What's the difference between essay and prose ?


  • (n.) An effort made, or exertion of body or mind, for the performance of anything; a trial; attempt; as, to make an essay to benefit a friend.
  • (n.) A composition treating of any particular subject; -- usually shorter and less methodical than a formal, finished treatise; as, an essay on the life and writings of Homer; an essay on fossils, or on commerce.
  • (n.) An assay. See Assay, n.
  • (n.) To exert one's power or faculties upon; to make an effort to perform; to attempt; to endeavor; to make experiment or trial of; to try.
  • (n.) To test the value and purity of (metals); to assay. See Assay.

Example Sentences:

  • (1) Two days after Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse , published a beautiful essay calling for this year's First World War commemorations to " honour those who died " and "celebrate the peace we now share", Michael Gove has delivered the government's response.
  • (2) The rationale for pursuing the development and use of germ-line selection and modification techniques is examined in this essay.
  • (3) This essay reviews research on interhemispheric transfer time derived from simple unimanual reaction time to hemitachistoscopically presented visual stimuli.
  • (4) What is correct in a tweet might not be in an essay; no single register of English is right for every occasion.
  • (5) Unsurprisingly, one of the three lonely references at the end of O'Reilly's essay is to a 2012 speech entitled " Regulation: Looking Backward, Looking Forward" by Cass Sunstein , the prominent American legal scholar who is the chief theorist of the nudging state.
  • (6) The present essay gives a brief review of the findings on sex differences in the human brain.
  • (7) Evidence exists in the literature to suggest that the reliability of short (c. 10 minutes) essay questions may be higher.
  • (8) This pictorial essay should assist the radiologist in recognizing esophageal abnormalities on chest films and in recognizing their place in the spectrum of chest film abnormalities.
  • (9) This two-part essay identified major characteristics of War Surgery and explores the essential training and education required to prepare civilian and military surgeons for the practice of war surgery.
  • (10) They then wrote essays justifying their ideas for the new classroom; provided a budget, using a variety of maths skills; created an inventory of furniture, lighting and other items; producing a 3D scale model of their classroom and a 2D computer-generated picture.
  • (11) In the last part of the essay he discusses the characteristics of traditional Chinese medical ethics.
  • (12) Upon further consideration, we concluded the essay did not include some key facts and its overall tone was not consistent with what we seek to publish.
  • (13) You can date the phrase back further, to 1998, when Peggy McIntosh used the word "privilege" in her essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack .
  • (14) Over the past 40 years her voice has been marked, first and foremost, by a supreme intellectual confidence, a tone evident from the first line of the first essay (Notes on Camp) that made her name in 1964: "Many things in the world have not been named.
  • (15) The life of Oliver Wendell Holmes was selected as the subject for a lecture in the 1974 History of Medicine series at Yale University School of Medicine because, as the Latin subtitle of the essay suggests, he represents a fortunate and uncommon, but by no means unique, synthesis of the practical and aesthetic, of science and the humanities.
  • (16) Facebook Twitter Pinterest In an essay for the Hollywood Reporter, Camille Paglia writes that Swift promotes a ‘silly, regressive public image’.
  • (17) In a 2010 essay, Berman wrote of visiting the Bronx again, with trepidation, fearing that the borough's notorious self-immolation would have left nothing of the world he remembered.
  • (18) Batoor is a talented photojournalist who worked on the PR team at the US Embassy in Kabul before he was targeted for a bold and confronting photo essay on the exploitation of Afghanistan’s "dancing boys" in the Washington Post.
  • (19) Today we are starting a new series called ‘Facing my fear’, launching with an essay from a young widow who had to return to the city where she first met her late husband .
  • (20) As Geoff Dyer notes in his essay for Dewe Mathews's book, her images may "bear a conceptual resemblance to Sternfeld's, but they are taken within the already charged zone of memory that is the Western Front.
  • (n.) The ordinary language of men in speaking or writing; language not cast in poetical measure or rhythm; -- contradistinguished from verse, or metrical composition.
  • (n.) Hence, language which evinces little imagination or animation; dull and commonplace discourse.
  • (n.) A hymn with no regular meter, sometimes introduced into the Mass. See Sequence.
  • (a.) Pertaining to, or composed of, prose; not in verse; as, prose composition.
  • (a.) Possessing or exhibiting unpoetical characteristics; plain; dull; prosaic; as, the prose duties of life.
  • (v. t.) To write in prose.
  • (v. t.) To write or repeat in a dull, tedious, or prosy way.
  • (v. i.) To write prose.
  • (1) Comic writing can be a brutal, unforgiving business, yet it can produce great and multi-layered prose, combining comedy, pathos and satire.
  • (2) The prose rhythm and colloquial diction here work against exaggeration, but allow for humour.
  • (3) In the first, span and free-recall measures were obtained for 24 subjects, each tested with four types of spoken material (nonsense syllables, random words, fourth-order approximations to English, and normal prose).
  • (4) But his magnificent, exact rendering of the world, in his mordant, civilised and generous prose, has no comparison.
  • (5) With prose that takes the English language and infuses it with inflections and a history that is uniquely Igbo, discernibly Nigerian and unmistakably African, Achebe's is a realism that ensures the enduring relevance of his fiction.
  • (6) It was concluded that CAs are more effective and more efficient than prose for teaching clinical decisionmaking.
  • (7) Young and old adults were tested for recall of ideas presented in a 641 word prose passage.
  • (8) "The inauguration address was poetry, and now people are looking for some prose," said Alden Meyer, policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
  • (9) Louise Glück’s prose-poem collection, Faithful and Virtuous Night , won for poetry.
  • (10) He writes poetry and prose, he writes news reports and short stories.
  • (11) Pinter adores poetry, would perhaps have preferred his poetry to have taken precedence over his plays, and his prose often has the compression and musicality of poetry, what he calls the "question of rhythm".
  • (12) These models account for a broad range of memory-related processes, including word recognition, sentence verification, prose comprehension, and sentence production.
  • (13) • Various Voices: Prose, Poetry and Politics 1948-98 is published by Faber (£9.99).To order it at the special price of £7.99 plus 99p p&p, freephone 0500 600 102 or send a cheque payable to The Guardian CultureShop to 250 Western Avenue, London, W3 6EE.
  • (14) His narrative has the simple directness of the finest English prose: the overall effect is both intimate and majestic Perhaps he was lucky.
  • (15) Featuring handwritten lyrics and prose drawn from his notebooks and scraps of paper he kept in ringbinders, the selection was put together with the help of journalist Jon Savage .
  • (16) Ada banyak prakarsa dari bawah ke atas, mulai dari usaha pengelolaan sampah hingga tingkat nol sampai proses pengelolaan air kotor secara komunal.
  • (17) Subjects suffering from persecutory delusions, psychiatric controls and normal subjects were required to recall immediately six passages of prose, half of which contained mildly threatening propositions.
  • (18) But given how addictive the prose was in Constellation, where Marra was lyrical but also drover quickly, those who loved the John Leonard Prize winner a couple of years back are certainly hungering for more.
  • (19) P3 measures, physiological (body temperature, heart rate, subjective alertness), and cognitive performance (digit span, prose memory, digit symbol) variables were assessed.
  • (20) Someone with a decent prose style should do a proper translation of it.

Words possibly related to " essay "



Words possibly related to " prose "




English Guide

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What is the difference between prose and essay?


- Describing a form of written or spoken language that is not poetry. - Referring to a style of writing that is straightforward, without embellishment or poetic devices. - Talking about a type of writing that is used in novels, short stories, and other forms of literature.

- Referring to a piece of writing that presents an argument or point of view on a particular topic. - Describing a formal piece of writing that follows a specific structure, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. - Talking about a type of writing that is often assigned in academic settings, such as schools and universities.

List of Similarities

  • 1 Both involve written language.
  • 2 Both are forms of communication.
  • 3 Both can be used to express ideas and opinions.
  • 4 Both require attention to grammar and syntax.
  • 5 Both can be used in academic and professional settings.

What is the difference?

  • 1 Purpose: Prose is a general term for any non-poetic writing, while essay specifically refers to a structured piece of writing that presents an argument or point of view.
  • 2 Structure: Prose does not have a specific structure, while essay follows a specific format with an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
  • 3 Style: Prose can be written in a variety of styles, while essay is typically more formal and structured.
  • 4 Audience: Prose can be written for any audience, while essay is often written for academic or professional audiences.

What context can I use each word in?

Good things to know

Remember this!

Prose and essay are both forms of written language used to communicate ideas and opinions. However, the difference between prose and essay is their purpose, structure, length, style, and audience. Prose is a general term for any non-poetic writing, while essay specifically refers to a structured piece of writing that presents an argument or point of view. Essay follows a specific format with an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion, and is typically more formal and structured than prose .

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  • Literary Terms
  • Definition & Examples
  • When & How to Write a Prose

I. What is a Prose?

Prose is just non-verse writing. Pretty much anything other than poetry counts as prose: this article, that textbook in your backpack, the U.S. Constitution, Harry Potter – it’s all prose. The basic defining feature of prose is its lack of line breaks:

In verse, the line ends

when the writer wants it to, but in prose

you just write until you run out of room and then start a new line.

Unlike most other literary devices , prose has a negative definition : in other words, it’s defined by what it isn’t rather than by what it is . (It isn’t verse.) As a result, we have to look pretty closely at verse in order to understand what prose is.

II. Types of Prose

Prose usually appears in one of these three forms.

You’re probably familiar with essays . An essay makes some kind of argument about a specific question or topic. Essays are written in prose because it’s what modern readers are accustomed to.

b. Novels/short stories

When you set out to tell a story in prose, it’s called a novel or short story (depending on length). Stories can also be told through verse, but it’s less common nowadays. Books like Harry Potter and the Fault in Our Stars are written in prose.

c. Nonfiction books

If it’s true, it’s nonfiction. Essays are a kind of nonfiction, but not the only kind. Sometimes, a nonfiction book is just written for entertainment (e.g. David Sedaris’s nonfiction comedy books), or to inform (e.g. a textbook), but not to argue. Again, there’s plenty of nonfiction verse, too, but most nonfiction is written in prose.

III. Examples of Prose

The Bible is usually printed in prose form, unlike the Islamic Qur’an, which is printed in verse. This difference suggests one of the differences between the two ancient cultures that produced these texts: the classical Arabs who first wrote down the Qur’an were a community of poets, and their literature was much more focused on verse than on stories. The ancient Hebrews, by contrast, were more a community of storytellers than poets, so their holy book was written in a more narrative prose form.

