What is Prose?

Prose may not be a familiar to many, but it’s a style of writing and communication that many of us use daily. Many of us write e-mails, post status updates on social networks and write letters, which are all examples of prose.

What Does Prose Mean?

To better understand prose, it helps to understand where the word originates from. Prose derives from the Latin word, ‘prosa,’ which in turn translates to ‘straightforward’ in English.

This means that prose by its very nature is both meaningful and grammatical, and minus rhyming and metrical structure. For example, if you write poetry, then it is very likely that you will not be using prose.

Another way to look at prose is as a piece of writing that mirrors the way we speak. For example, many of us peruse a number of websites to find out the most recent news in relation to our hobbies and interests. People will find that as they read the article or blog post, it is written in such a way that it emulates a person speaking to you, so will not contain any kind of metered structure.

A book with glasses

There are a plethora of different works that use prose, and as you can see from the following examples, we all actively engage in prose regularly. Some examples include:

  • Short Stories
  • Novels
  • Plays
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Blog Posts
  • Screenplays

However, just because many of engage in prose every day, it doesn’t mean that we should let our standards slip, so writers who fine-tune their writing skills, will be able to apply prose more effectively.

Guidelines for Writing Prose

While many writers have a good understanding of prose, some may still struggle with the concept initially. Fortunately, there are a number of guidelines that writers can refer to, to ensure that they implementing prose in the right kind of way. Here are some helpful guidelines to help you along.

  • Say what you want to say, try and avoid unnecessary filler.
  • The piece of writing should be free of ambiguity, and not written in general terms. A writer should consider the reader, and ascertain as to whether the piece of work will leave them in any doubt about the content and the message it is trying to convey.
  • Active voice is often preferred when relaying information to the reader, passive voice should only be used where necessary.
  • Try to avoid being too technical. Just because the writer understands the subject matter, this doesn’t mean the reader will. Assume the reader doesn’t know too much about the subject, and write the content in layman’s terms.

As well as prose being used in news articles and blog posts, it is also used in a number of novels and other works of fiction. However, if writing a novel, there are some guidelines to follow to ensure that your work is that of a clean writer, with no obese sentences and flashy adjectives.

  • Avoid clichés were possible.
  • Short sentences are often, but they still have to flow. Having a group of jumpy and disjoined words will only add confusion for the reader.
  • If you’re not too sure as to how well you work reads, then simply read it aloud. Not only will you be able to pick up on the flow of the content, but also smooth out some of the rougher edges for an easier read.
  • When indicating dialogue, never use any other word other than ‘said.’
  • Don’t use long words for the sake of using them. Remember, somebody has to read your work, so if they have to constantly refer to a dictionary, then it’s only going to cause frustration and a stern disinterest in your work. Evidently, there are times when using a big word can’t be avoided, but they should only be used in this circumstance.
  • Try to ascertain what information and detail is necessary. When writing a novel, authors may be tempted to go into great detail about the actions of the characters, but are they required to tell the story? If not, then such descriptions should be removed. Not only does it add unnecessary filler to an author’s work, but it could also leave the reader a little underwhelmed.

As you can see, although prose is straightforward, there are still a few guidelines to consider to ensure that any kind of work is presented in a clear and informed way that can be easily understood.

Gaining a better understanding of prose means writers can avoid some of the pitfalls associated with writing, such as flowery adjectives and over-complicated descriptions, for a more easy-on-the-eye piece of work that will appeal to a larger readership.

Richard Hammond

I am the founder of 9Mousai and am deeply interested in creativity and what inspires it. My main passions are writing, film and music but I have huge respect for the arts. I'm also an animal lover and have a little cat called Winston and enjoy the odd whiskey.

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