of the exact arrangement of words was not accepted; I had to produce passages that could be mistaken for the work of the author, that copied all the characteristics of the style but treated of some different subject. In order to do this at all it is necessary to make a very minute study of the style; I still think it was the best teaching I ever had. It has the added merit of giving an improved command of the English language and a greater variation in our own style." (Marjorie Boulton, The Anatomy of Prose . Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954)

Pronunciation: PROZ

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What is Prose Definition and Examples in Literature Featured

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What is Prose — Definition and Examples in Literature

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  • What is a Stanza in a Poem
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P rose can be a rather general literary term that many use to describe all types of writing. However, prose by definition pertains to specific qualities of writing that we will dive into in this article. What is the difference between prose and poetry and what is prose used for? Let’s define this essential literary concept and look at some examples to find out.

What is Prose in Literature?

First, let’s define prose.

Prose is used in various ways for various purposes. It's a concept you need to understand if your goal to master the literary form. Before we dive in, it’s important to understand the prose definition and how it is distinguished from other styles of writing. 

PROSE DEFINITION

What is prose.

In writing, prose is a style used that does not follow a structure of rhyming or meter. Rather, prose follows a grammatical structure using words to compose phrases that are arranged into sentences and paragraphs. It is used to directly communicate concepts, ideas, and stories to a reader. Prose follows an almost naturally verbal flow of writing that is most common among fictional and non-fictional literature such as novels, magazines, and journals.

Four types of prose:

Nonfictional prose, fictional prose, prose poetry, heroic prose, prose meaning , prose vs poetry.

To better understand prose, it’s important to understand what structures it does not follow which would be the structure of poetry. Let’s analyze the difference between prose vs poetry.

Poetry follows a specific rhyme and metric structure. These are often lines and stanzas within a poem. Poetry also utilizes more figurative and often ambiguous language that purposefully leaves room for the readers’ analysis and interpretation.

Finally, poetry plays with space on a page. Intentional line breaks, negative space, and varying line lengths make poetry a more aesthetic form of writing than prose. 

Take, for example, the structure of this [Why] by E.E. Cummings. Observe his use of space and aesthetics as well as metric structure in the poem. 

E E Cummings Poem What is Prose vs Poetry

E.E. Cummings Poem

E.E. Cummings may be one of the more stylish poets when it comes to use of page space. But poetry is difference in structure and practice than prose. 

Prose follows a structure that makes use of sentences, phrases, and paragraphs. This type of writing follows a flow more similar to verbal speech and communication. This makes it the best style of writing to clearly articulate and communicate concepts, events, stories, and ideas as opposed to the figurative style of poetry.

What is Prose in Literature? 

Take, for example, the opening paragraph of JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye . We can tell immediately the prose is written in a direct, literal way that also gives voice to our protagonist . 

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

From this example, you can see how the words flow more conversationally than poetry and is more direct with what information or meaning is being communicated. Now that you understand the difference between poetry, let’s look at the four types of prose.

Related Posts

  • What is Litotes — Definition and Examples →
  • Different Types of Poems and Poem Structures →
  • What is Iambic Pentameter? Definition and Examples →

Prose Examples

Types of prose.

While all four types of prose adhere to the definition we established, writers use the writing style for different purposes. These varying purposes can be categorized into four different types.

Nonfictional prose is a body of writing that is based on factual and true events. The information is not created from a writer’s imagination, but rather true accounts of real events. 

This type can be found in newspapers, magazines, journals, biographies, and textbooks. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl , for example, is a work written in nonfictional style.

Unlike nonfictional, fictional prose is partly or wholly created from a writer’s imagination. The events, characters, and story are imagined such as Romeo and Juliet , The Adventures of Tom Sawyer , or Brave New World . This type is found as novels, short stories, or novellas .

Heroic prose is a work of writing that is meant to be recited and passed on through oral or written tradition. Legends, mythology, fables, and parables are examples of heroic prose that have been passed on over time in preservation. 

Finally, prose poetry is poetry that is expressed and written in prose form. This can be thought of almost as a hybrid of the two that can sometimes utilize rhythmic measures. This type of poetry often utilizes more figurative language but is usually written in paragraph form. 

An example of prose poetry is “Spring Day” by Amy Lowell. Lowell, an American poet, published this in 1916 and can be read almost as hyper short stories written in a prose poetry style. 

The first section can be read below: 

The day is fresh-washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air.

The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.

Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot, and the planes of light in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me. The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day. I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots.

The sky is blue and high. A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air."

While these four types of prose are varying ways writers choose to use it, let’s look at the functions of them to identify the strengths of the writing style. 

What Does Prose Mean in Writing

Function of prose in literature.

What is prose used for and when? Let’s say you want to tell a story, but you’re unsure if using prose or poetry would best tell your story.

To determine if the correct choice is prose, it’s important to understand the strengths of the writing style. 

Direct communication

Prose, unlike poetry, is often less figurative and ambiguous. This means that a writer can be more direct with the information they are trying to communicate. This can be especially useful in storytelling, both fiction and nonfiction, to efficiently fulfill the points of a plot.

Curate a voice

Because prose is written in the flow of verbal conversation, it’s incredibly effective at curating a specific voice for a character. Dialogue within novels and short stories benefit from this style.

Think about someone you know and how they talk. Odds are, much of their character and personality can be found in their voice.

When creating characters, prose enables a writer to curate the voice of that character. For example, one of the most iconic opening lines in literature informs us of what type of character we will be following.

Albert Camus’ The Stranger utilizes prose in first person to establish the voice of the story’s protagonist. 

“Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday.”

Build rapport with the reader

Lastly, in addition to giving character’s a curated voice, prose builds rapport with the reader. The conversational tone allows readers to become familiar with a type of writing that connects them with the writer. 

A great example of this is Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels . As a nonfiction work written in prose, Thompson’s voice and style in the writing is distinct and demands a relationship with the reader.

Whether it is one of contradiction or agreement, the connection exists through the prose. It is a connection that makes a reader want to meet or talk with the writer once they finish their work. 

Prose is one of the most common writing styles for modern writers. But truly mastering it means understanding both its strengths and its shortcomings. 

Different Types of Poems

Curious about learning about the counterpart to prose? In our next article we dive in different types of poems as well as different types of poem structures. Check out the complete writer’s guide to poetry types up next. 

Up Next: Types of Poems →

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What is Prose? Definition, Examples of Literary Prose

Prose is a form of written language that does not have a formal meter structure. Prose more closely mimics normal patterns of speech.

What is Prose?

Prose is a style of writing that does not follow a strict structure of rhyming and/or meter. Prose uses normal grammatical structures. Elements of prose writing include regular grammar and paragraph structures that organize ideas, forgoing more stylistic and aesthetic forms of writing found in poetry and lyrics.

Prose can include normal dialogue, speeches, novels, news reports, etc. Prose is distinguished from poetry which uses line breaks and has meter that tends to defy normal grammar rules.

In today’s literature, most stories are told in prose. There is no longer much emphasis on the oral tradition of storytelling, to which verse was very well suited. Since print came to be commonplace, storytellers tend to rely on prose to tell their stories because of the freedom it allows.

Different Types of Prose

There are different genres of writing that use prose style. Here are a few:

Nonfiction Prose

Nonfiction is a work of writing that is based on fact. Examples of nonfiction include memoirs, essays, instructions, biographies, etc.

Fiction Prose

Fiction is a genre of writing that is imagined or untrue. Novels use prose in order to tell stories. Subgenres of fiction can include fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction, etc.

Heroic Prose

Heroic prose uses the hero archetype in order to tell stories of bravery and travel in which good triumphs over evil. These stories are meant to be recited orally. Heroic prose may use tricks such as rhyme and a slight rhythmic structure in order to enhance the effects of being read out loud but are not the same as the ancient hero tales which were written in strict poetic verse.

Prose Poetry

Prose poetry uses certain poetic qualities in order to add a lyrical or aesthetic value to the writing. However, it stops short of any regular or strict metered form. This style of writing creates bolder emotional effects and often relies on metaphors and imagery in order to create similar reactions in readers that poetry would, while still maintaining the prose style.