Although poetry is almost always written in verse, there is such a thing as “prose poetry.” Prose poetry lacks line breaks, but still has the rhythms of verse poetry and focuses on the sound of the words as well as their meaning. It’s the same as other kinds of poetry except for its lack of line breaks.

IV. The Importance of Prose

Prose is ever-present in our lives, and we pretty much always take it for granted. It seems like the most obvious, natural way to write. But if you stop and think, it’s not totally obvious. After all, people often speak in short phrases with pauses in between – more like lines of poetry than the long, unbroken lines of prose. It’s also easier to read verse, since it’s easier for the eye to follow a short line than a long, unbroken one.

For all of these reasons, it might seem like verse is actually a more natural way of writing! And indeed, we know from archaeological digs that early cultures usually wrote in verse rather than prose. The dominance of prose is a relatively modern trend.

So why do we moderns prefer prose? The answer is probably just that it’s more efficient! Without line breaks, you can fill the entire page with words, meaning it takes less paper to write the same number of words. Before the industrial revolution, paper was very expensive, and early writers may have given up on poetry because it was cheaper to write prose.

V. Examples of Prose in Literature

Although Shakespeare was a poet, his plays are primarily written in prose. He loved to play around with the difference between prose and verse, and if you look closely you can see the purpose behind it: the “regular people” in his plays usually speak in prose – their words are “prosaic” and therefore don’t need to be elevated. Heroic and noble characters , by contrast, speak in verse to highlight the beauty and importance of what they have to say.

Flip open Moby-Dick to a random page, and you’ll probably find a lot of prose. But there are a few exceptions: short sections written in verse. There are many theories as to why Herman Melville chose to write his book this way, but it probably was due in large part to Shakespeare. Melville was very interested in Shakespeare and other classic authors who used verse more extensively, and he may have decided to imitate them by including a few verse sections in his prose novel.

VI. Examples of Prose in Pop Culture

Philosophy has been written in prose since the time of Plato and Aristotle. If you look at a standard philosophy book, you’ll find that it has a regular paragraph structure, but no creative line breaks like you’d see in poetry. No one is exactly sure why this should be true – after all, couldn’t you write a philosophical argument with line breaks in it? Some philosophers, like Nietzsche, have actually experimented with this. But it hasn’t really caught on, and the vast majority of philosophy is still written in prose form.

In the Internet age, we’re very familiar with prose – nearly all blogs and emails are written in prose form. In fact, it would look pretty strange if this were not the case!

Imagine if you had a professor

who wrote class emails

in verse form, with odd

            line breaks in the middle

of the email.

VII. Related Terms

Verse is the opposite of prose: it’s the style of writing

that has line breaks.

Most commonly used in poetry, it tends to have rhythm and rhyme but doesn’t necessarily have these features. Anything with artistic line breaks counts as verse.

18 th -century authors saw poetry as a more elevated form of writing – it was a way of reaching for the mysterious and the heavenly. In contrast, prose was for writing about ordinary, everyday topics. As a result, the adjective “prosaic” (meaning prose-like) came to mean “ordinary, unremarkable.”

Prosody is the pleasing sound of words when they come together. Verse and prose can both benefit from having better prosody, since this makes the writing more enjoyable to a reader.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
  • Cite This Website

Definition of Prose

Prose is a literary device referring to writing that is structured in a grammatical way, with words and phrases that build sentences and paragraphs. Works wrote in prose feature language that flows in natural patterns of everyday speech. Prose is the most common and popular form of writing in fiction and non-fiction works.

As a literary device, prose is a way for writers to communicate with readers in a straightforward, even conversational manner and tone . This creates a level of familiarity that allows the reader to connect with the writer’s expression, narrative , and characters. An example of the effective familiarity of prose is J.D. Salinger’s  The Catcher in The Rye :

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.

Salinger’s prose is presented as first-person narration as if Holden Caulfield’s character is speaking to and conversing directly with the reader. This style of prose establishes familiarity and intimacy between the narrator and the reader that maintains its connection throughout the novel .

Common Examples of First Prose Lines in Well-Known Novels

The first prose line of a novel is significant for the writer and reader. This opening allows the writer to grab the attention of the reader, set the tone and style of the work, and establish elements of setting , character, point of view , and/or plot . For the reader, the first prose line of a novel can be memorable and inspire them to continue reading. Here are some common examples of first prose lines in well-known novels:

  • Call me Ishmael. ( moby dick )
  • It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ( A Tale of Two Cities )
  • It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. ( Pride and Prejudice )
  • It was love at first sight. ( catch 22 )
  • In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ( The Great Gatsby )
  • It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. ( 1984 )
  • i am an invisible man . ( Invisible Man )
  • Mother died today. ( the stranger )
  • They shoot the white girl first, but the rest they can take their time. ( Paradise )
  • All this happened, more or less. ( Slaughterhouse-Five )

Examples of Famous Lines of Prose

Prose is a powerful literary device in that certain lines in literary works can have a great effect on readers in revealing human truths or resonating as art through language. Well-crafted, memorable prose evokes thought and feeling in readers. Here are some examples of famous lines of prose:

  • Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird . ( To Kill a Mockingbird )
  • In spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart. ( Anne Frank : The Diary of a Young Girl )
  • All Animals are Equal , but some animals are more equal than others. ( Animal Farm)
  • It is easier to start a war than to end it. ( One Hundred Years of Solitude )
  • It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both. ( Charlotte’s Web )
  • I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. ( The Color Purple )
  • There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you, ( I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings )
  • The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42. ( The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy )
  • The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you. ( The Book Thief )
  • Just remember: If one bird carried every grain of sand, grain by grain, across the ocean, by the time he got them all on the other side, that would only be the beginning of eternity. ( In Cold Blood )

Types of Prose

Writers use different types of prose as a literary device depending on the style and purpose of their work. Here are the different types of prose:

  • Nonfiction: prose that recounts a true story, provides information, or gives a factual account of something (such as manuals, newspaper articles, textbooks, etc.)
  • Heroic: prose usually in the form of a legend or fable that is intended to be recited and has been passed down through oral or written tradition
  • Fiction : most familiar form of prose used in novels and short stories and featuring elements such as plot, setting, characters, dialogue , etc.
  • Poetic Prose: poetry written in the form of prose, creating a literary hybrid with occasional rhythm and/or rhyme patterns

Difference Between Prose and Poetry

Many people consider prose and poetry to be opposites as literary devices . While that’s not quite the case, there are significant differences between them. Prose typically features natural patterns of speech and communication with grammatical structure in the form of sentences and paragraphs that continue across the lines of a page rather than breaking. In most instances, prose features everyday language.

Poetry, traditionally, features intentional and deliberate patterns, usually in the form of rhythm and rhyme. Many poems also feature a metrical structure in which patterns of beats repeat themselves. In addition, poetry often includes elevated, figurative language rather than everyday verbiage. Unlike prose, poems typically include line breaks and are not presented as or formed into continuous sentences or paragraphs.

Writing a Prose Poem

A prose poem is written in prose form without a metrical pattern and without a proper rhyme scheme . However, other poetic elements such as symbols metaphors , and figurative language are used extensively to make the language poetic. Writing a prose poem involves using all these poetic elements, including many others that a poet could think about.

It is not difficult to write a prose poem. It, however, involves a step-by-step approach.

  • Think about an idea related to a specific theme , or a choose topic.
  • Think poetically and write as prose is written but insert notes, beats, and patterns where necessary.
  • Use repetitions , metaphors, and similes extensively.
  • Revise, revise and revise to make it melodious.

Prose Edda vs. Poetic Edda

Prose Edda refers to a collection of stories collected in Iceland, or what they are called the Icelandic Saga. Most of the Prose Edda stories have been written by Snorri Sturluson while has compiled the rest written by several other writers. On the other hand, most of the poems about the Norse gods and goddesses are called the Poetic Edda. It is stated that almost all of these poems have been derived from the Codex Regius written around the 13 th century though they could have been composed much earlier. Such poems are also referred to as Eddaic poetry. In other words, these poetic outputs and writings are classical poetic pieces mostly woven around religious themes.

Examples of Prose in Literature

Prose is an essential literary device in literature and the foundation for storytelling. The prose in literary works functions to convey ideas, present information, and create a narrative for the reader through the intricate combinations of plot, conflict , characters, setting, and resolution . Here are some examples of prose in literature:

Example 1: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.

Steinbeck’s gifted prose in this novel is evident in this passage as he describes the last moment of sunset and the onset of darkness. Steinbeck demonstrates the manner in which a writer can incorporate figurative language into a prose passage without undermining the effect of being straightforward with the reader. The novel’s narrator utilizes figurative language by creating a metaphor comparing the sun to a drop of liquid, as well as through personifying dusk and darkness as they “crept.” This enhances the novel’s setting, tone, and mood in this portion of the story.

However, though Steinbeck incorporates such imagery and poetic phrasing in this descriptive passage, the writing is still accessible to the reader in terms of prose. This demonstrates the value of this literary device in fictional works of literature. Writers can still master and offer everyday language and natural speech patterns without compromising or leaving out the effective descriptions and use of figurative language for readers.

Example 2: This Is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold

In this poem by Williams, he utilizes poetic prose to create a hybrid work of literature. The poem is structured in appearances like a poetic work with line breaks and stanzas . However, the wording of the work flows as prose writing in its everyday language and conversational tone. There is an absence of figurative language in the poem, and instead, the expression is direct and straightforward.

By incorporating prose as a literary device in his poem, Williams creates an interesting tension for the reader between the work’s visual representation as a poem and the familiar, literal language making up each individual line. However, rather than undermine the literary beauty of the poem, the prose wording enhances its meaning and impact.

Example 3: Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

This passage introduces Vonnegut’s work of short fiction. The narrator’s prose immediately sets the tone of the story as well as foreshadows the impending conflict. The certainty and finality of the narrator’s statements regarding equality in the story establish a voice that is direct and unequivocal. This unambiguous voice set forth by Vonnegut encourages trust in the narration on behalf of the reader. As a result, when the events and conflict in the story turn to science fiction and even defy the laws of physics, the reader continues to “believe” the narrator’s depiction of the plot and characters.

This suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader demonstrates the power of prose as a literary device and method of storytelling. By utilizing the direct and straightforward nature of prose, the writer invites the reader to become a participant in the story by accepting what they are told and presented through the narrator. This enhances the connection between the writer as a storyteller and a receptive reader.

