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Prose is a form of language that exhibits a grammatical structure and a natural flow of speech rather than a rhythmic structure (as in traditional poetry). While there are critical debates on the construction of prose, its simplicity and loosely defined structure have led to its adoption for use in the majority of spoken dialogue, factual discourse and both topical and fictional writing. It is commonly used, for example, in literature, newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias, broadcasting, film, history, philosophy, law and other forms of communication.
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 (lit. straightforward or direct speech).
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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."
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 and overlook aesthetic appeal, whereas poetry typically 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, including 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".
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- "prose (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
- Newton, Isaac. The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended. Gutenberg. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
- "Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (1913)". University of Chicago reconstruction. 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.
- Kuiper, Kathleen (2011). Prose: Literary Terms and Concepts. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 1615304940. 244 pages.
- Shklovsky, Viktor (1991). Theory of Prose. Dalkey Archive Press. ISBN 0916583643. 216 pages.
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