Prose in Literature — Definition, Types, and Examples (2023)

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.


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.

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.

(Video) Prose in English Literature: Definition, Characteristics, Types, Forms, Style, and Examples

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.

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.

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.

(Video) Major Forms of Prose

Nonfictional prose

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.

Fictional prose

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

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.

Prose poetry

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.

(Video) Types of Prose in English Literature and Definitions

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.

(Video) What is Prose? | Forms of Literature | Types of Prose in English Literature | Nonfictional Prose

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.

Up Next

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 →


What is prose definitions and examples? ›

Prose is so-called "ordinary writing" — made up of sentences and paragraphs, without any metrical (or rhyming) structure. If you write, "I walked about all alone over the hillsides," that's prose. If you say, "I wondered lonely as a cloud/that floats on high o'er vales and hills" that's poetry.

What is types of prose in literature? ›

Four types of prose:

Nonfictional prose. Fictional prose. Prose poetry. Heroic prose.

What are 3 examples of prose? ›

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.

Are there how many types of prose? ›

Prose is divided into two main divisions: Fiction. Non fiction.

What are the elements of prose examples? ›

The construction of Prose is often dependent on some elements like characters, theme, setting, plot, perspective, and mood.

What is prose literature? ›

Prose in English literature is a very common type of writing - it refers to any writing that follows the conventions of speech and language. As such, it's grammatically and syntactically correct, and flows like speech. Most of the writing that you read and produce will probably be prose.

What are 4 examples of prose? ›

This definition of prose is an example of prose writing, as is most human conversation, textbooks, lectures, novels, short stories, fairy tales, newspaper articles, and essays.

What are the 6 features of prose? ›

The elements of prose are: character, plot, setting, theme, and style.
  • Nonfictional Prose: A literary work that is mainly based on fact although it may contain fictional elements in certain cases. ...
  • Fictional Prose: A literary work that is wholly or partly imagined or theoretical.
Nov 13, 2019

What are the 3 types of literature? ›

The three major genres are Prose, Drama, and Poetry.

What are the 3 major types of poetry? ›

Types of Poetry

The three main kinds are lyric, narrative, and dramatic. Lyric poetry is the most common type and includes haiku, ode, elegy, and limerick. Dramatic poetry lets the poems characters tell the story.

What are the two classification of prose? ›

The two major categories of prose are fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction includes history, science, philosophy, cookbooks, etc. Fiction includes novels, short stories, etc. Sometimes the lines blur.

How do you identify prose? ›

Prose is the term for any sustained wodge of text that doesn't have a consistent rhythm. Poetry or verse is different: verse has a set rhythm (or meter), and it looks distinctive on the page as the lines are usually shorter than prose.

What is words of prose? ›

the ordinary form of spoken or written language, without metrical structure, as distinguished from poetry or verse. matter-of-fact, commonplace, or dull expression, quality, discourse, etc.

What are the main types of prose? ›

While prose can be broadly defined as straightforward writing that resembles everyday spoken word, there are categories that prose can be broken into: nonfiction, fictional, heroic, and poetry.

What are the major form of prose? ›

In summary, prose comes mainly in nonfiction, fiction, heroic, or poetic form. Understanding the nuances of each of these can help you widen your own experience, and further appreciate what you are reading.

What are the 5 genres of prose drama? ›

Poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, and prose are the five main genres of literature. Writers can then further categorize their literature into subgenres.

What are functions of prose? ›

In literature, the basic purpose of prose in writing is to convey an idea, deliver information, or tell a story. It is the way a writer fulfills her basic promise to a reader to deliver a story with characters, setting, conflict, a plot, and a final payoff.

Which one of the following is not a type of prose? ›

The correct answer is 'Snake. '

What are the 7 elements of prose? ›

What are the Elements of a Story?
  • 1 — A Theme. Plot (#5) is what happens in a story, a theme is why it happens—which you need to know while you're writing the plot. ...
  • 2 — Characters. I'm talking believable characters who feel knowable. ...
  • 3 — Setting. ...
  • 4 — Point of View. ...
  • 5 — Plot. ...
  • 6 — Conflict. ...
  • 7 — Resolution.
Aug 28, 2020

What is theme in prose? ›

A theme is a central, unifying idea. It's the bigger issue that emerges as the characters pursue their goals.

What is prose fiction simple definition? ›

36• Prose fiction is narrative written without a metrical pattern that tells an imaginary or invented story. The most common genres of prose fiction in modern literature are novels and short stories. Novels tend to be much longer than short stories.

What is one example of prose quizlet? ›

prose deals with information that has some claim to fact, reality, or history. Some examples are textbooks, newspaper articles, and biographies.

What are the rules for writing prose? ›

9 Ways To Perfect Your Prose Style:
  • Avoid clichés.
  • Be accurate.
  • Keep it short.
  • Trust your reader.
  • Cull your adjectives.
  • Mix your rhythms.
  • Ditch the modifiers, let the verbs do the work.
  • Use unexpected words to shock readers into understanding.

What is literary elements in prose? ›

A literary element refers to components of a literary work (character, setting, plot, theme, frame, exposition, ending/denouement, motif, titling, narrative point-‐of-‐view). These are technical terms for the “what” of a work.

What are 4 types of literature? ›

In the landscape of literature, there are four major genres: poetry, drama, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

What is the writer of a prose called? ›

One who writes a prose is generally known as the author.

What are the 3 main literary elements? ›

A literary element, or narrative element, or element of literature is an essential characteristic of all works of written and spoken narrative fiction. Literary elements include plot, theme, character and tone.

What are the five 5 major elements of poetry? ›

The basic elements of poetry include meter, rhyme, scheme, verse, and stanza. In order to dive deeper into poetry, students will first need to understand these structural elements.

What are 4 lines in a poem called? ›

A quatrain in poetry is a series of four-lines that make one verse of a poem, known as a stanza. A quatrain can be its own poem or one section within a larger poem. The poetic term is derived from the French word “quatre,” which means “four.”

What are 3 line poems called? ›

A poetic unit of three lines, rhymed or unrhymed.

What are two features of prose? ›

Prose uses spontaneous and colloquial language. Prose is by norm written in complete and unambiguous sentences. 2. Sequence: Prose is made up of characters and incidences that are organized in a chronological order.

What are the 5 features of prose? ›

The elements of prose are: character, plot, setting, theme, and style. Of these five elements, character is the who, plot is the what, setting is the where and when, theme is the why, and style is the how of a story.

What are the 6 elements of prose? ›

  • Theme. Theme is the general idea of a story.
  • Setting. Setting is the information of the where the story occur and the time of the story. ...
  • Plot. Plot is the sequence of events.
  • Point of View. ...
  • Character and Characterization. ...
  • Symbols. ...
  • Atmosphere.
Jan 1, 2013

What are the four element of prose? ›

The basic elements of prose are: character, setting, plot, point of view, and mood. Character refers to: biographical information; personality traits; social roles, and psychological factors such as aspirations, fears, and personal values.

What are common components of prose? ›

Qualities. Prose usually lacks the more formal metrical structure of the verses found in traditional poetry. It comprises full grammatical sentences (other than in stream of consciousness narrative), and paragraphs, whereas poetry often involves a metrical or rhyming scheme.

What are words for prose? ›

synonyms for prose
  • composition.
  • essay.
  • fiction.
  • nonfiction.
  • speech.
  • story.
  • text.
  • writing.


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