Synonyms of Prose

Prose has a few close synonyms but cannot be used interchangeably. Some of the words coming near in meanings are unlyrical, unpoetic, factual, literal, antipoetic, writing, prosaic and factual.

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How to Write the AP Lit Prose Essay + Example

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What is the ap lit prose essay, how will ap scores affect my college chances.

AP Literature and Composition (AP Lit), not to be confused with AP English Language and Composition (AP Lang), teaches students how to develop the ability to critically read and analyze literary texts. These texts include poetry, prose, and drama. Analysis is an essential component of this course and critical for the educational development of all students when it comes to college preparation. In this course, you can expect to see an added difficulty of texts and concepts, similar to the material one would see in a college literature course.

While not as popular as AP Lang, over 380,136 students took the class in 2019. However, the course is significantly more challenging, with only 49.7% of students receiving a score of three or higher on the exam. A staggeringly low 6.2% of students received a five on the exam. 

The AP Lit exam is similar to the AP Lang exam in format, but covers different subject areas. The first section is multiple-choice questions based on five short passages. There are 55 questions to be answered in 1 hour. The passages will include at least two prose fiction passages and two poetry passages and will account for 45% of your total score. All possible answer choices can be found within the text, so you don’t need to come into the exam with prior knowledge of the passages to understand the work. 

The second section contains three free-response essays to be finished in under two hours. This section accounts for 55% of the final score and includes three essay questions: the poetry analysis essay, the prose analysis essay, and the thematic analysis essay. Typically, a five-paragraph format will suffice for this type of writing. These essays are scored holistically from one to six points.

Today we will take a look at the AP Lit prose essay and discuss tips and tricks to master this section of the exam. We will also provide an example of a well-written essay for review.  

The AP Lit prose essay is the second of the three essays included in the free-response section of the AP Lit exam, lasting around 40 minutes in total. A prose passage of approximately 500 to 700 words and a prompt will be given to guide your analytical essay. Worth about 18% of your total grade, the essay will be graded out of six points depending on the quality of your thesis (0-1 points), evidence and commentary (0-4 points), and sophistication (0-1 points). 

While this exam seems extremely overwhelming, considering there are a total of three free-response essays to complete, with proper time management and practiced skills, this essay is manageable and straightforward. In order to enhance the time management aspect of the test to the best of your ability, it is essential to understand the following six key concepts.

1. Have a Clear Understanding of the Prompt and the Passage

Since the prose essay is testing your ability to analyze literature and construct an evidence-based argument, the most important thing you can do is make sure you understand the passage. That being said, you only have about 40 minutes for the whole essay so you can’t spend too much time reading the passage. Allot yourself 5-7 minutes to read the prompt and the passage and then another 3-5 minutes to plan your response.

As you read through the prompt and text, highlight, circle, and markup anything that stands out to you. Specifically, try to find lines in the passage that could bolster your argument since you will need to include in-text citations from the passage in your essay. Even if you don’t know exactly what your argument might be, it’s still helpful to have a variety of quotes to use depending on what direction you take your essay, so take note of whatever strikes you as important. Taking the time to annotate as you read will save you a lot of time later on because you won’t need to reread the passage to find examples when you are in the middle of writing. 

Once you have a good grasp on the passage and a solid array of quotes to choose from, you should develop a rough outline of your essay. The prompt will provide 4-5 bullets that remind you of what to include in your essay, so you can use these to structure your outline. Start with a thesis, come up with 2-3 concrete claims to support your thesis, back up each claim with 1-2 pieces of evidence from the text, and write a brief explanation of how the evidence supports the claim.

2. Start with a Brief Introduction that Includes a Clear Thesis Statement

Having a strong thesis can help you stay focused and avoid tangents while writing. By deciding the relevant information you want to hit upon in your essay up front, you can prevent wasting precious time later on. Clear theses are also important for the reader because they direct their focus to your essential arguments. 

In other words, it’s important to make the introduction brief and compact so your thesis statement shines through. The introduction should include details from the passage, like the author and title, but don’t waste too much time with extraneous details. Get to the heart of your essay as quick as possible. 

3. Use Clear Examples to Support Your Argument 

One of the requirements AP Lit readers are looking for is your use of evidence. In order to satisfy this aspect of the rubric, you should make sure each body paragraph has at least 1-2 pieces of evidence, directly from the text, that relate to the claim that paragraph is making. Since the prose essay tests your ability to recognize and analyze literary elements and techniques, it’s often better to include smaller quotes. For example, when writing about the author’s use of imagery or diction you might pick out specific words and quote each word separately rather than quoting a large block of text. Smaller quotes clarify exactly what stood out to you so your reader can better understand what are you saying.

Including smaller quotes also allows you to include more evidence in your essay. Be careful though—having more quotes is not necessarily better! You will showcase your strength as a writer not by the number of quotes you manage to jam into a paragraph, but by the relevance of the quotes to your argument and explanation you provide.  If the details don’t connect, they are merely just strings of details.

4. Discussion is Crucial to Connect Your Evidence to Your Argument 

As the previous tip explained, citing phrases and words from the passage won’t get you anywhere if you don’t provide an explanation as to how your examples support the claim you are making. After each new piece of evidence is introduced, you should have a sentence or two that explains the significance of this quote to the piece as a whole.

This part of the paragraph is the “So what?” You’ve already stated the point you are trying to get across in the topic sentence and shared the examples from the text, so now show the reader why or how this quote demonstrates an effective use of a literary technique by the author. Sometimes students can get bogged down by the discussion and lose sight of the point they are trying to make. If this happens to you while writing, take a step back and ask yourself “Why did I include this quote? What does it contribute to the piece as a whole?” Write down your answer and you will be good to go. 

5. Write a Brief Conclusion

While the critical part of the essay is to provide a substantive, organized, and clear argument throughout the body paragraphs, a conclusion provides a satisfying ending to the essay and the last opportunity to drive home your argument. If you run out of time for a conclusion because of extra time spent in the preceding paragraphs, do not worry, as that is not fatal to your score. 

Without repeating your thesis statement word for word, find a way to return to the thesis statement by summing up your main points. This recap reinforces the arguments stated in the previous paragraphs, while all of the preceding paragraphs successfully proved the thesis statement.

6. Don’t Forget About Your Grammar

Though you will undoubtedly be pressed for time, it’s still important your essay is well-written with correct punctuating and spelling. Many students are able to write a strong thesis and include good evidence and commentary, but the final point on the rubric is for sophistication. This criteria is more holistic than the former ones which means you should have elevated thoughts and writing—no grammatical errors. While a lack of grammatical mistakes alone won’t earn you the sophistication point, it will leave the reader with a more favorable impression of you. 

essay or prose difference

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Here are Nine Must-have Tips and Tricks to Get a Good Score on the Prose Essay:

  • Carefully read, review, and underline key instruction s in the prompt.
  • Briefly outlin e what you want to cover in your essay.
  • Be sure to have a clear thesis that includes the terms mentioned in the instructions, literary devices, tone, and meaning.
  • Include the author’s name and title  in your introduction. Refer to characters by name.
  • Quality over quantity when it comes to picking quotes! Better to have a smaller number of more detailed quotes than a large amount of vague ones.
  • Fully explain how each piece of evidence supports your thesis .  
  • Focus on the literary techniques in the passage and avoid summarizing the plot. 
  • Use transitions to connect sentences and paragraphs.
  • Keep your introduction and conclusion short, and don’t repeat your thesis verbatim in your conclusion.

Here is an example essay from 2020 that received a perfect 6:

[1] In this passage from a 1912 novel, the narrator wistfully details his childhood crush on a girl violinist. Through a motif of the allure of musical instruments, and abundant sensory details that summon a vivid image of the event of their meeting, the reader can infer that the narrator was utterly enraptured by his obsession in the moment, and upon later reflection cannot help but feel a combination of amusement and a resummoning of the moment’s passion. 

[2] The overwhelming abundance of hyper-specific sensory details reveals to the reader that meeting his crush must have been an intensely powerful experience to create such a vivid memory. The narrator can picture the “half-dim church”, can hear the “clear wail” of the girl’s violin, can see “her eyes almost closing”, can smell a “faint but distinct fragrance.” Clearly, this moment of discovery was very impactful on the boy, because even later he can remember the experience in minute detail. However, these details may also not be entirely faithful to the original experience; they all possess a somewhat mysterious quality that shows how the narrator may be employing hyperbole to accentuate the girl’s allure. The church is “half-dim”, the eyes “almost closing” – all the details are held within an ethereal state of halfway, which also serves to emphasize that this is all told through memory. The first paragraph also introduces the central conciet of music. The narrator was drawn to the “tones she called forth” from her violin and wanted desperately to play her “accompaniment.” This serves the double role of sensory imagery (with the added effect of music being a powerful aural image) and metaphor, as the accompaniment stands in for the narrator’s true desire to be coupled with his newfound crush. The musical juxtaposition between the “heaving tremor of the organ” and the “clear wail” of her violin serves to further accentuate how the narrator percieved the girl as above all other things, as high as an angel. Clearly, the memory of his meeting his crush is a powerful one that left an indelible impact on the narrator. 

[3] Upon reflecting on this memory and the period of obsession that followed, the narrator cannot help but feel amused at the lengths to which his younger self would go; this is communicated to the reader with some playful irony and bemused yet earnest tone. The narrator claims to have made his “first and last attempts at poetry” in devotion to his crush, and jokes that he did not know to be “ashamed” at the quality of his poetry. This playful tone pokes fun at his childhood self for being an inexperienced poet, yet also acknowledges the very real passion that the poetry stemmed from. The narrator goes on to mention his “successful” endeavor to conceal his crush from his friends and the girl; this holds an ironic tone because the narrator immediately admits that his attempts to hide it were ill-fated and all parties were very aware of his feelings. The narrator also recalls his younger self jumping to hyperbolic extremes when imagining what he would do if betrayed by his love, calling her a “heartless jade” to ironically play along with the memory. Despite all this irony, the narrator does also truly comprehend the depths of his past self’s infatuation and finds it moving. The narrator begins the second paragraph with a sentence that moves urgently, emphasizing the myriad ways the boy was obsessed. He also remarks, somewhat wistfully, that the experience of having this crush “moved [him] to a degree which now [he] can hardly think of as possible.” Clearly, upon reflection the narrator feels a combination of amusement at the silliness of his former self and wistful respect for the emotion that the crush stirred within him. 