The Function of Prose

Prose provides a loose structure for writers which offers freedom and creativity in expression. With prose, a writer can be as imaginative and creative as they want—or they can write very dryly in order to convey a specific point. It all comes down to the writer’s purpose and intended effect. With prose, the sky is the limit.

Ultimately, prose is an efficient way to write and convey ideas. There is a reason why news reporters and journalists write in prose—they can clearly express details, key facts, and updates in a way that is accessible to all. If everything was written in poetry/verse, there might be some conflicts in how news and important messages were spread.

Examples of Prose in Literature

In fiction, prose can be manipulated in order to create very specific stylistic effects. For example, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights tends to use long, winding sentence structures in order to convey the tendency to become obsessive, which is a trait found in several characters.

This writing, however, was nothing but a name repeated in all kinds of characters, large and small—Catherine Earnshaw, here and there varied to Catherine Heathcliff, and then again to Catherine Linton. In vapid listlessness I leant my head against the window, and continued spelling over Catherine Earnshaw—Heathcliff—Linton, till my eyes closed; but they had not rested five minutes when a glare of white letters started from the dark, as vivid as spectres—the air swarmed with Catherines; and rousing myself to dispel the obtrustive name, I discovered my candle wick reclining on one of the antique volumes, and perfuming the place with an odour of roasted calf-skin.

Speeches are another place where prose is used to convey ideas. Consider the “No Easy Walk to Freedom” Speech by Nelson Mandela :

You can see that there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires.

Essays are also written in prose. The philosopher Sir Francis Bacon , who influenced founders of the American colonies, wrote the essay “On Nobility” in which he speaks on nobility in government.

For nobility attempers sovereignty, and draws the eyes of the people, somewhat aside from the line royal. But for democracies, they need it not; and they are commonly more quiet, and less subject to sedition, than where there are stirps of nobles. For men’s eyes are upon the business, and not upon the persons; or if upon the persons, it is for the business’ sake, as fittest, and not for flags and pedigree.

Recap: What is Prose in Literature?

Prose is the style of writing that does not use a metered format like poetry does. It more closely resembles normal patterns of speech, with normal grammatical structures such as full sentences and paragraphs.

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essay on prose

Revelations of Language: On Prose Poetry and the Beauty of a Single Sentence

Nick ripatrazone looks at journals dedicated to the prose poem.

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about sentences. I have been sentenced to this fate, you might say, which is both a bad pun and also the truth; between writing, teaching, and reading, I can’t escape sentences.

The sentence contains the entirety of literature in miniature. Individual words hold their power through context and placement; phrases carry their meaning through juxtaposition. Paragraphs are often too thick to memorize: a mindful, more than the mouth can manage. Sentences linger on the tongue and echo in the room. You can still hear, years and yearnings later, the sharpest sentences of our life.

Sentences are glorious. The titular essay in Brian Dillon’s Suppose a Sentence considers the words of Gertrude Stein. He concludes that one of her sentences “is exactly what I want”; a “combination of oblique self-involvement and utter commitment to the things themselves. For words are also things and things are apt to burst with force and loud report.” I like how Dillon’s sentences emulate the cadence and counters of the writers whose work he features. There is something wonderfully freeing about literary inhabitation.

Sentences in essays can range from the informational to the parenthetical to the lyric. We feel the latter: when the essayist takes a deep breath and unfurls emotion and description in layered clauses, each comma a pivot or step. Novelists can stretch sentences for pages, eschewing paragraph breaks for the intensity of the moment. Poets, too, write in sentences; often the power endemic to that form is the poet’s awareness of the tension between syntax and lineation. Each line break a doorway; each stanza a field.

First drawn to fiction, and then pulled by poetry, I wrangled with the sentence. I read Stein, and William H. Gass, and Jayne Anne Phillips ( Black Tickets is a marvel of sentences). I sought to define the sentence, for I believed that structure was the revelation of language. I believed that a sentence must begin and end, and because we also begin and end, there must be some mystical value therein.

The prose poem, as a mode and structure, caught my attention. Purists often use the apparent distances between the writing modes for the sake of criticism; there is no sharper rebuke of a poem than to say it is merely prose with line breaks.

Yet I’ve learned that the borders between modes and genres of writing are often the richest for experimentation and growth. I started writing prose poems to understand both prose and poetry, and yes, to acknowledge their shared dependence upon the sentence. Like so much of my reading and writing life, I found what I sought in literary magazines.

The first issue of The Prose Poem: An International Journal , published in 1992, begins with a “Warning to the Reader” by Robert Bly. “Sometimes farm granaries become especially beautiful when all the oats or wheat are gone, and wind has swept the rough floor clean.” Sunlight seeps “through the cracks between shrunken wall boards.” We are drawn to that light, and so are birds, who, “seeing freedom in the light,” flutter up and fall, again and again. Those birds often die, trapped in the granaries, for they are unaware of the best way to leave: through a rat’s hole, “low to the floor.”

Bly ends the poem with two warnings. The first is for writers: “be careful then by showing the sunlight on the walls not to promise the anxious and panicky blackbirds a way out!”

Readers must also be careful, for those “who love poems of light may sit hunched in the corner with nothing in their gizzards for four days, light failing, the eyes glazed.” Soon, they “may end as a mound of feathers and a skull on the open boardwood floor.”

Bly’s prose poem employs the same enticing images that he later critiques. Yet the critique can only succeed if the images were arresting in the first place. The poem works so well, but is an ostentatious opening for a literary magazine. It appears before founding editor Peter Johnson’s introduction to the issue, as if to affirm the importance of prose poetry rather than its definition.

Johnson appreciates Michael Benedikt’s description of the prose poem, which includes an “attention to the unconscious, and to its particular logic,” an almost acute usage of “colloquial and other everyday speech patterns,” as well as a “special reliance on humor and wit.” Johnson agrees. He thinks prose poetry “has affinities with black humor,” since that mode of writing “straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy,” and prose poetry stretches across modes. “Prose poets,” he writes, “no matter how different in sensibilities, wander on this uncertain terrain. It’s a land of paradoxes and oxymorons, welcoming the sleight of word artist.”

Although Benedikt and Johnson focus more on content and tone, I’m interested in how prose poets imagine the sentence. Without the corners of line breaks, prose poets are at the mercy of margins—so some internal energy or tension anchors their syntax.

In one poem from the issue, “At the Grave,” Nina Nyhart writes of a widow who takes flowers to her husband’s grave. One year, “the flowers in her yard, his favorites, aren’t in bloom.” She has to wait to visit him, and misses their anniversary. Once the flowers bloom, she cuts and collects them, and heads toward his grave, but a voice admonishes her for being late—and for bringing geraniums. She corrects him: “See here these aren’t geraniums, they’re lilies, you never could tell one flower from another.”

The banter and prodding, between widow and ghost, unfold like a domestic conversation—so much that the reader becomes complacent. Yet the conversation ends abruptly. The widow pleads to her husband: “Don’t go away,” but “silence surrounds her as completely as the voice had before.” I could feel the heaviness of that final sentence, perhaps, because I could not trace it through a line. The sentence, which looked like any old sentence, unfurled the meaning, and then it ended, and the page became white.

For the May 19, 1917 issue of The New Statesman , T.S. Eliot wrote a short essay “The Borderline of Prose.” He observes “a recrudescence of the poem in prose” across the world. He wonders if “poetry and prose form a medium of infinite gradations,” or if “we are searching for new ways of expression.” Eliot admits some mystery in both the form, and his perception of it, and concludes “the only absolute distinction to be drawn” is that “there is prose rhythm and verse rhythm.”

Considering the prose poems of Richard Aldington, Eliot worries that a reader is “constantly trying to read the prose poem as prose or as verse—and failing in both attempts.” Unfortunately, that means a reader “goes on to imagine how it would have been done in verse or in prose—which is what a writer ought never to allow us to do. He should never let us question for a moment that his form is the inevitable form for his content.” Eliot’s final judgment: “Both verse and prose still conceal unexplored possibilities, but whatever one writes must be definitely and by inner necessity either one or the other.”

