Prose is a form of language that exhibits a natural flow of speech and grammatical structure rather than a regular rhythmic structure as in traditional poetry, where the common unit of verse is based on metre or rhyme. Though, as T. S. Eliot noted, while "the distinction between verse and prose is clear, the distinction between poetry and prose is obscure". Developments in modern literature, including free verse and prose poetry have tended to blur any differences.
Prose in its simplicity and loosely defined structure is broadly adaptable to spoken dialogue, factual discourse, and to topical and fictional writing. It is systematically produced and published within literature, journalism (including newspapers, magazines, and broadcasting), encyclopedias, film, history, philosophy, law, and in almost all forms and processes requiring human communications.
The word "prose" first appears in English in the 14th century. It is derived from the Old French prose, which in turn originates in the Latin expression prosa oratio (literally, straightforward or direct speech).
Isaac Newton in The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms wrote "The Greek Antiquities are full of Poetical Fictions, because the Greeks wrote nothing in Prose, before the Conquest of Asia by Cyrus the Persian. Then Pherecydes Scyrius and Cadmus Milesius introduced the writing in Prose." The website https://theprose.com/ later wrote, in response, "Of course Newton did not discover any law of linguistic nature mandating that no matter how freeform, spontaneous, or unstructured a literary statement may be, it will always contain poetic elements, just as non-ionized elements will always contain electrons; the best prose contains the greatest poetic charge outputted by the smallest poetic effort."
Prose lacks the more formal metrical structure of verse that can be found in traditional poetry. Prose comprises full grammatical sentences, which then constitute paragraphs while overlooking aesthetic appeal, whereas poetry often involves a metrical and/or rhyming scheme. Some works of prose contain traces of metrical structure or versification and a conscious blend of the two literature formats known as prose poetry. Verse is considered to be more systematic or formulaic, whereas prose is the most reflective of ordinary (often conversational) speech. On this point, Samuel Taylor Coleridge jokingly requested that novice poets should know the "definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose—words in their best order; poetry—the best words in their best order."
Monsieur Jourdain asked for something to be written in neither verse nor prose. A philosophy master replied there is no other way to express oneself than with prose or verse, for the simple reason being that everything that is not prose is verse, and everything that is not verse is prose. Molière, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
... I believe a story can be wrecked by a faulty rhythm in a sentence— especially if it occurs toward the end—or a mistake in paragraphing, even punctuation. Henry James is the maestro of the semicolon. Hemingway is a first-rate paragrapher. From the point of view of ear, Virginia Woolf never wrote a bad sentence. I don't mean to imply that I successfully practice what I preach. I try, that's all.
Many types of prose exist, which include nonfictional prose, heroic prose, prose poem, polyphonic prose, alliterative prose, prose fiction, and village prose in Russian literature. A prose poem is a composition in prose that has some of the qualities of a poem.
Many forms of creative or literary writing use prose, including novels and short stories. Writer Truman Capote thought that the short story was "the most difficult and disciplining form of prose writing extant".
- Eliot T S 'Poetry & Prose: The Chapbook' Poetry Bookshop London 1921
- "prose (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
- Newton, Isaac. The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended. Gutenberg. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
- "The Etymology of Prose". Prose. Retrieved 2016-02-24.
- "Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (1913)". University of Chicago reconstruction. Archived from the original on 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
- "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme". English translation accessible via Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
- Hill, Pati. "Truman Capote, The Art of Fiction No. 17". The Paris Review. Spring-Summer 1957 (16). Retrieved 18 February 2015.
- Merriam-Webster (1995). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Merriam-Webster, Inc. p. 542. ISBN 0877790426.
- Lehman, David (2008). Great American Prose Poems. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 1439105111.
- "Prose". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
- "Prose poem". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-05-27.