[4] In this passage, the narrator has a multifaceted emotional response while remembering an experience that was very impactful on him. The meaning of the work is that when we look back on our memories (especially those of intense passion), added perspective can modify or augment how those experiences make us feel

More essay examples, score sheets, and commentaries can be found at College Board .

While AP Scores help to boost your weighted GPA, or give you the option to get college credit, AP Scores don’t have a strong effect on your admissions chances . However, colleges can still see your self-reported scores, so you might not want to automatically send scores to colleges if they are lower than a 3. That being said, admissions officers care far more about your grade in an AP class than your score on the exam.

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Short Prose Genres: Defining Essay, Short Story, Commentary, Memoir, and Mixed Genre

by Writer's Relief Staff | Submit A Short Story Or Essay | 47 comments

Review Board is now open! Submit your Short Prose, Poetry, and Book today!

Deadline: tuesday, january 16th.

Short Prose Genres: Defining Essay, Short Story, Commentary, Memoir, and Mixed Genre

The genres of short prose writing can be very confusing. For example, some writers will call their personal essay a story, and others will call their essay a memoir. To make matters even more complicated, a number of literary magazines are beginning to accept what is commonly called mixed genre writing. It’s important to understand the difference between the types of short prose, whether you’re writing an essay, short story, memoir, commentary, or mixed genre piece.

essay or prose difference

What is a short story? A short story is a work of fictional prose. Its characters may be loosely based on real-life people, and its plot may be inspired by a real-life event; but overall more of the story is “made-up” than real. Sometimes, the story can be completely made-up. Short stories may be literary, or they may conform to genre standards (i.e., a romance short story, a science-fiction short story, a horror story, etc.). A short story is a work that the writer holds to be fiction (i.e., historical fiction based on real events, or a story that is entirely fiction).

Short Story Example: A writer is inspired by a car explosion in his town. He writes a story based on the real explosion and set in a similar town, but showing the made-up experiences of his characters (who may be partly based on real-life).

Short Story Example two: A writer writes a story based on a made-up explosion, set in a made-up town, and showing the made-up experiences of his characters.

What is a personal or narrative essay? What is an academic essay? What’s the difference? Though factual, the personal essay , sometimes called a narrative essay, can feel like a short story, with “characters” and a plot arc. A personal essay is a short work of nonfiction that is not academic (that is, not a dissertation or scholarly exploration of criticism, etc.).

In a personal essay, the writer recounts his or her personal experiences or opinions. In an academic essay, the writer’s personal journey does not typically play a large part in the narrative (or plot line).

Sometimes the purpose of a personal essay is simply to entertain. Some personal essays may have a meditative or even dogmatic feel; a personal essay may illustrate a writer’s experiences in order to make an argument for the writer’s opinion. Some personal essays may cite other texts (like books, stories, or poems), but the focus of the citation is not to make an academic point. Rather, emphasis is on the writer’s emotional journey and insight.

Personal Essay Example: A writer pens the story of his experience at the scene of a car explosion in his town. The work is short enough for publication in a literary journal and focuses on the author’s perspective and insight.

What is a commentary? The personal essay form and commentary may sometimes overlap, but it may be helpful to make some distinctions. A commentary is often very short (a few hundred words) and more journalistic in tone than a personal essay. It fits nicely as a column in a newspaper or on a personal blog . The writing can be more newsy than literary.

Some very short nonfiction pieces may be better suited to newspapers than to literary journals; however, literary magazines have been known to publish commentary-esque pieces that have a literary bent.

Commentary Example: A writer tells the story of a car explosion in his town to illustrate the point that the police are not vigilant enough about people throwing flaming marshmallows out their windows.

What is a memoir? Memoir generally refers to longer works of nonfiction, written from the perspective of the author. Memoir does not generally refer to short personal essays. If you’re writing a short piece based on your real-life experiences, editors of literary journals will identify this as a personal essay. If you’re writing a book about an experience, it’s a memoir. A collection of interrelated personal essays may constitute a memoir.

Memoir Example: A writer composes a full-length book about his experiences after a car explosion in his town.

Learn more: Creative Nonfiction: How To Stay Out Of Trouble

What is a nonfiction short story? There’s no such thing as a nonfiction short story. Short stories are inherently fiction (with or without real-life inspiration). Personal essays are not fictional.

So what is mixed genre writing? Mixed genre writing is creative work that does not sit comfortably in any of the above genres. Mixed genre writing blends some elements of fiction with elements of nonfiction in a very deliberate way. Some examples:

Mixed Genre Example One: A professional accountant named John Jones is writing a story about a man named John Jones, who is John Jones and lives John Jones’ life—except that the fictional John Jones one day decides to leave his real-life accounting job, and live his dream of being a rock star (since the real-life John Jones is thinking of doing the same thing).

Is this a short story? An essay? If ninety percent of the story is true and ten percent is fiction, then what should the writer call this?

Mixed Genre Example Two: A writer decides to compose a family history, using pictures and documents from her family albums. But sometimes her story veers into fiction. She finds herself embellishing elements or omitting characters; and, the result is a story that’s better than the one she might tell if she were to stick to the facts.

Again, is this an essay? A short story? If half of the story is made-up, but half is very obviously true, it might be best called mixed genre.

NOTE: Sometimes the term mixed genre is defined in terms of the novel or book. A mixed genre novel might be a novel that mixes science fiction elements with characteristics of a legal thriller. Or a mixed genre novel might also be a work that plays fast and loose with fact and fiction. If you’re going to refer to your book as mixed genre, be clear about what you mean.

Learn more: Genre Fiction Rules: Find Out If Your Novel Meets Publishers’ And Literary Agents’ Criteria For Publication

Tips on Writing Mixed Genre If you’re going to write mixed genre prose, do so with care. Mixed genre writing often has a kind of self-aware, almost tongue-in-cheek, element to it—a wink to the reader who is not fooled by the mixing of fiction and nonfiction, even if the lines are blurry. Mixed genre can be considered experimental, and as such, it’s important that the writing be exceptionally smart in order to live up to the demands of the (mixed) genre.

Why is mixed genre writing so often self-referential? Writing mixed genre and passing it off as an essay or a short story could make editors think that you are trying to dupe them, so it helps to include something in the work that makes reference to itself as being a mixture of fact and fiction. These “meta” elements can help put the reader at ease.

Who is publishing mixed genre short prose? The primary markets for short prose are literary magazines and journals. Writer’s Relief frequently helps writers target their work to literary journals. For more information on how to find markets for your short prose, please read Researching Literary Markets for Your Work if you plan to research on your own. Or learn about Writer’s Relief submission services if you’d like help targeting your submissions .

Submit to Review Board

QUESTION: Have you ever tackled a mixed genre piece?

Ronnie L. Smith, President of Writer’s Relief, Inc., an author’s submission service that helps creative writers get published by targeting their poems, essays, short stories, and books to the best-suited literary agents or editors of literary journals. www.WritersRelief.com

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The difference between prose and poetry seems easy to explain: one has blocks of text and fully-fleshed characters, the other has line breaks and pretty words. That’s it, right?

Despite their visual quirks, prose and poetry share many similarities: prose can be musical, poetry can have plots and characters, and both are millennia-old traditions. As such, it would be wrong to prescribe a rigid decision tree for writing prose vs. poetry—many writers have both in their toolkits, relying on each form to communicate different truths.

“Poetry creates the myth, the prose writer draws its portrait.” —Jean-Paul Sartre

So what is the difference between poetry and prose? And which should you write for which occasions? Again, we won’t give hard-and-fast rules, but we can explore their differences in depth and discuss their possibilities.

First, we’ll discuss the features of prose and poetry independently, then we’ll loop back to examine both their differences and their areas of overlap.

Prose vs. Poetry: Defining Prose

Prose is the more common writing form that everyone is comfortable reading and writing. This article relies on prose—as do most ( but not all! ) novels, and just about all news stories, instruction manuals, scientific papers, and so on.

Prose Versus Verse: Line Breaks

The most straightforward rule of thumb for knowing that you’re reading prose (as opposed to its counterpart, verse ) is that there are no defined line breaks: words go all the way to the edge of the page without “turning back” early.

A rule of thumb for prose (as opposed to its counterpart, verse ) is that there are no defined line breaks.

Again, that’s how this blog article works, along with most other writing, from tweets to short stories to scientific papers.

So why would you stop writing prose, and move over to the with-line-breaks type of writing known as verse? The line breaks aren’t arbitrary, but reflect an underlying difference in how prose and verse tend to be structured. To quote the always-helpful Wikipedia:

“Where the common unit of verse is based on meter or rhyme, the common unit of prose is purely grammatical, such as a sentence or paragraph.”

So is verse (writing with line breaks) always poetry? While two are often used synonymously, defining poetry requires more than just scanning for line breaks: as we’ll discuss below, poetry is also about the rich and musical use of language.

Prose is not the counterpart of poetry, but the counterpart of verse.

So prose is not the counterpart of poetry, but rather the counterpart of verse. So verse is not what strictly defines poetry. In fact, not all poetry is in verse—specifically, prose poetry isn’t. In other words, prose and poetry do overlap, whereas prose and verse don’t.

Most poetry is in verse, but some poetry is in prose.

We go into more detail on line breaks, stanzas, and the use of page space in the sections below.

Prose is More Functional than Poetry

A helpful pattern in understanding prose vs. poetry is as follows: prose tends to work in clearer meanings, and to be less musical (that is, working with the inherent rhythms and sonic properties of language) and less densely packed with meanings, literary devices , and associations, than poetry.

As such, prose writing tends to be linear: while a prosaic sentence can twist and turn, it tends to share clear information, generally in a logical order.

Prose tends to work in clearer meanings, and to be less musical and dense, than poetry.

Again, exceptions exist, notably prose poetry : prose writing—writing with no line endings or defined rhythmic meter—that is highly musical and dense, and that is generally more impressionistic and multifaceted than most prose in the meanings it conveys.

And then there’s prose writing that is enigmatic and dreamlike rather than clear and orderly, such as the stream-of-consciousness prose writing in James Joyce’s Ulysses .

These exceptions prove the rule, though: most other prose, from this blog article your friend’s next Facebook post to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , tends to follow the delineation described here.

We’ll allow Hemingway a last word with a slightly macho, not-applicable-to-every-prose-work, but still helpful description of prose: “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”

Sound good? To get a stronger feel for prose and further acquaint yourself with prose writing, take a look at the readings below.

How to Read Prose

This article gives close reading strategies for prose writing.