Sentence: a Journal of Prose Poetics opened three years after The Prose Poem stopped publishing. Founding editor Brian Clements saw the magazine as a continuation of Johnson’s work—both the publishing of prose poems, as well as a discussion of the form in contrast to “poetic prose.”

Issue 8, Clements’s final issue as editor, features prose poems by Oliver de la Paz, Simeon Berry, Nin Andrews, Michael Bassett, and Sarah Blake, as well as a forum on the prose poem. There, Peter Johnson returns to his beloved form, and isn’t satisfied. “I miss the short, pithy traditional prose poem, with its penchant for satire and surprising internal leaps.” He voices a larger concern: “In general, anger is absent in contemporary poetry, which is surprising because there is so much to be angry about.”

Johnson laments that “fashionable irony is safer than invective.” Instead, he writes, “I’d like the prose poem to get nasty.”

My favorite prose poem of the issue is “Fresco” by David Shumate. “I feel an affinity for those people frozen in frescos,” the narrator begins. “I too feel trapped much of the time. In the company of people I wouldn’t choose to be with on my own. But fate has other ideas.” The narrator thinks of a man depicted in a fresco, “lugging that wine vessel around,” a servant to “raucous revelers.” The servant watches “as they couple in the manner of dogs and tries not to snicker.”

The servant—the narrator imagines—is likely transporting himself through that same “ancient vehicle of the imagination.” The servant wishes to escape the tableau, for a woman is tickling his neck with a feather; inviting him to “make a lover of her.” Instead, the servant “takes comfort in the rules governing frescos. A thousand years may pass. But you can never move an inch.”

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Nick Ripatrazone

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Writers.com

The difference between prose and poetry seems easy to explain: one has blocks of text and fully-fleshed characters, the other has line breaks and pretty words. That’s it, right?

Despite their visual quirks, prose and poetry share many similarities: prose can be musical, poetry can have plots and characters, and both are millennia-old traditions. As such, it would be wrong to prescribe a rigid decision tree for writing prose vs. poetry—many writers have both in their toolkits, relying on each form to communicate different truths.

“Poetry creates the myth, the prose writer draws its portrait.” —Jean-Paul Sartre

So what is the difference between poetry and prose? And which should you write for which occasions? Again, we won’t give hard-and-fast rules, but we can explore their differences in depth and discuss their possibilities.

First, we’ll discuss the features of prose and poetry independently, then we’ll loop back to examine both their differences and their areas of overlap.

Prose Vs. Poetry: Contents

Prose Versus Verse: Line Breaks

Prose is more functional than poetry, how to read prose, further readings in fiction and nonfiction, artistic definitions of poetry vary, poetry uses language richly, how to read poetry, further readings in poetry, poetry vs. prose: a clear example of each, 5 similar features of prose and poetry, 10 differences between prose and poetry, poetry vs. prose venn diagram, prose vs. poetry: a final note on literary binaries, prose vs. poetry: defining prose.

Prose is the more common writing form that everyone is comfortable reading and writing. This article relies on prose—as do most ( but not all! ) novels, and just about all news stories, instruction manuals, scientific papers, and so on.

The most straightforward rule of thumb for knowing that you’re reading prose (as opposed to its counterpart, verse ) is that there are no defined line breaks : words go all the way to the edge of the page without “turning back” early.

A rule of thumb for prose (as opposed to its counterpart, verse ) is that there are no defined line breaks.

Again, that’s how this blog article works, along with most other writing, from tweets to short stories to scientific papers.

So why would you stop writing prose, and move over to the with-line-breaks type of writing known as verse? The line breaks aren’t arbitrary, but reflect an underlying difference in how prose and verse tend to be structured. To quote the always-helpful Wikipedia:

“Where the common unit of verse is based on meter or rhyme, the common unit of prose is purely grammatical, such as a sentence or paragraph.”

So is verse (writing with line breaks) always poetry? While two are often used synonymously, defining poetry requires more than just scanning for line breaks: as we’ll discuss below, poetry is also about the rich and musical use of language.

Prose is not the counterpart of poetry, but the counterpart of verse.

So prose is not the counterpart of poetry, but rather the counterpart of verse. So verse is not what strictly defines poetry. In fact, not all poetry is in verse—specifically, prose poetry isn’t. In other words, prose and poetry do overlap, whereas prose and verse don’t.

Most poetry is in verse, but some poetry is in prose.

We go into more detail on line breaks, stanzas, and the use of page space in the sections below.

A helpful pattern in understanding prose vs. poetry is as follows: prose tends to work in clearer meanings, and to be less musical (that is, working with the inherent rhythms and sonic properties of language) and less densely packed with meanings, literary devices , and associations, than poetry.

As such, prose writing tends to be linear: while a prosaic sentence can twist and turn, it tends to share clear information, generally in a logical order.

Prose tends to work in clearer meanings, and to be less musical and dense, than poetry.

Again, exceptions exist, notably prose poetry : prose writing—writing with no line endings or defined rhythmic meter—that is highly musical and dense, and that is generally more impressionistic and multifaceted than most prose in the meanings it conveys.

And then there’s prose writing that is enigmatic and dreamlike rather than clear and orderly, such as the stream-of-consciousness prose writing in James Joyce’s Ulysses .

These exceptions prove the rule, though: most other prose, from this blog article your friend’s next Facebook post to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , tends to follow the delineation described here.

We’ll allow Hemingway a last word with a slightly macho, not-applicable-to-every-prose-work, but still helpful description of prose: “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”

Sound good? To get a stronger feel for prose and further acquaint yourself with prose writing, take a look at the readings below.

This article gives close reading strategies for prose writing.

How to Read Prose: Close Reading Strategies for Prose Writers

The articles below outline helpful practices for numerous kinds of prose writing, from flash fiction to the novel, focusing especially on the common ingredients of storytelling .

  • Crafting a Story Outline
  • Freytag’s Pyramid
  • Literary Devices in Prose
  • Writing Flash Fiction
  • Writing the Short Story
  • Writing the Novella
  • Writing the Novel

Prose vs. Poetry: Defining Poetry

Poetry is the oldest literary form, predating the written word (and therefore, prose) by several millennia. Up until the printing press revolutionized the distribution of literature, poetry was the main form for storytellers, who used meter and rhythm to perform oral retellings of their work.

So, what is poetry? As we’ve seen in our introduction to prose above, most—but not all—poetry is written in verse: writing with line breaks, organized around rhythm or meter rather than grammar. Still, we’ve also seen that verse is not what defines poetry, nor is all poetry based in verse.

So it’s not simply another word for verse. Is there an agreed-upon artistic definition of poetry as a literary form? (Spoiler: No.)

Artistic definitions of poetry change from poetic movement to poetic movement—and from poet to poet.

For example, William Wordsworth said that poetry is “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings… recollected in tranquility.” This sentiment—largely reflective of the Romantic era—certainly rings true for some poetry. However, New Formalist poets work with poetry to distill and reflect emotion through form and meter: in other words, structure over emotion.

The point is, there’s no singular way to define or understand the artistic aims of poetry. Rather, all poets must define these aims for themselves and write accordingly.

Poets must define the artistic aims of poetry for themselves and write accordingly.

Learning about poetry requires familiarizing yourself with what other poets have already done. This list of poetry movements can jumpstart your understanding of poetry’s complex and various histories.

Good poetry, from any tradition, sings and resonates beyond the merely “prosaic.”

Whatever literary tradition you ascribe to, poetry has a clear job to be rich, musical, evocative. Good poetry, from any tradition, sings and resonates in a way that goes beyond the merely “prosaic,” as in the following poem excerpt by Derek Walcott:

You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.

