What is Prose? Definition, Examples of Prose

Definition of prose: Prose is often defined as straightforward rather than poetic writing.

What is Prose?

When identifying a piece of writing as prose, the piece should be written in a typical, straightforward manner. It will follow grammatical structures rather than a meter or verse pattern.

Examples of Prose in Writing

Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, is a work of nonfiction that utilizes prose when describing the effect the fair had on the local hospitals:

  • “With so many people packed among the steam engines, giant rotating wheels, horse-drawn fire trucks, and rocketing bobsleds, the fair’s ambulances superintended by a doctor named Gentles were constantly delivering bruised, bloody, and overheated visitors to the exposition hospital.”

Mark Haddon also writes using prose in his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time when his teenaged protagonist finds his neighbor’s murdered dog:

  • “It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs. Shears’s house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead.”

Different 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.

Nonfictional prose writings are pieces that are written that contain mostly facts but may contain pieces of fictional information for literary purposes. Many memoirs can be described as nonfictional prose because the writers often include fictional information to make their life stories more interesting for the readers.

Fictional prose is writing that is entirely made up by the authors such as in short stories or in novels. These are pieces such as J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series or Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Heroic prose pieces are written or oral stories that follow the traditional structure used by oral expressionists such as Homer’s The Illiad and The Odyssey. Both of these pieces include such structures as an invocation to the Muses or epithets that are used in oral storytelling.

Prose in poetry refers to works that include large amounts of poetic devices such as imagery, alliteration, and rhythm but are still written in a straightforward manner rather than in verse form.

The Function of Prose

Prose is used when the writer wants to tell a story in a straightforward manner. It should be used when the writer wants their writing to resemble everyday speech.

Examples of Prose in Literature

Here are some examples of prose in literature:

Nonfictional prose can be found in Zora Neale Hurston’s autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road because the piece is told in a straightforward manner:

  • “I was born in a Negro town. I do not mean by that the black back-side of an average town. Eatonville, Florida, is, and was at the time of my birth, a pure Negro town—charter, mayor, council, town marshal and all.”

Fictional prose is used in John Kennedy Toole’s only novel A Confederacy of Dunces:

  • Ignatius himself was dressed comfortably and sensibly. The hunting cap prevented head colds. The voluminous tweed trousers were durable and permitted unusually free locomotion.”

Dramatic prose can be found in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare often uses prose in this play when servants talk to show their lack of education and has higher-class characters talk in verse form. Here a servant speaks:

  • “Now I’ll tell you without asking: my master is the great rich Capulet; and if you be not of the house of Montagues, I pray, come and crush a cup of wine. Rest you merry!”


Define prose: Prose is writing that resembles everyday speech. It is straightforward, ordinary language rather than following a meter or rhythmic pattern like poetry.

Final example of prose:

Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem is written using the ordinary language found in prose:

  • “It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is base and evil.”