How to Read Prose: Close Reading Strategies for Prose Writers

Further Readings in Fiction and Nonfiction

The articles below outline helpful practices for numerous kinds of prose writing, from flash fiction to the novel, focusing especially on the common ingredients of storytelling.

  • Crafting a Story Outline
  • Freytag’s Pyramid
  • Literary Devices in Prose
  • Writing Flash Fiction
  • Writing the Short Story
  • Writing the Novella
  • Writing the Novel

Prose vs. Poetry: Defining Poetry

Poetry is the oldest literary form, predating the written word (and therefore, prose) by several millennia. Up until the printing press revolutionized the distribution of literature, poetry was the main form for storytellers, who used meter and rhythm to perform oral retellings of their work.

So, what is poetry? As we’ve seen in our introduction to prose above, most—but not all—poetry is written in verse: writing with line breaks, organized around rhythm or meter rather than grammar. Still, we’ve also seen that verse is not what defines poetry, nor is all poetry based in verse.

So it’s not simply another word for verse. Is there an agreed-upon artistic definition of poetry as a literary form? (Spoiler: No.)

Artistic Definitions of Poetry Vary

Artistic definitions of poetry change from poetic movement to poetic movement—and from poet to poet.

For example, William Wordsworth said that poetry is “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings… recollected in tranquility.” This sentiment—largely reflective of the Romantic era—certainly rings true for some poetry. However, New Formalist poets work with poetry to distill and reflect emotion through form and meter: in other words, structure over emotion.

The point is, there’s no singular way to define or understand the artistic aims of poetry. Rather, all poets must define these aims for themselves and write accordingly.

Poets must define the artistic aims of poetry for themselves and write accordingly.

Learning about poetry requires familiarizing yourself with what other poets have already done. This list of poetry movements can jumpstart your understanding of poetry’s complex and various histories.

Poetry Uses Language Richly

Good poetry, from any tradition, sings and resonates beyond the merely “prosaic.”

Whatever literary tradition you ascribe to, poetry has a clear job to be rich, musical, evocative. Good poetry, from any tradition, sings and resonates in a way that goes beyond the merely “prosaic,” as in the following poem excerpt by Derek Walcott:

You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.

So poetry, in any tradition, is the “cheesecake of language”: packed to the brim with sonic and expressive power. In poetry, it’s not enough to make a rational point straightforwardly, like the prosaic sentence you’re reading is doing.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge said this beautifully, and we can give him the last word in defining poetry.

“Poetry: the best words in the best order.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Cool, right? If you’d like to learn more, check out our guides for reading and understanding poetry.

How to Read Poetry

This article gives close reading strategies for poetry writing.

How to Read Poetry Like a Poet

Further Readings in Poetry

The articles below outline helpful practices poetry writing, including deep dives on common literary devices in poetry and established poetry forms.

  • Poetry Forms
  • Writing and Publishing a Poetry Book

Poetry vs. Prose: A Clear Example of Each

Let’s cap the definitions of poetry and prose above by simply giving a clear example of each.

Here is some beautiful fiction writing that is definitely prose:

They were nearly born on a bus, Estha and Rahel. The car in which Baba, their father, was taking Ammu, their mother, to hospital in Shillong to have them, broke down on the winding tea-estate road in Assam. They abandoned the car and flagged down a crowded State Transport bus. With the queer compassion of the very poor for the comparatively well off, or perhaps only because they saw how hugely pregnant Ammu was, seated passengers made room for the couple, and for the rest of the journey Estha and Rahel’s father had to hold their mother’s stomach (with them in it) to prevent it from wobbling. That was before they were divorced and Ammu came back to live in Kerala.

—Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

And here is some writing that is definitely poetry:

We are such stuff As dreams are made on; and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.

—Shakespeare, The Tempest

5 Similar Features of Prose and Poetry

Having defined prose and poetry above, the reality is that they can be more similar than you might imagine. We’ll discuss their differences in a moment, but first, it’s important to understand the shared potential that each form holds:

  • Musicality and rhythm
  • Use of colloquial speech
  • Use of literary devices
  • Ability to tell stories
  • Show, don’t tell

1. Musicality and Rhythm

It’s a common misconception that only poetry can be musical. While rhythm and meter are important aspects of a poem’s construction, musicality begins with language, not with structure.

An immediate example of “musical prose” is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Susan Bell, writer of The Artful Edit , argues that Gatsby finds its success precisely because of the story’s musical, elegant storytelling—certainly, the book has a charged poeticism that feels just as decadent and tasteful as the high society of the Roaring Twenties. Below is some undeniably musical prose:

2. Use of Literary Devices

Things are like other things, which is the essence of literary devices. While some devices are unique to each form—poems have enjambment, prose can begin in media res —a successful piece of writing requires literary devices .

3. Use of Colloquial Speech

Yes, some writing uses lofty and erudite language. However, contemporary prose and poetry writers, from all eras, recognize the importance of speaking to their audience.

Colloquial speech is one way of speaking to your audience. A colloquialism is a turn of phrase with a specific social and temporal context. For example, “groovy” belongs to the American 1970s, Victorian Brits called a brave person “bricky,” and Gen Z’ers “stan” on Twitter.

In literature, Jay Gatsby’s “old sport” is just as colloquial as the poem “A Study of Reading Habits ,” which uses phrases like “right hook” and “load of crap.”

4. Storytelling

Another common misconception is that poetry doesn’t tell stories. While fiction and nonfiction are the genres of prose, poetry also possesses a powerful narrative voice.

Singular poems can tell grand stories, especially poetry in antiquity. The Epic of Gilgamesh , The Odyssey , and Beowulf are all stories in verse, as are novel-poems like Autobiography of Red .

Additionally, contemporary poetry collections often tell stories, just with less linearity. Louise Gluck’s collection Wild Iris is told from the perspective of a flower, and as the seasons change, the flower observes the infinite singularity of mankind, God, and the Universe.

5. Show, Don’t Tell Writing

It’s important for storytellers to demonstrate their ideas without spoon feeding the reader. In other words, writers should Show instead of Tell.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. —Anton Chekhov

We consider “Show, Don’t Tell” a golden rule of writing. Brush up on it here !

10 Differences Between Prose and Poetry

We’ve discussed their similarities, but the difference between poetry and prose is usually fairly clear in practice. The following ten items distinguish the two. To help demonstrate our point, we represent each form with a well known piece of literature. Poetry examples were pulled from Dylan Thomas’ “ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night ,” and prose examples come from “ The Cask of Amontillado ” by Edgar Allan Poe.

1. Prose vs. Poetry: Use of Page Space

In prose, a line of text begins and ends at the margins of the page. In poetry, the author uses shorter lines, broken before the page margins to introduce multiple meanings. Line breaks are an enduring feature of what differentiates prose and poetry, adding extra emphasis to certain words and sounds.

You’ll notice in prose that a partial line occurs only before a new paragraph.

line breaks in prose

In poetry, the line breaks mean something more intentional. The ending words can help uphold meter and rhyme schemes, and it also emphasizes important words: “night” and “light” are repeatedly pit against each other in Thomas’ villanelle .

poetry vs. prose line breaks

2. Prose vs. Poetry: Paragraphs vs. Stanzas

Prose passages divide single ideas into sentences, and those sentences go on to form paragraphs. A new paragraph signifies the introduction of new ideas or the continuation of relevant information.

paragraph breaks in Poe

The equivalent of a paragraph in poetry is the stanza. Stanzas are groupings of lines which act as units of meaning, with different stanzas containing different ideas and images.

Stanza breaks

3. Prose vs. Poetry: Single vs. Multiple Meanings

In prose, the meaning of each word is usually straightforward, with double meanings (like puns and irony) clearly expressed. Most prose relies on clear meanings to deliver clear, linear messages.

By contrast, the language of poetry contains multitudes. One word can hold many different meanings, and ideas can be broken into both sentences and lines.

Take the line “old age should burn and rave at close of day.” The word rave can mean multiple things: it can mean to rant and rave as old people (stereotypically) do, or it can mean to rage and fight against. The pun here is intended to energize the reader,

4. Prose vs. Poetry: Noun-Verb Placements

In Standard English , which is the common (but not default) language of prose, nouns and verbs are found close to each other. This is a facet of “clear communication”—it’s important to know who is doing what as efficiently as possible.

We have bolded the noun-verb pairs in an excerpt from both the poem and prose piece.

noun-verb pairs: what is the difference between poetry and prose?

Notice how the noun-verb pairs can stray from each other much more easily in poetry. Dylan Thomas inserts a noun-verb pair between a noun-verb pair in each stanza—which is much harder to use effectively in prose.

noun-verb pairs prose and poetry

Notice that, in prose, a noun can have multiple verbs attached to it, but the first verb is almost always next to the noun.

5. Prose vs. Poetry: Rhyme (Sometimes)

There are two types of rhyme: internal and external rhyme. External rhyme occurs at the ends of lines, such as the many “-ight” words in Thomas’ poem.

Internal rhyme refers to words that rhyme with each other inside the same beat. These rhymes are not always intentional or charged with meaning, but they occur, such as in this sentence from Poe’s story:

“We had passed through walls of piled bones , with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs.”

Bones and catacombs aptly rhyme with each other. Note, rhyme is not a necessary feature of any prose and many poems. Though some poetry forms do require rhyme schemes, contemporary poets tend to eschew rhyming.

6. Prose vs. Poetry: Meter (Sometimes)

Like rhyme, meter is an (often) optional component of poetry writing. Meter refers to the stress patterns of syllables and the number of syllables per line. Well-executed meter can give poetry a certain musical quality.

Thomas’ poem is written in iambic pentameter, a requirement of the traditional villanelle form. This means there are 10 syllables in each line, following an unstressed-stressed pattern. To understand syllable stress, read Thomas’ poem out loud, and note how every second syllable is emphasized harder than the first.

Prose does not rely on meter to tell a story.

Prose does not have any metrical requirements, and thank goodness for that. Meter can be extraordinarily tough to impose on a poem, but it also affects how the reader interprets the piece. However, prose does not rely on meter to tell a story, as these poetry devices often instill multiple meanings in a piece.

7. Prose vs. Poetry: Pragmatic vs. Imaginative Focus

On a macro-level, the vision of poets and prose writers tends to differ. Prose has a pragmatic focus, meaning that each word should clearly advance a specific idea or narrative. The focus of prose is storytelling, so the author has a duty to use words diligently.

While poetry can tell stories, a poem rarely focuses on plot points, settings, and characters.