So poetry, in any tradition, is the “cheesecake of language”: packed to the brim with sonic and expressive power. In poetry, it’s not enough to make a rational point straightforwardly, like the prosaic sentence you’re reading is doing.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge said this beautifully, and we can give him the last word in defining poetry.

“Poetry: the best words in the best order.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Cool, right? If you’d like to learn more, check out our guides for reading and understanding poetry.

This article gives close reading strategies for poetry writing.

How to Read Poetry Like a Poet

The articles below outline helpful practices poetry writing, including deep dives on common literary devices in poetry and established poetry forms.

  • Poetry Forms
  • Writing and Publishing a Poetry Book

Let’s cap the definitions of poetry and prose above by simply giving a clear example of each.

Here is some beautiful fiction writing that is definitely prose:

They were nearly born on a bus, Estha and Rahel. The car in which Baba, their father, was taking Ammu, their mother, to hospital in Shillong to have them, broke down on the winding tea-estate road in Assam. They abandoned the car and flagged down a crowded State Transport bus. With the queer compassion of the very poor for the comparatively well off, or perhaps only because they saw how hugely pregnant Ammu was, seated passengers made room for the couple, and for the rest of the journey Estha and Rahel’s father had to hold their mother’s stomach (with them in it) to prevent it from wobbling. That was before they were divorced and Ammu came back to live in Kerala.

—Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

And here is some writing that is definitely poetry:

We are such stuff As dreams are made on; and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.

—Shakespeare, The Tempest

Having defined prose and poetry above, the reality is that they can be more similar than you might imagine. We’ll discuss their differences in a moment, but first, it’s important to understand the shared potential that each form holds:

  • Musicality and rhythm
  • Use of colloquial speech
  • Use of literary devices
  • Ability to tell stories
  • Show, don’t tell

1. Musicality and Rhythm

It’s a common misconception that only poetry can be musical. While rhythm and meter are important aspects of a poem’s construction, musicality begins with language, not with structure.

An immediate example of “musical prose” is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Susan Bell, writer of The Artful Edit , argues that Gatsby finds its success precisely because of the story’s musical, elegant storytelling—certainly, the book has a charged poeticism that feels just as decadent and tasteful as the high society of the Roaring Twenties. Below is some undeniably musical prose:

2. Use of Literary Devices

Things are like other things, which is the essence of literary devices. While some devices are unique to each form—poems have enjambment, prose can begin in media res —a successful piece of writing requires literary devices .

3. Use of Colloquial Speech

Yes, some writing uses lofty and erudite language. However, contemporary prose and poetry writers, from all eras, recognize the importance of speaking to their audience.

Colloquial speech is one way of speaking to your audience. A colloquialism is a turn of phrase with a specific social and temporal context. For example, “groovy” belongs to the American 1970s, Victorian Brits called a brave person “bricky,” and Gen Z’ers “stan” on Twitter.

In literature, Jay Gatsby’s “old sport” is just as colloquial as the poem “A Study of Reading Habits ,” which uses phrases like “right hook” and “load of crap.”

4. Storytelling

Another common misconception is that poetry doesn’t tell stories. While fiction and nonfiction are the genres of prose, poetry also possesses a powerful narrative voice.

Singular poems can tell grand stories, especially poetry in antiquity. The Epic of Gilgamesh , The Odyssey , and Beowulf are all stories in verse, as are novel-poems like Autobiography of Red .

Additionally, contemporary poetry collections often tell stories, just with less linearity. Louise Gluck’s collection Wild Iris is told from the perspective of a flower, and as the seasons change, the flower observes the infinite singularity of mankind, God, and the Universe.

5. Show, Don’t Tell Writing

It’s important for storytellers to demonstrate their ideas without spoon feeding the reader. In other words, writers should Show instead of Tell.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. —Anton Chekhov

We consider “Show, Don’t Tell” a golden rule of writing. Brush up on it here !

We’ve discussed their similarities, but the difference between poetry and prose is usually fairly clear in practice. The following ten items distinguish the two. To help demonstrate our point, we represent each form with a well known piece of literature. Poetry examples were pulled from Dylan Thomas’ “ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night ,” and prose examples come from “ The Cask of Amontillado ” by Edgar Allan Poe.

1. Prose vs. Poetry: Use of Page Space

In prose, a line of text begins and ends at the margins of the page. In poetry, the author uses shorter lines, broken before the page margins to introduce multiple meanings. Line breaks are an enduring feature of what differentiates prose and poetry, adding extra emphasis to certain words and sounds.

You’ll notice in prose that a partial line occurs only before a new paragraph.

line breaks in prose

In poetry, the line breaks mean something more intentional. The ending words can help uphold meter and rhyme schemes, and it also emphasizes important words: “night” and “light” are repeatedly pit against each other in Thomas’ villanelle .

poetry vs. prose line breaks

2. Prose vs. Poetry: Paragraphs vs. Stanzas

Prose passages divide single ideas into sentences, and those sentences go on to form paragraphs. A new paragraph signifies the introduction of new ideas or the continuation of relevant information.

paragraph breaks in Poe

The equivalent of a paragraph in poetry is the stanza. Stanzas are groupings of lines which act as units of meaning, with different stanzas containing different ideas and images.

Stanza breaks

3. Prose vs. Poetry: Single vs. Multiple Meanings

In prose, the meaning of each word is usually straightforward, with double meanings (like puns and irony) clearly expressed. Most prose relies on clear meanings to deliver clear, linear messages.

By contrast, the language of poetry contains multitudes. One word can hold many different meanings, and ideas can be broken into both sentences and lines.

Take the line “old age should burn and rave at close of day.” The word rave can mean multiple things: it can mean to rant and rave as old people (stereotypically) do, or it can mean to rage and fight against. The pun here is intended to energize the reader,

4. Prose vs. Poetry: Noun-Verb Placements

In Standard English , which is the common (but not default) language of prose, nouns and verbs are found close to each other. This is a facet of “clear communication”—it’s important to know who is doing what as efficiently as possible.

We have bolded the noun-verb pairs in an excerpt from both the poem and prose piece.

noun-verb pairs: what is the difference between poetry and prose?

Notice how the noun-verb pairs can stray from each other much more easily in poetry. Dylan Thomas inserts a noun-verb pair between a noun-verb pair in each stanza—which is much harder to use effectively in prose.

noun-verb pairs prose and poetry

Notice that, in prose, a noun can have multiple verbs attached to it, but the first verb is almost always next to the noun.

5. Prose vs. Poetry: Rhyme (Sometimes)

There are two types of rhyme: internal and external rhyme. External rhyme occurs at the ends of lines, such as the many “-ight” words in Thomas’ poem.

Internal rhyme refers to words that rhyme with each other inside the same beat. These rhymes are not always intentional or charged with meaning, but they occur, such as in this sentence from Poe’s story:

“We had passed through walls of piled bones , with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs.”

Bones and catacombs aptly rhyme with each other. Note, rhyme is not a necessary feature of any prose and many poems. Though some poetry forms do require rhyme schemes, contemporary poets tend to eschew rhyming.

6. Prose vs. Poetry: Meter (Sometimes)

Like rhyme, meter is an (often) optional component of poetry writing. Meter refers to the stress patterns of syllables and the number of syllables per line. Well-executed meter can give poetry a certain musical quality.

Thomas’ poem is written in iambic pentameter, a requirement of the traditional villanelle form. This means there are 10 syllables in each line, following an unstressed-stressed pattern. To understand syllable stress, read Thomas’ poem out loud, and note how every second syllable is emphasized harder than the first.

Prose does not rely on meter to tell a story.

Prose does not have any metrical requirements, and thank goodness for that. Meter can be extraordinarily tough to impose on a poem, but it also affects how the reader interprets the piece. However, prose does not rely on meter to tell a story, as these poetry devices often instill multiple meanings in a piece.

7. Prose vs. Poetry: Pragmatic vs. Imaginative Focus

On a macro-level, the vision of poets and prose writers tends to differ. Prose has a pragmatic focus, meaning that each word should clearly advance a specific idea or narrative. The focus of prose is storytelling, so the author has a duty to use words diligently.

While poetry can tell stories, a poem rarely focuses on plot points, settings, and characters.

While poetry can tell stories, a poem rarely focuses on plot points, settings, and characters. Rather, poetry has an imaginative focus. Words are allowed to break their conventional bounds in the goal of expressing emotions, and ideas can stack upon each other like grains of sand in a sand castle.

So, what’s pragmatic about Poe, and what’s imaginative about Thomas? Every word in Poe’s piece describes details and events that push the reader towards the climax. At no point does the reader jump out of the narrative to speculate or stargaze.

In Thomas’ poem, the words don’t point the reader towards a specific event, but they do encourage the reader to think deeply about abstract ideas. Old or young, the reader will contend with ideas of life, death, justice, goodness, and the judgment against our souls. In 19 lines of mostly concrete images, the poet asks us to read imaginatively—and in the process, to learn what we believe.

8. Prose vs. Poetry: Paraphrasability

A piece of prose can be summarized. If you ask “what is ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ about?”, it is possible to paraphrase the story and get the gist of its deeper meaning. In short, Poe’s story observes a man desperate for revenge, only to find that revenge often hurts both the punisher and the punished.

Poetry is generally harder to summarize than prose, because it tends to include greater multiplicities of meaning.

Poetry is generally harder to summarize than prose, because it tends to include greater multiplicities of meaning. No one can tell you what a certain poem means. They can tell you what it isn’t —for example, “Do Not Go Gentle” is not about heartbreak, war, or the summertime—but deciding what a poem means requires a reader’s own attention.

For example, one could summarize Thomas’ poem as “an ode to Thomas’ dying father, with a vengeful bent against mankind’s eventual death.” But, does saying that invoke Thomas’ juxtaposition of light and dark? His use of rhyme to draw a conceit? His need to believe in the transience of the soul? By the time you’ve summarized the poem, you’ve written something as long as the poem itself. Poetry cannot be paraphrased.

9. Prose vs. Poetry: Point of View

Prose and poetry treat “point of view” in very different ways. A point of view (POV) refers to who is telling the story. The storyteller doesn’t always have a name or a face, but they do inevitably change how a story is read.

In prose, there are 4 main POVs:

  • First Person (I): The story is told in the first person, from a character who is either the protagonist or adjacent to the protagonist. The Cask of Amontillado uses the first person POV.
  • Second Person (You): The story is told in the second person. Often, the writer will substitute “the protagonist” for “you,” making the story’s actions feel more intimate and personal. Second Person storytelling is rare, but not unheard of.
  • Third Person Limited (He/She/They): The story is told in the third person, and it focuses on the perspective of the protagonist. We have access to most of their thoughts and feelings, but our access to other people is limited by the protagonist’s perspective. Sometimes, writers combine this with the intimacy of 1st person narration, in a technique called free indirect discourse .
  • Third Person Omniscient (He/She/They): The story is told in the third person, and the narrator has access to everyone’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. We can jump from person to person with ease, interweaving webs of complex narratives together.

Some stories will also take a Third Person Mixed approach, meaning the meat of the story is told from the protagonist’s perspective, but the reader occasionally jumps to someone else’s POV or to a historical time period.

While poetry can use the same pronouns (I/You/He/She/They), it uses POV differently. A poem is always told from the perspective of “the speaker.” The speaker can be the poet themselves—Dylan Thomas is certainly the voice behind his poem, and he is certainly talking to his father. However, the correct approach is to always call the poem’s POV “the speaker,” as a poem can inhibit many different voices at once. Finally, poetry is much easier to apply to yourself when the speaker isn’t anyone in particular.

10. Prose vs. Poetry: Concision

Prose and poetry writers should both write concisely. Concise writing eschews redundancies and makes every word count. However, concision means something different for the two forms.

In prose, concision generally means that not a word is wasted in conveying information. Concise prose expresses its meaning clearly.

Concise prose expresses its meaning clearly.

Of course, good prose can still be long-winded, as long as this heightens the effect of the work. Take this sentence from Poe’s story:

“It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good-will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.”

These sentences are 19 and 27 words long, respectively. They can also be summarized as follows: “Fortunato thought my smile bore good-will, not the desire to immolate him.”

What does Poe’s long-windedness afford him? Despite being easily paraphrased, every word does count in these two sentences, because they are a part of the narrator’s characterization. He is a long-winded schemer, and that affects how the story must be told, since Poe has chosen the first person to make us intimate with the narrator’s internal conflict.

Poetry is a different situation. Because poetry has line breaks, stanzas, and (sometimes) rhyme and meter, its concision takes a different form. In a poem, it’s great if every word contains heavy meaning; it’s even greater when words contain multiplicities and challenge the reader’s ideas. Economy in poetry is maximizing its impact, musicality, and richness—not necessarily its clear, single meaning.

Economy in poetry is maximizing its impact, musicality, and richness—not necessarily its clear, single meaning.

If you stretched a poem into prose, it would read like a terrible short story, because the concision afforded to poetry is different than that of prose. Concise prose focuses more on clarity of meaning, and poetry more on maximizing the richness and impact of every syllable.

Poetry vs. Prose Venn Diagram

Any article like this risks making literature seem binary, as though prose and poetry were totally discrete entities; so in closing, it’s good to note again that writers, especially contemporary writers, often work at the intersection of prose and poetry, resulting in genres like the prose poem , the lyrical essay or the poetry novel . (And we haven’t even touched on scriptwriting, which is a different form of communication altogether.)

There is much to explore outside of poetry and prose; this article simply covers the basics. As you advance on your writing journey, don’t be afraid to experiment with words outside of the traditional “prose vs. poetry” binary. You might be shocked by what you can accomplish!

Explore both Prose and Poetry at Writers.com

Whether you’re experimenting with poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction, Writers.com has the classes to help you succeed. Take a look at our upcoming courses —and gain valuable insights from our instructors and writing community .

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Sean Glatch

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Great summary. I write poetry, prose poems, flash fiction and short stories so I’m using the grab bag of everything you said here! Never taught about line breaks, though. I see some poets going willy nilly all over the page. Maybe there just aren’t any rules where this is concerned…

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Plume

Essay on the Prose Poem by Charles Simic

Plume

I’m grateful to Peter Johnson for bringing Charles Simic’s brilliant, unpublished “Essay on the Prose Poem” to my attention. Although Simic wrote this essay ten years ago, twenty one years after he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book of prose poems titled The World Does Not End, it reads as freshly today as it did in 2010. Rife with Simic’s signature sprezzatura, it flows with enlightening commentary on the prose poem’s anomalous “form,” along with a bit of personal history behind his first impulse to write prose poetry in 1958, which he recalls had to do with “nerve.” “You just go on your nerve,” he remembers Frank O’Hara saying. “If someone is chasing you down the street with a knife, you just run.” And so he did, discovering a new paradoxical muse who carries a dual passport for traveling in the hybrid territory that prose poet master Russell Edson simply called “poetry mind.” Simic has traveled there ever since, while also continuing to write in lines. In explaining the prose poem’s enduring ironic appeal and validity as a legitimate poetic mode, Simic opines, “They “look like prose and act like poems because, despite the odds, they make themselves into fly-traps for our imagination.”

–Chard DeNiord

Essay on the Prose Poem by Charles Simic, delivered on June 1, 2010 at The Poetry Festival in Rotterdam

“. . . a cast-iron airplane that can actually fly, mainly because its pilot doesn’t seem to care if it does or not”

—Russell Edson

Prose poetry has been around for almost two centuries and still no one has managed to explain properly what it is. The customary definitions merely state that it is poetry written in prose and leave it at that. For many readers, such a concept is not just absurd but a blasphemy against everything they love about poetry. Free verse, of course, still has its opponents, but no one in their right mind would maintain that all genuine poetry must adhere to rhyme schemes or regular meters. It’s an entirely different matter when it comes to prose poetry. When a book of mine consisting entirely of poems in prose received the Pulitzer Prize in 1990, there was considerable protest from some of our more conservative literary critics, who demanded to know how a prize meant to honor poetry could be given to something that by definition is not poetry. I didn’t bother to defend myself from my detractors, but if I had, and had told them the true story of how the poems in  The World Doesn’t End  got written, they would have been even more outraged. Here then, finally, is my confession: I never once in my life sat down to write a prose poem. In other words, everything in that book came to me as if by accident.