While poetry can tell stories, a poem rarely focuses on plot points, settings, and characters. Rather, poetry has an imaginative focus. Words are allowed to break their conventional bounds in the goal of expressing emotions, and ideas can stack upon each other like grains of sand in a sand castle.

So, what’s pragmatic about Poe, and what’s imaginative about Thomas? Every word in Poe’s piece describes details and events that push the reader towards the climax. At no point does the reader jump out of the narrative to speculate or stargaze.

In Thomas’ poem, the words don’t point the reader towards a specific event, but they do encourage the reader to think deeply about abstract ideas. Old or young, the reader will contend with ideas of life, death, justice, goodness, and the judgment against our souls. In 19 lines of mostly concrete images, the poet asks us to read imaginatively—and in the process, to learn what we believe.

8. Prose vs. Poetry: Paraphrasability

A piece of prose can be summarized. If you ask “what is ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ about?”, it is possible to paraphrase the story and get the gist of its deeper meaning. In short, Poe’s story observes a man desperate for revenge, only to find that revenge often hurts both the punisher and the punished.

Poetry is generally harder to summarize than prose, because it tends to include greater multiplicities of meaning.

Poetry is generally harder to summarize than prose, because it tends to include greater multiplicities of meaning. No one can tell you what a certain poem means. They can tell you what it isn’t —for example, “Do Not Go Gentle” is not about heartbreak, war, or the summertime—but deciding what a poem means requires a reader’s own attention.

For example, one could summarize Thomas’ poem as “an ode to Thomas’ dying father, with a vengeful bent against mankind’s eventual death.” But, does saying that invoke Thomas’ juxtaposition of light and dark? His use of rhyme to draw a conceit? His need to believe in the transience of the soul? By the time you’ve summarized the poem, you’ve written something as long as the poem itself. Poetry cannot be paraphrased.

9. Prose vs. Poetry: Point of View

Prose and poetry treat “point of view” in very different ways. A point of view (POV) refers to who is telling the story. The storyteller doesn’t always have a name or a face, but they do inevitably change how a story is read.

In prose, there are 4 main POVs:

  • First Person (I): The story is told in the first person, from a character who is either the protagonist or adjacent to the protagonist. The Cask of Amontillado uses the first person POV.
  • Second Person (You): The story is told in the second person. Often, the writer will substitute “the protagonist” for “you,” making the story’s actions feel more intimate and personal. Second Person storytelling is rare, but not unheard of.
  • Third Person Limited (He/She/They): The story is told in the third person, and it focuses on the perspective of the protagonist. We have access to most of their thoughts and feelings, but our access to other people is limited by the protagonist’s perspective.
  • Third Person Omniscient (He/She/They): The story is told in the third person, and the narrator has access to everyone’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. We can jump from person to person with ease, interweaving webs of complex narratives together.

Some stories will also take a Third Person Mixed approach, meaning the meat of the story is told from the protagonist’s perspective, but the reader occasionally jumps to someone else’s POV or to a historical time period.

While poetry can use the same pronouns (I/You/He/She/They), it uses POV differently. A poem is always told from the perspective of “the speaker.” The speaker can be the poet themselves—Dylan Thomas is certainly the voice behind his poem, and he is certainly talking to his father. However, the correct approach is to always call the poem’s POV “the speaker,” as a poem can inhibit many different voices at once. Finally, poetry is much easier to apply to yourself when the speaker isn’t anyone in particular.

10. Prose vs. Poetry: Concision

Prose and poetry writers should both write concisely. Concise writing eschews redundancies and makes every word count. However, concision means something different for the two forms.

In prose, concision generally means that not a word is wasted in conveying information. Concise prose expresses its meaning clearly.

Concise prose expresses its meaning clearly.

Of course, good prose can still be long-winded, as long as this heightens the effect of the work. Take this sentence from Poe’s story:

“It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good-will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.”

These sentences are 19 and 27 words long, respectively. They can also be summarized as follows: “Fortunato thought my smile bore good-will, not the desire to immolate him.”

What does Poe’s long-windedness afford him? Despite being easily paraphrased, every word does count in these two sentences, because they are a part of the narrator’s characterization. He is a long-winded schemer, and that affects how the story must be told, since Poe has chosen the first person to make us intimate with the narrator’s internal conflict.

Poetry is a different situation. Because poetry has line breaks, stanzas, and (sometimes) rhyme and meter, its concision takes a different form. In a poem, it’s great if every word contains heavy meaning; it’s even greater when words contain multiplicities and challenge the reader’s ideas. Economy in poetry is maximizing its impact, musicality, and richness—not necessarily its clear, single meaning.

Economy in poetry is maximizing its impact, musicality, and richness—not necessarily its clear, single meaning.

If you stretched a poem into prose, it would read like a terrible short story, because the concision afforded to poetry is different than that of prose. Concise prose focuses more on clarity of meaning, and poetry more on maximizing the richness and impact of every syllable.

Poetry vs. Prose Venn Diagram

Poetry vs. Prose Venn Diagram

Prose vs. Poetry: A Final Note On Literary Binaries

Any article like this risks making literature seem binary, as though prose and poetry were totally discrete entities; so in closing, it’s good to note again that writers, especially contemporary writers, often work at the intersection of prose and poetry, resulting in genres like the prose poem , the lyrical essay or the poetry novel . (And we haven’t even touched on scriptwriting, which is a different form of communication altogether.)

There is much to explore outside of poetry and prose; this article simply covers the basics. As you advance on your writing journey, don’t be afraid to experiment with words outside of the traditional “prose vs. poetry” binary. You might be shocked by what you can accomplish!

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Sean Glatch

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Great summary. I write poetry, prose poems, flash fiction and short stories so I’m using the grab bag of everything you said here! Never taught about line breaks, though. I see some poets going willy nilly all over the page. Maybe there just aren’t any rules where this is concerned…

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Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between an expository essay and an argumentative essay.

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

Frequently asked questions: Writing an essay

For a stronger conclusion paragraph, avoid including:

  • Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the main body
  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion…”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g. “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

Your essay’s conclusion should contain:

  • A rephrased version of your overall thesis
  • A brief review of the key points you made in the main body
  • An indication of why your argument matters

The conclusion may also reflect on the broader implications of your argument, showing how your ideas could applied to other contexts or debates.

The conclusion paragraph of an essay is usually shorter than the introduction . As a rule, it shouldn’t take up more than 10–15% of the text.

An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.

In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.

Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.

The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.

To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

Let’s say you’re writing a five-paragraph  essay about the environmental impacts of dietary choices. Here are three examples of topic sentences you could use for each of the three body paragraphs :

  • Research has shown that the meat industry has severe environmental impacts.
  • However, many plant-based foods are also produced in environmentally damaging ways.
  • It’s important to consider not only what type of diet we eat, but where our food comes from and how it is produced.

Each of these sentences expresses one main idea – by listing them in order, we can see the overall structure of the essay at a glance. Each paragraph will expand on the topic sentence with relevant detail, evidence, and arguments.

The topic sentence usually comes at the very start of the paragraph .

However, sometimes you might start with a transition sentence to summarize what was discussed in previous paragraphs, followed by the topic sentence that expresses the focus of the current paragraph.

Topic sentences help keep your writing focused and guide the reader through your argument.

In an essay or paper , each paragraph should focus on a single idea. By stating the main idea in the topic sentence, you clarify what the paragraph is about for both yourself and your reader.

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

  • In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
  • In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
  • In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory

At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

In rhetorical analysis , a claim is something the author wants the audience to believe. A support is the evidence or appeal they use to convince the reader to believe the claim. A warrant is the (often implicit) assumption that links the support with the claim.

Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, building up logical arguments . Ethos appeals to the speaker’s status or authority, making the audience more likely to trust them. Pathos appeals to the emotions, trying to make the audience feel angry or sympathetic, for example.

Collectively, these three appeals are sometimes called the rhetorical triangle . They are central to rhetorical analysis , though a piece of rhetoric might not necessarily use all of them.

The term “text” in a rhetorical analysis essay refers to whatever object you’re analyzing. It’s frequently a piece of writing or a speech, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, you could also treat an advertisement or political cartoon as a text.

The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to explain the effect a piece of writing or oratory has on its audience, how successful it is, and the devices and appeals it uses to achieve its goals.

Unlike a standard argumentative essay , it’s less about taking a position on the arguments presented, and more about exploring how they are constructed.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

If you have to hand in your essay outline , you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use full sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.

When writing an essay outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short phrases.

You will sometimes be asked to hand in an essay outline before you start writing your essay . Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.

Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an essay outline is an important part of the writing process . It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

Your subjects might be very different or quite similar, but it’s important that there be meaningful grounds for comparison . You can probably describe many differences between a cat and a bicycle, but there isn’t really any connection between them to justify the comparison.

You’ll have to write a thesis statement explaining the central point you want to make in your essay , so be sure to know in advance what connects your subjects and makes them worth comparing.

Some essay prompts include the keywords “compare” and/or “contrast.” In these cases, an essay structured around comparing and contrasting is the appropriate response.

Comparing and contrasting is also a useful approach in all kinds of academic writing : You might compare different studies in a literature review , weigh up different arguments in an argumentative essay , or consider different theoretical approaches in a theoretical framework .

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

If you’re not given a specific prompt for your descriptive essay , think about places and objects you know well, that you can think of interesting ways to describe, or that have strong personal significance for you.

The best kind of object for a descriptive essay is one specific enough that you can describe its particular features in detail—don’t choose something too vague or general.

If you’re not given much guidance on what your narrative essay should be about, consider the context and scope of the assignment. What kind of story is relevant, interesting, and possible to tell within the word count?

The best kind of story for a narrative essay is one you can use to reflect on a particular theme or lesson, or that takes a surprising turn somewhere along the way.

Don’t worry too much if your topic seems unoriginal. The point of a narrative essay is how you tell the story and the point you make with it, not the subject of the story itself.

Narrative essays are usually assigned as writing exercises at high school or in university composition classes. They may also form part of a university application.

When you are prompted to tell a story about your own life or experiences, a narrative essay is usually the right response.

The majority of the essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Unless otherwise specified, you can assume that the goal of any essay you’re asked to write is argumentative: To convince the reader of your position using evidence and reasoning.

In composition classes you might be given assignments that specifically test your ability to write an argumentative essay. Look out for prompts including instructions like “argue,” “assess,” or “discuss” to see if this is the goal.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

An expository essay is a common assignment in high-school and university composition classes. It might be assigned as coursework, in class, or as part of an exam.