I knew a number of my contemporaries who wrote prose poems and I liked what they wrote, but, for me, the writing of poetry was always about form and the struggle to fit words inside a line or a stanza. My notebooks are full of passages of verse endlessly revised and often crossed out. They also contained, in the years preceding the publication of that book, other kinds of writing that looked like narrative fragments, along with ideas for poems consisting of isolated phrases and images strung together.

It is my habit to revisit old notebooks from time to time and see if any of the drafts I’ve left behind can be salvaged. I never paid any attention to this other stuff, though, until the summer of 1988 when I inherited a computer from my son and decided to teach myself how to use it, and in the process store my poems on disks. One day, not having anything else to do, and since I suddenly liked how they sounded, I read and copied a few of these short passages of prose. By the time I had gone through a dozen notebooks, I had some one hundred and twenty pieces, most no longer than a few short paragraphs. Nevertheless, I begin to think that I might have a book there. After fussing over them for several months and reducing the manuscript to sixty-eight pieces, I showed it to my editor, who, to my surprise, offered to publish it. Oddly, it was only then that the question of what to call these little pieces came up. “Don’t call them anything,” I told my editor. “You have to call them  something ,” she explained to me, “so that the bookstore knows under what heading to shelve the book.” After giving it some thought, and with some uneasiness on my part, we decided to call them prose poems.

Once I reacquainted myself with these pieces, I began to recall something of the circumstances in which they had been written. A few words, a phrase, or an image had set me off and I had scribbled down quickly whatever came to my mind. As Frank O’Hara said, “You just go on your nerve. If someone is chasing you down the street with a knife, you just run.” For instance, one of the oldest dates back to 1958 when I was living in a rooming house in Greenwich Village and heard one night someone mutter outside my door, “Our goose is cooked.” Another one of these “poems” was a reaction to being asked by a publisher to compose a small memoir of my childhood. Thinking about this period of my life, and worrying about my ability to remember accurately many important events and understand their meaning, I realised how much more satisfying for me and the reader it would be if I made everything up. Here is what I wrote:

I was stolen by the gypsies. My parents stole me back. Then the gypsies stole me again. This went on for some time. One minute I was in the caravan suckling the dark teat of my new mother, the next I sat at the long dining room table eating my breakfast with a silver spoon.

It was the first day of spring. One of my fathers was singing in the bathtub; the other one was painting a live sparrow the colors of a tropical bird.

The hardest thing for poets is to free themselves from their own habitual way of seeing the world and find ways to surprise themselves. That’s what I liked about these pieces. They seemed effortless and, like all prose poems, came, as James Tate once said, in “deceptively simple packaging: the paragraph”. They were unpremeditated, and yet they could stand alone and even had a crazy logic of their own. I was having fun, of course. All poets do magic tricks. In prose poetry, pulling rabbits out of a hat is one of the primary impulses. This has to be done with spontaneity and nonchalance, concealing art and giving the impression that one writes without effort and almost without thinking − what Castiglione in his sixteenth-century  Book of the Courtier  called  sprezzatura . As such, prose poetry can be regarded as a remedy for every bane of affectation.

Once I mulled over these pieces of mine, I realized that they were not without precedent. I was well-acquainted with the thick international anthology,  The Prose Poem , which my late friend Michael Benedikt edited and published back in 1976. Starting with Aloysius Bertrand, the reader of this book encountered sixty-nine other practitioners of the art from all parts of the world. In addition to the the familiar names like Baudelaire, Lautréamont, Rimbaud, Jacob, Michaux, Ponge, there were lesser known ones like Kunnert, Cortázar and Björling, as well as total unknowns like Kharms, Arreola, Hagiwara, and many others. In his introduction to the anthology, Benedikt did not try to account for these differences, or even to attempt an extended definition, saying predictably that prose poetry is a genre of poetry written in prose, characterized by the intense use of virtually all devices of poetry except for the line break.

I would have placed emphasis on the subversive character of prose poetry. For me, it is a kind of writing determined to prove that there’s poetry beyond verse and its rules. Most often it has an informal, playful air, like the rapid, unfinished caricatures left behind on café napkins. Prose poetry depends on a collision of two impulses, those for poetry and those for prose, and it can either have a quiet meditative air or feel like a performance in a three-ring circus. It is savvy about the poetry of the past, but it thumbs its nose at verse that is too willed and too self-consciously significant. It mocks poetry by calling attention to the foolishness of its earnestness. Here in the United States, where poets speak with reverence of authentic experience and write poems about their dads taking them fishing when they were little, telling the reader even the name of the river and the kind of car they drove that day to make it sound more believable, one longs for poems in which imagination runs free and where tragedy and comedy can be shuffled as if they belonged in the same pack of cards.

In the 2009 anthology  An Introduction to the Prose Poem  published in the United States, the editors Brian Clements and Jamey Dunham attempt to classify the various kinds of prose poems in existence. Some of the twenty-four types they discuss and give examples of are more persuasive than others. Certainly, the use of anecdote, fable, autobiography, extended metaphor, parable, description of inanimate objects, journal entries, lists and dialogue have been frequently noted, but as Michel Delville has pointed out, often a poem may suggest a genre at the outset only to shed its guise and become something entirely different by its end. He also wonders whether there may be as many kinds of prose poems as there are practitioners. I agree. How do you describe a genre that declares total verbal freedom and about which every generalization one makes tends to be contradicted by a poem that has none of the properties one has just spelled out? As Russell Edson has written, “If the finished prose poem is considerate a piece of literature, this is quite incidental to the writing.” What makes us so fond of it, he says elsewhere, is its clumsiness, its lack of expectation or ambition.

Blue Notebook Number 10

There was once a red-haired man who had no eyes and no ears. He also had no hair, so he was called red-haired only in a manner of speaking. He wasn’t able to talk, because he didn’t have a mouth. He had no nose, either. He didn’t even have any arms or legs. He also didn’t have a stomach and he didn’t have a back, and he didn’t have a spine, and he also didn’t have any other insides. He didn’t have anything. So it’s hard to understand who we’re talking about. So we’d better not talk about him anymore.

(translated by George Gibian)

The old Russian avant-garde storyteller and playwright, Daniil Kharms, most likely didn’t regard this piece of his as a poem. Naturally, one of the main impulses for writing such a piece is to escape all labels. David Lehman, the editor of  Great American Prose Poems  (2003), even argues that some of the works he includes in the anthology may be both poetry and short fiction. Still, the question remains: what makes it poetry? Or more to the point, what made me believe that the fragments I found in my notebooks might indeed be poems?

The answer lies in the contradiction I have already alluded to. Prose poetry is a monster-child of two incompatible impulses, one which wants to tell a story and another, equally powerful, which wants to freeze an image, or a bit of language, for our scrutiny. In prose, sentence follows sentence till they have had their say. Poetry, on the other hand, spins in place. The moment we come to the end of a poem, we want to go back to the beginning and reread it, suspecting more there than meets the eye. Prose poems call on our powers to make imaginative connections between seemingly disconnected fragments of language, as anyone who has ever read one of these little-understood, always original and often unforgettable creations knows. They look like prose and act like poems, because, despite the odds, they make themselves into fly-traps for our imagination.

‘Blue Notebook Number 10’ was first published in Benedikt, M.  The Prose Poem: An International Anthology , Dell, New York, 1976.

And a bonus: a poem from Chard DeNiord, written on the occasion of Harvard Review’s publication of a feature issue on Mr. Simic in which Chard’s essay, “He Who Remembers His Shoes”, appeared. The poem also appears in his book Night Mowing in 2005, as well as in the  journal ForPoetry.

DINNER WITH CHARLIE

             I am moved like you, Mad Tom, by a line of ants;

             I behold their industry and they are giants.

Derek Walcott

We’re at the White Hotel. I pick up my fork straight out of hell and pin down my steak. Cut it with my knife. “Father confessor… Tongue all alone.” Charlie does the same with his duck.

We feed each other to practice for heaven. A red ant appears on the table in front of us. We watch him climb the dune of a napkin, traverse the desert of the table cloth.

“High yellow of my heart,” says Charlie, reciting Emile Roumer. “I had to search for him as a youth in New York. This ‘lowly’ Haitian who raised me up. This solitary ant on the table of America.”

The hawk-eyed waiter notices the ant from across the room and descends on him with a silent butler. “I apologize for this intrusion. There must be a nest somewhere that escaped our exterminator.” “We were rooting for him,” says Charlie, “to make it this once, like Lawrence of Arabia.”

A beautiful woman removes her coat and enters the room with an ugly man.

“You want dessert?” I ask. “I can’t decide between the creme brulé and chocolate mousse.”

Charlie is silent for a moment, staring into space through the shadow in his glasses. “I’ll have some more wine is all,” says Charlie. “The Cabernet Sauvignon.” There is a draft in the hall that blows through the room and stirs the hem of the beautiful woman.

The ant returns with a crumb on his shoulder and bruise on his head. We give him cover. Charlie shifts in his chair with a smile that’s clipped at the corners. “We’re on that ant,” he says. “He’s our Atlas bearing us into the world.”

Those interested can find biographical information on Charles Simic here

Chard deNiord is the poet laureate of Vermont and author of six books of poetry, most recently Interstate , (The University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015) and The Double Truth (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011).  deNiord is a professor of English and Creative Writing at Providence College, where he has taught since 1998, and a trustee of the Ruth Stone Trust. He lives in Westminster West, Vermont with his wife Liz.

essay on prose

Author: Charles Simic Simic Charles -->

Charles Simic , poet, essayist, and translator, was born in Yugoslavia in 1938 and immigrated to the United States in 1954. Since 1967, he has published twenty books of his own poetry, in addition to a memoir; the essay collection  The Life of Images ; and numerous books of translations for which he has received many literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Griffin Prize, the MacArthur Fellowship, and the Wallace Stevens Award. Simic is a frequent contributor to  The New York Review of Books  and in 2007 was chosen as poet laureate of the United States. He is emeritus professor at the University of New Hampshire, where he has taught since 1973, and is distinguished visiting writer at New York University. The unpublished essay that appears in this issue of Plume was delivered as a talk on June 1, 2010 at The Poetry Festival in Rotterdam.

Reading and Writing Outside Thebes: In Praise of Syntax by Kimberly Johnson

Flash essays by alfred corn.

More From Forbes

5 strategies to unlock your winning college essay.

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CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 29: People walk through the gate on Harvard Yard at the Harvard ... [+] University campus on June 29, 2023 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race-conscious admission policies used by Harvard and the University of North Carolina violate the Constitution, bringing an end to affirmative action in higher education. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

The college application season is upon us, and high school students everywhere are staring down at one of the most daunting tasks: the college essay. As someone who has guided countless applicants through the admissions process and reviewed admissions essays on an undergraduate admissions committee, I've pinpointed the essential ingredient to a differentiated candidacy—the core of your college admissions X-factor .

The essential ingredient to your college admissions X-factor is your intellectual vitality. Intellectual vitality is your passion for learning and curiosity. By demonstrating and conveying this passion, you can transform an average essay into a compelling narrative that boosts your chances of getting accepted to your top schools. Here are five dynamic strategies to achieve that goal.

Unleash Your Authentic Voice

Admissions officers sift through thousands of essays every year. What stops them in their tracks? An authentic voice that leaps off the page. Forget trying to guess what the admissions committee wants to hear. Focus on being true to yourself. Share your unique perspective, your passions, and your values. Authenticity resonates deeply with application reviewers, making your essay memorable and impactful. You need not have experienced trauma or tragedy to create a strong narrative. You can write about what you know—intellectually or personally—to convey your enthusiasm, creativity, and leadership. Intellectual vitality shines through when you write with personalized reflection about what lights you up.

Weave A Captivating Story

Everyone loves a good story, and your essay is the perfect place to tell yours. The Common Application personal statement has seven choices of prompts to ground the structure for your narrative. The most compelling stories are often about the smallest moments in life, whether it’s shopping at Costco or about why you wear socks that have holes. Think of the Common Application personal statement as a window into your soul rather than a dry list of your achievements or your overly broad event-based life story. Use vivid anecdotes to bring your experiences to life. A well-told story can showcase your growth, highlight your character, and illustrate how you've overcome challenges. Intellectual vitality often emerges in these narratives, revealing how your curiosity and proactive approach to learning have driven you to explore and innovate.

Reflect And Reveal Insights

It's not just about what you've done—it's about what you've learned along the way. When you are writing about a specific event, you can use the STAR framework—situation, task, action, and result (your learning). Focus most of your writing space on the “R” part of this framework to dive deeply into your experiences and reflect on how they've shaped your aspirations and identity.

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The most insightful college-specific supplement essays demonstrate depth of thought, and the ability to connect past experiences with your future life in college and beyond. Reflecting on your intellectual journey signals maturity and a readiness to embrace the college experience. It shows admissions officers that you engage deeply with your studies and are eager to contribute to the academic community.

Highlight Your Contributions—But Don’t Brag

Whether it's a special talent, an unusual hobby, or a unique perspective, showcasing what you can bring to the college environment can make a significant impact. Recognize that the hard work behind the accomplishment is what colleges are interested in learning more about—not retelling about the accomplishment itself. (Honors and activities can be conveyed in another section of the application.) Walk us through the journey to your summit; don’t just take us to the peak and expect us know how you earned it.

Intellectual vitality can be demonstrated through your proactive approach to solving problems, starting new projects, or leading initiatives that reflect your passion for learning and growth. These experiences often have a place in the college-specific supplement essays. They ground the reasons why you want to study in your major and at the particular college.

Perfect Your Prose

Great writing is essential. Anyone can use AI or a thesaurus to assist with an essay, but AI cannot write your story in the way that you tell it. Admissions officers don’t give out extra credit for choosing the longest words with the most amount of syllables.

The best essays have clear, coherent language and are free of errors. The story is clearly and specifically told. After drafting, take the time to revise and polish your writing. Seek feedback from teachers, mentors, or trusted friends, but ensure the final piece is unmistakably yours. A well-crafted essay showcases your diligence and attention to detail—qualities that admissions officers highly value. Intellectual vitality is also reflected in your writing process, showing your commitment to excellence and your enthusiasm for presenting your best self.

Crafting a standout college essay is about presenting your true self in an engaging, reflective, and polished manner while showcasing your intellectual vitality. Happy writing.

Dr. Aviva Legatt

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Language of Wars, genocides, and Conflict

WE ARE LOOKING FOR ESSAYS, REVIEWS, RESPONSES, POETRY, PROSE, AND VISUAL ART

Our engagement and  consideration of conflicts , both national and international, has undoubtedly changed in the 21st century, especially in recent years. With the aid of  media and modern technology , individuals and communities have a bigger space and opportunity to respond to  geopolitical events  which are both geographically far away and yet have never been closer.

Responses to  political conflicts, wars, and genocides,  however, must be  approached critically  together with the recognition of different roles and agents (such as international organisations, alliances or foreign governments), both current and past,  that shape the image, portrayal, and study  of these events.

In recent years, the rise of often  simplified mass media responses  (e.g. victim blaming or revisionism) to various painful historical events in human history has led to  a misuse of language  regarding such events as well as alleviation, conscious or not, of the atrocities occurring in our present and our past.

The language that is used to respond to political conflicts, acts of terrorism, wars, and crimes against humanity, however, should be challenged with the understanding that aggression of one country/ ethnicity/ religion/ group of individuals against another must be addressed appropriately with aggressor-victim dichotomy and not ambiguously.