Sometimes you might not be told explicitly to write an expository essay. Look out for prompts containing keywords like “explain” and “define.” An expository essay is usually the right response to these prompts.

An expository essay is a broad form that varies in length according to the scope of the assignment.

Expository essays are often assigned as a writing exercise or as part of an exam, in which case a five-paragraph essay of around 800 words may be appropriate.

You’ll usually be given guidelines regarding length; if you’re not sure, ask.

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The Difference Between an Article and an Essay

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In composition studies , an article is a short work of nonfiction that typically appears in a magazine or newspaper or on a website. Unlike essays , which often highlight the subjective impressions of the author (or narrator ), articles are commonly written from an objective point of view . Articles include news items, feature stories, reports , profiles , instructions, product descriptions, and other informative pieces of writing.

What Sets Articles Apart From Essays

Though both articles and essays are types of nonfiction writing, they differ in many ways. Here are some features and qualities of articles that differentiate them from essays.

Subject and Theme in Articles

"A useful exercise is to look at some good articles and name the broader subject and the particular aspect each treats. You will find that the subject always deals with a partial aspect examined from some viewpoint; it is never a crammed condensation of the whole.

"...Observe that there are two essential elements of an article: subject and theme . The subject is what the article is about: the issue, event, or person it deals with. (Again, an article must cover only an aspect of a whole.) The theme is what the author wants to say about the subject—what he brings to the subject." (Ayn Rand, The Art of Nonfiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers , ed. by Robert Mayhew. Plume, 2001)

"An article is not everything that's true. It's every important thing that's true." (Gary Provost, Beyond Style: Mastering the Finer Points of Writing . Writer's Digest Books, 1988)

Article Structure

"There are five ways to structure your article . They are:

- The inverted pyramid - The double helix - The chronological double-helix - The chronological report - The storytelling model

Think about how you read a newspaper: you scan the captions and then read the first paragraph or two to get the gist of the article and then read further if you want to know more of the details. That's the inverted pyramid style of writing used by journalists, in which what's important comes first. The double-helix also presents facts in order of importance but it alternates between two separate sets of information. For example, suppose you are writing an article about the two national political conventions. You'll first present Fact 1 about the Democratic convention, then Fact 2 about the Republicans, then Fact 2 about the Democrats, Fact 2 about the Republicans, and so on. The chronological double-helix begins like the double helix but once the important facts from each set of information have been presented, it then goes off to relay the events in chronological order...

"The chronological report is the most straightforward structure to follow since it is written in the order in which the events occurred. The final structure is the storytelling model, which utilizes some of the techniques of fiction writing, so you would want to bring the reader into the story right away even if it means beginning in the middle or even near the end and then filling in the facts as the story unfolds." (Richard D. Bank, The Everything Guide to Writing Nonfiction . Adams Media, 2010)

Opening Sentence of an Article

"The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn't induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead. And if the second sentence doesn't induce him to continue to the third sentence, it's equally dead. Of such a progression of sentences, each tugging the reader forward until he is hooked, a writer constructs that fateful unit, the ' lead .'" (William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction , 7th ed. HarperCollins, 2006)

Articles and Media

"More and more, article content written for printed media is also appearing on digital devices (often as an edited version of a longer article) for readers who have short attention spans due to time constraints or their device's small screen. As a result, digital publishers are seeking audio versions of content that is significantly condensed and written in conversational style. Often, content writers must now submit their articles with the understanding they will appear in several media formats." (Roger W. Nielsen, Writing Content: Mastering Magazine and Online Writing . R.W. Nielsen, 2009)

Writer's Voice in Articles and Essays

"Given the confusion of genre minglings and overlaps, what finally distinguishes an essay from an article may just be the author's gumption, the extent to which personal voice , vision, and style are the prime movers and shapers, even though the authorial 'I' may be only a remote energy, nowhere visible but everywhere present. ('We commonly do not remember,' Thoreau wrote in the opening paragraphs of Walden , 'that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking.')" (Justin Kaplan, quoted by Robert Atwan in The Best American Essays, College Edition , 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin, 1998)

  • What Are the Different Types and Characteristics of Essays?
  • What Is Expository Writing?
  • How to Write a News Article That's Effective
  • Definition and Examples of Paragraphing in Essays
  • Writing a Lead or Lede to an Article
  • How To Write an Essay
  • What Is a Synopsis and How Do You Write One?
  • Learn to Write News Stories
  • Paragraph Length in Compositions and Reports
  • Tips to Write a Great Letter to the Editor
  • Unity in Composition
  • AP English Exam: 101 Key Terms
  • Point of View in Grammar and Composition
  • How to Structure an Essay
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • How to Write Your Graduate School Admissions Essay

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essay or prose difference

What Is The Difference Between Prose and Poetry?

essay or prose difference

Written by:

Natalie Hayes

Natalie Hayes


Poetry is an art form that has been around for centuries. It is a way to express oneself through the use of words and can be written in many different styles. There are many different types of poetry, such as sonnets, haikus, and ballads.

Poetry can be written about any topic, and it is often used to express emotions. But what is the difference between poetry and prose?

In this article, we outline the differences between the two popular forms of story-telling.

Are you interested in studying English Literature at the university level? Our pre-university courses are designed to ensure you’re prepared for the university style of teaching. Build subject knowledge, work alongside like-minded peers and live in one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

Poetry VS Prose

Prose is a form of writing that is based on spoken language. It is characterised by its natural flow and rhythm, as well as its use of regular grammar and punctuation. Prose is often used for novels, short stories, and essays.

Poetry, on the other hand, is a form of writing that is based on musicality and rhythm. It is often characterized by its use of figurative languages, such as metaphors and similes. Poetry is often used for poems and some of its devices are also used in songwriting.

The major difference between the two is that poetry is a form of writing that uses rhythm and rhyme to create a musical or chant-like effect, whereas prose, is a form of writing that is more straightforward and doesn’t rely on rhyme or meter.

Poetry often uses figurative language to create images or expressive ideas, while prose is more literal. Prose is usually used for novels, essays, and nonfiction writing, while poetry is more often associated with literature, lyrics, and storytelling.

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Prose Vs Verse: What’s the Difference?

Home / Blog / Prose Vs Verse: What’s The Difference?

Prose vs Verse


If you explore the Internet, you will often come across questions like what are the differences between prose and verse or simply prose vs verse. If you seek to understand the basic differences, this blog is for you. Read on to get a detailed insight. 

Before we delve into the differences, let us first check out what they each signify. 

What is Prose? What are its Types?

The prose is a form of literature, with a structure that is elementary and loosely described. It is frequently used in everyday speech and communication. It is a spoken or written language in its ordinary form, without involving any formal metrical structure.

A natural flow of speech and simple grammatical rules are followed in prose. This implies that it includes grammatically correct sentences and paragraphs. In addition, prose uses daily vocabulary that is plain and simple and avoids the aesthetic approach. The idea floats in prose throughout the sentences.

Some notable instances include novels, dictionary definition, encyclopedias, textbooks, articles, etc.

There are four basic prose forms, given as follows:

  • Non-fictional prose: Non-fictional prose is a literary work containing fact-based material or one based on a true story, or anecdote.
  • Fictional Prose: This might be entirely or partly fictional, i.e. imaginative. Novels, short stories, etc., may be included.
  • Heroic Prose: Literary composition, written or recited, also found in oral traditions, has a fixed type of words.
  • Prose Poetry: Literary work that uses emotional effects and highly intense figurative language to display artistic quality. It is a hybrid form that incorporates both poetry and prose.

Now, we will take a look at what is verse.

What is a Verse? What are the Various Types?

You can consider verse as a literary composition describing poetry of one line, with a definite rhythm. Now, it can refer to any stanza or portion of the poem. A verse may also be interpreted as a line of metric writing that signifies any arrangement of poetry works whose grouping is called 'stanza' technically.

Usually, several verses can be found in a poem. It is a collection of lyrics that describe the essence of the poem. In order to create a harmonious rhythm, it includes an arrangement of words in a definite pattern.

There are two types of verses, and it has been mentioned below.

A free verse is one that has no fixed meter, meaning the rhyming scheme is absent, and there is no particular pattern in the poem.

  • Blank Verse

There is an Iambic pentameter in blank verse, but it is unrhythmic. It is primarily used to illustrate passionate events and spark the interest of the reader.

Now that we have an idea about the verse and the prose, we can delve into the differences.

What is the Difference between Prose and Verse?

If you are writing a paper on prose vs verse, you have arrived at the right place. Here we will conduct a detailed investigation into the topic.

Table 1: An Analogy between Prose and Verse

Now, that you have some insight into the differences, we should take a look at some examples.

Following is an instance of poetry verse Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost.


The next example is from Fog by Carl Sandburg


And here are certain examples of prose:

Example 1: Nelson Mandela’s No Easy Walk to Freedom


Example 2: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


The only way you can distinguish between the two is if you go through a lot of examples.

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  • Prose vs. Verse: Which Form of Writing Should You Choose?
  • Literature and writing

Are you someone who loves to express themselves through writing but is unsure which form to choose? Do you struggle with deciding whether prose or verse would be the best way to convey your message?

The prose is a form of language that follows ordinary grammar and natural flow, lacking a specific metrical structure, while the verse is a structured form of language characterized by rhythm, meter, and poetic techniques.

Prose vs. Verse

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What is Prose?

Prose refers to a form of written or spoken language that does not adhere to a specific poetic structure or rhythm. It is the most common and natural way of expressing thoughts, ideas, and narratives in everyday communication.

The prose is characterized by its typical sentence and paragraph structure, lacking the formal metrical or rhyming patterns found in poetry. It allows for the use of complete sentences, paragraphs, and ordinary language, enabling a more straightforward and conventional mode of expression in literature, essays, novels, speeches, and everyday writing.

What is Verse?

The verse refers to a form of written or spoken language that follows a specific metrical and rhythmic pattern. It is commonly associated with poetry, where lines of verse are arranged in stanzas and often utilize rhyme, meter, and other poetic devices to create a structured and musical quality.

The verse can vary in its form, including traditional forms such as sonnets or haikus, as well as free verse that does not adhere to a specific pattern. Unlike prose, the verse emphasizes the artistic and aesthetic aspects of language, utilizing rhythm, meter, and poetic techniques to evoke emotions and create a distinct artistic expression followed by lines of iambic trimeter.