ISSUES OF LANGUAGE AND TERMINOLOGY | COMMUNAL MEMORY AND GENERATIONAL | EXPERIENCE OF WAR CULTURAL GUILT AND VICTIM BLAMING | FRAGMENTATION OF NARRATIVES | GENOCIDE AND HUMANITARIANISM | POLITICAL DIALOGUES | RESOLUTIONS AND AFTERMATHS | INDIVIDUAL AND COMMUNAL VIOLENCE | JOURNALISM AND POPULISM DURING CONFLICT

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  1. Prose

    Prose is a literary device referring to writing that is structured in a grammatical way, with words and phrases that build sentences and paragraphs. Works wrote in prose feature language that flows in natural patterns of everyday speech. Prose is the most common and popular form of writing in fiction and non-fiction works.

  2. How to Write the AP Lit Prose Essay + Example

    A prose passage of approximately 500 to 700 words and a prompt will be given to guide your analytical essay. Worth about 18% of your total grade, the essay will be graded out of six points depending on the quality of your thesis (0-1 points), evidence and commentary (0-4 points), and sophistication (0-1 points).

  3. Prose: Definition and Examples

    a. Essays. You're probably familiar with essays. An essay makes some kind of argument about a specific question or topic. Essays are written in prose because it's what modern readers are accustomed to. b. Novels/short stories. When you set out to tell a story in prose, it's called a novel or short story (depending on length). Stories can ...

  4. How to Write the AP Lit Prose Essay with Examples

    Fifth: Give each literary device its own body paragraph. In this essay, the writer examines the use of two literary devices that are supported by multiple pieces of evidence. The first is "romantic imagery" and the second is "hyperbolic imagery.". The writer dedicates one paragraph to each idea. You should do this, too.

  5. What Is Prose In Writing? Find A Definition And Examples

    The term prose simply refers to spoken or written language. In the context of writing books, it describes a style of written words, distinct from poetry, numbers and metrics. One of the biggest tasks many writers face is improving their ability to write prose. This guide offers the quickest and easiest solutions.

  6. Prose in Literature: Definition & Examples

    Prose (PROHzuh) is written language that appears in its ordinary form, without metrical structure or line breaks. This definition is an example of prose writing, as are most textbooks and instruction manuals, emails and letters, fiction writing, newspaper and magazine articles, research papers, conversations, and essays.

  7. 12 Classic Essays on English Prose Style

    Classic Essays on English Prose Samuel Johnson on the Bugbear Style . There is a mode of style for which I know not that the masters of oratory have yet found a name; a style by which the most evident truths are so obscured, that they can no longer be perceived, and the most familiar propositions so disguised that they cannot be known. . . . This style may be called the terrifick, for its ...

  8. Writing a Prose Essay

    A prose essay is a type of essay written in prose, which is a natural, flowing form of language, as opposed to verse or poetry. Essentially, when you're asked to write a prose essay, you're being asked to write an essay in complete sentences, organized into paragraphs, that clearly communicates your thoughts and ideas. To write a prose essay, follow these steps: 1.

  9. When & How to Write a Prose

    Unless you're writing poetry, you're writing prose. (Remember that prose has a negative definition.) As we saw in §2, essays use prose. This is mainly just a convention - it's what readers are used to, so it's what writers use. In the modern world, we generally find prose easier to read, so readers prefer to have essays written that way.

  10. Prose: Understanding, Examples & Writing Tips

    Prose can take on many forms, depending on its purpose. Here are a few you may recognize: Narrative Prose: This type of prose tells a story. It's what you'll find in novels, short stories, and biographies. Nonfiction Prose: This form of prose shares real-life experiences, facts, or ideas. Think newspaper articles, essays, and textbooks.

  11. What You Need to Know About Prose

    Prose is ordinary writing (both fiction and nonfiction) as distinguished from verse. Most essays, compositions, reports, articles, research papers, short stories, and journal entries are types of prose writings. In his book The Establishment of Modern English Prose (1998), Ian Robinson observed that the term prose is "surprisingly hard to ...

  12. What Is Prose? Learn About the Differences Between Prose and Poetry

    Prose simply means language that follows the natural patterns found in everyday speech. In writing, prose refers to any written work that follows a basic grammatical structure (think words and phrases arranged into sentences and paragraphs). This stands out from works of poetry, which follow a metrical structure (think lines and [stanzas](https ...

  13. What is Prose

    In writing, prose is a style used that does not follow a structure of rhyming or meter. Rather, prose follows a grammatical structure using words to compose phrases that are arranged into sentences and paragraphs. It is used to directly communicate concepts, ideas, and stories to a reader. Prose follows an almost naturally verbal flow of ...

  14. 10 Important Literary Devices in Prose: Examples & Analysis

    3. Diction. You'll often hear that "diction" is just a fancy term for "word choice.". While this is true, it's also reductive, and it doesn't capture the full importance of select words in your story. Diction is one of the most important literary devices in prose, as every prose writer will use it.

  15. What is Prose? Definition, Examples of Literary Prose

    Essays are also written in prose. The philosopher Sir Francis Bacon, who influenced founders of the American colonies, wrote the essay "On Nobility" in which he speaks on nobility in government. For nobility attempers sovereignty, and draws the eyes of the people, somewhat aside from the line royal. But for democracies, they need it not ...

  16. Revelations of Language: On Prose Poetry and the Beauty of a Single

    For the May 19, 1917 issue of The New Statesman, T.S. Eliot wrote a short essay "The Borderline of Prose.". He observes "a recrudescence of the poem in prose" across the world. He wonders if "poetry and prose form a medium of infinite gradations," or if "we are searching for new ways of expression.".

  17. English literature

    English literature - Prose, Novels, Poetry: The earliest English prose work, the law code of King Aethelberht I of Kent, was written within a few years of the arrival in England (597) of St. Augustine of Canterbury. Other 7th- and 8th-century prose, similarly practical in character, includes more laws, wills, and charters. According to Cuthbert, who was a monk at Jarrow, Bede at the time of ...

  18. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    Table of contents. Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices. Step 2: Coming up with a thesis. Step 3: Writing a title and introduction. Step 4: Writing the body of the essay. Step 5: Writing a conclusion. Other interesting articles.

  19. Prose vs. Poetry: Their Differences, Overlaps, and Writing Each

    Prose vs. Poetry: Defining Prose. Prose is the more common writing form that everyone is comfortable reading and writing. This article relies on prose—as do most (but not all!) novels, and just about all news stories, instruction manuals, scientific papers, and so on.

  20. Understanding Prose Poetry: Definition and Examples

    When it comes to creative expression within the English language, most artforms fall into one of two categories: prose or poetry. Prose includes pieces of writing like novels, short stories, novellas, and scripts. These kinds of writing contain the kind of ordinary language heard in everyday speech. Poetry includes song lyrics, various poetry forms, and theatrical dialogue containing poetic ...

  21. Prose

    Prose encompasses much of what the modern reader encounters daily, whether in the form of a novel, magazine article, newspaper, short story, essay, memoir, or some similar medium. Origin of Prose ...

  22. Essay on the Prose Poem by Charles Simic

    In explaining the prose poem's enduring ironic appeal and validity as a legitimate poetic mode, Simic opines, "They "look like prose and act like poems because, despite the odds, they make themselves into fly-traps for our imagination." -Chard DeNiord . Essay on the Prose Poem by Charles Simic,

  23. 5 Strategies To Unlock Your Winning College Essay

    Perfect Your Prose Great writing is essential. Anyone can use AI or a thesaurus to assist with an essay, but AI cannot write your story in the way that you tell it.

  24. cfp

    WE ARE LOOKING FOR ESSAYS, REVIEWS, RESPONSES, POETRY, PROSE, AND VISUAL ART. Our engagement and consideration of conflicts, both national and international, has undoubtedly changed in the 21st century, especially in recent years.With the aid of media and modern technology, individuals and communities have a bigger space and opportunity to respond to geopolitical events which are both ...