Similarities between Prose and Verse

  • Language: Both prose and verse use language as a means of communication and expression.
  • Meaning and Content: Both prose and verse convey meaning and content through the use of words, sentences, and paragraphs.
  • Literary Elements: Both prose and verse can incorporate literary elements such as imagery, symbolism, metaphors, and themes to enhance the depth and richness of the writing.
  • Narrative Structure: Both prose and verse can be used to tell stories, present ideas, or convey information in a structured manner.
  • Creativity and Artistry: While verse is more commonly associated with artistic expression, prose can also be crafted with creativity and artistry, utilizing literary techniques and stylistic choices to engage the reader.

Pros and cons of each form of writing

Pros of Prose:

  • Clarity: Prose allows for clear and straightforward communication, making it suitable for conveying information, narratives, and ideas in a direct and accessible manner.
  • Versatility: Prose can be used in a wide range of writing forms, including novels, essays, articles, and everyday communication, providing flexibility in expressing various topics and styles.
  • Natural Expression: Prose reflects the natural flow of spoken language, making it easy to read, understand, and connect with for the reader.

Cons of Prose:

  • Lack of Musicality: Prose lacks the inherent musicality and rhythmic patterns found in verse, which can limit its ability to evoke a specific emotional or aesthetic response through sound and rhythm.
  • Limited Poetic Techniques: Prose does not typically employ poetic devices such as rhyme, meter, or specific poetic structures, which can restrict its use for creating certain artistic effects.

Pros of Verse:

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Verse offers a heightened sense of rhythm, meter, and musicality, which can create a more captivating and aesthetically pleasing reading experience.
  • Poetic Techniques: Verse allows for the use of poetic devices such as rhyme, alliteration, repetition, and meter, enabling writers to convey meaning and emotions in a more vivid and memorable way.
  • Emotional Impact: The rhythmic patterns and poetic techniques in verse can evoke powerful emotions, adding depth and resonance to the content being expressed.

Cons of Verse:

  • Complexity: Writing in verse requires a good understanding of poetic techniques, meter, and rhyme schemes, making it more challenging to craft effectively.
  • Limited Accessibility: The structured nature of the verse can sometimes create a barrier for readers who are less familiar with poetic conventions, potentially limiting its reach and appeal.
  • Expressive Constraints: The adherence to specific metrical and rhyme patterns in verse may restrict the writer’s ability to express certain ideas or narratives freely.

How to choose the right form of writing for your project

Prose is the standard form of writing, and is typically used for things like novels, short stories, and essays. It is characterized by its use of complete sentences and paragraphs and its focus on narrative.

The verse is often seen as more poetic and lyrical. It can be used for things like poetry, song lyrics, and plays. It is often shorter and less formal than prose and makes use of rhythm and rhyme.

If you’re looking to write something that is longer and more complex, then prose may be the better option. But if you want something that is shorter and more lyrical, then verse may be a better fit.

Key differences between Prose and Verse

  • Structure: Prose is characterized by its natural flow of sentences and paragraphs, lacking a specific rhythmic or metrical pattern. The verse follows a structured arrangement of lines, often with a specific meter, rhyme, or poetic form.
  • Rhythm and Meter: Prose does not adhere to a specific rhythmic or metrical pattern, while verse utilizes rhythmic patterns, such as syllabic count, stressed and unstressed syllables, or specific poetic meters, to create a musical quality.
  • Language and Expression: Prose typically uses ordinary language and focuses on clarity and directness in communication. Verse often employs heightened and more imaginative language, utilizing poetic devices and techniques to create artistic effects and evoke emotions.
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Prose offers a natural and direct communication style, suitable for conveying information and narratives with clarity. It is versatile and accessible to a wide range of readers. Verse adds a layer of musicality and poetic techniques, enhancing the aesthetic appeal and emotional impact of the writing. While verse requires a deeper understanding of poetic conventions, it allows for a more expressive and artistic exploration.

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2024 Brown County MLK Celebration: Poster, essay, poetry contest winners

essay or prose difference

GREEN BAY - The winners of the Brown County MLK Community Celebration K-12 Contest were announced Saturday during the 29th annual event.

The event honors the life and legacy of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 2024 event , scheduled for Saturday at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, was held virtually after a blizzard dumped over a foot of snow on Green Bay.

Students in grades kindergarten through 12th as schools within Brown County and Oneida Nation were invited to participate and creatively interpret this years them of "bridging cultures, celebrating differences." Students could submit a poster, poem or essay.

The first-place entries from each grade group are below and a list of the second- and third-place finishers.

First place: Ashton Marienthal, Tank Elementary School (Poster)

  • Second place: Valentina Constanza, Baird Elementary School (Poster)
  • Third place: Sofia Garcia Rodrigues, Tank Elementary School (Poster)

 Grades 4-6

First place: Swaranjana Yadav, Leonardo da Vinci School for Gifted Learners (Essay)

"Bridging Cultures, Celebrating Differences"

Peace and equality. All important things that Martin Luther King Jr. helped us realized. Bridging cultures, and celebrating differences, is another one of the things that he did, and he helped. Let's start with bridging cultures. It is like that all of the cultures are scattered apart, and with friendly communication, their bridges slowly start to come together, getting longer and wider. The bridges are what is connecting them all to be one nation together. Now, to move on to celebrating differences. Celebrating differences is like all of us, no matter where we are from, and what culture or background we come from, we can talk and celebrate together and acknowledge our differences. Acknowledging differences is very important. Not only do we get to learn new things, but also grow new perspectives on different topics. This brings me to a concept I thought of. The seesaw concept. It's alike a seesaw, and instead of a person on each side there's a culture. Take white and non-white for an example. If there is more usage of the white culture, it will be heavier. Then this culture is at the bottom of the seesaw and feels settled and therefore safe. All because this part of the seesaw is safe. There are likely more usage of this "safer" part and that keep the "safer culture" perpetuating.

Now, to switch to the top of the seesaw, the more uncomfortable side. The non-white are at the top, feeling more discomforted, and possibly overwhelmed. They could also feel more unsafe. This seesaw concept resonates in real life too. What we want to do is that we want the seesaw to be balanced, both sides of the seesaw are at the same height. And while that can't happen on a real seesaw, we can try and make it happen in real life. This whole concept does relate to bridging cultures and celebrating differences.

Concluding, celebrating differences because we don't want to be entirely, or too much of one culture. It is like we are forced to eat hamburger or pizza for 360 days. We want to celebrate our differences, so everyone has a chance to be proud of something. And not overpowering one thing too much. Moreover, when the seesaw is balanced, we can build our bridges easier, and happier. We can stay true to our individual traditions yet keep broadening our perspective. Peace and equality.

  • Second place: Ananya Ram, Heritage Elementary School (Essay)
  • Third place: Raif Mohammad Mahfuz, Altmayer Elementary School (Poster)

First place: Gisell Ponce Prieto, Edison Middle School (Poster)

  • Second place: Ezmirilda Estupinian, Edison Middle School (Poster)
  • Third place: Madeline Juelich, Edison Middle School (Poster)

Grades 10-12

First place: Jaden Spitzer, Preble High School (Poster)

  • Second place: Marie McKenna, De Pere High School (Poetry)
  • Third place: Jace Froehlich, N.E.W. School of Innovation (Poster)

More: 2022 Brown County MLK Celebration: Poster, essay, poetry contest winners


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    Essays. You're probably familiar with essays. An essay makes some kind of argument about a specific question or topic. Essays are written in prose because it's what modern readers are accustomed to. ... He loved to play around with the difference between prose and verse, and if you look closely you can see the purpose behind it: the ...

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    literature. essay, an analytic, interpretative, or critical literary composition usually much shorter and less systematic and formal than a dissertation or thesis and usually dealing with its subject from a limited and often personal point of view. Some early treatises—such as those of Cicero on the pleasantness of old age or on the art of ...

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    总结来说,"prose"是一种以普通语言书写的文学形式,用于叙述故事或表达思想;而"essay"是一种短文,用于探讨、分析或阐述一个主题。 这两个词在用法和目的上有所不同,但都是用来表达作者的观点和思想的文学形式。 Ralon17 7 July English (US) Prose is a general word that means "writing," specifically writing that is not poetry. An essay is a specific type of writing: Oxford dictionary defines it as "a short piece of writing on a particular subject."

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  11. How to Write the AP Lit Prose Essay + Example

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    Introduction: This paper covers four important topics of Literature, which include: Essay, Poetry, Prose, Drama and Film. Essay is a form of writing, which can be literary-based or scientific-based. Like any other form of writing, it has its different characteristics, and also it serves for different purposes. For example, when writing a letter ...

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    In fact, not all poetry is in verse—specifically, prose poetry isn't. In other words, prose and poetry do overlap, whereas prose and verse don't. Most poetry is in verse, but some poetry is in prose. We go into more detail on line breaks, stanzas, and the use of page space in the sections below.

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    Unlike essays, which often highlight the subjective impressions of the author (or narrator ), articles are commonly written from an objective point of view. Articles include news items, feature stories, reports, profiles, instructions, product descriptions, and other informative pieces of writing. What Sets Articles Apart From Essays

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    Home » Grammar » Word Usage When it comes to writing, there are two main forms that come to mind: prose and verse. But what exactly do these terms mean? Is one better than the other? In this article, we'll explore the differences between prose and verse, and which one is the proper term to use in certain situations.

  21. What Is The Difference Between Prose and Poetry?

    The major difference between the two is that poetry is a form of writing that uses rhythm and rhyme to create a musical or chant-like effect, whereas prose, is a form of writing that is more straightforward and doesn't rely on rhyme or meter. Poetry often uses figurative language to create images or expressive ideas, while prose is more ...

  22. Prose and Verse: What's the Difference?

    Prose is the name of any sort of literary work that follows the basic grammatical structure to form sentences and paragraphs. 1. It is called verse when words are metrically arranged in a sequence, as per a given design or rhythm. 2. Prose is a type of text. 2. Verse is a type of poetic composition.

  23. Prose vs. Verse: Which Form of Writing Should You Choose?

    The prose is a form of language that follows ordinary grammar and natural flow, lacking a specific metrical structure, while the verse is a structured form of language characterized by rhythm, meter, and poetic techniques. Prose vs. Verse Read Also: Notice vs. Circular Journal vs. Magazine Newspaper vs. Magazine What is Prose?

  24. Winners of the 2024 Brown County MLK Celebration K-12 contest

    2024 Brown County MLK Celebration: Poster, essay, poetry contest winners. Peter Frank. Green Bay Press-Gazette. 0:03. 1:25. GREEN BAY - The winners of the Brown County MLK Community Celebration K ...