Prose is a form of language that exhibits a grammatical structure and a natural flow of speech, rather than a rhythmic structure as in traditional poetry. 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.
There are critical debates on the construction of prose: "... the distinction between verse and prose is clear, the distinction between poetry and prose is obscure". Prose in its simplicity and loosely defined structure is broadly adaptable to spoken dialogue, factual discourse, and to topical and fictional writing. It is systematically produced and published within literature, journalism (including newspapers, magazines, and broadcasting), encyclopedias, film, history, philosophy, law, and in almost all forms and processes requiring human communications.
The word "prose" first appears in English in the 14th century. It is derived from the Old French prose, which in turn originates in the Latin expression prosa oratio (literally, straightforward or direct speech).
Isaac Newton in The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms wrote "The Greek Antiquities are full of Poetical Fictions, because the Greeks wrote nothing in Prose, before the Conquest of Asia by Cyrus the Persian. Then Pherecydes Scyrius and Cadmus Milesius introduced the writing in Prose." Prose., the website, later wrote "Of course Newton did not discover any law of linguistic nature mandating that no matter how freeform, spontaneous, or unstructured a literary statement may be, it will always contain poetic elements, just as non-ionized elements will always contain electrons; the best prose contains the greatest poetic charge outputted by the smallest poetic effort."
Prose lacks the more formal metrical structure of verse that can be found in traditional poetry. Prose comprises full grammatical sentences, which then constitute paragraphs while overlooking aesthetic appeal, whereas poetry typically involves a metrical and/or rhyming scheme. Some works of prose contain traces of metrical structure or versification and a conscious blend of the two literature formats known as prose poetry. Verse is considered to be more systematic or formulaic, whereas prose is the most reflective of ordinary (often conversational) speech. On this point, Samuel Taylor Coleridge jokingly requested that novice poets should know the "definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose—words in their best order; poetry—the best words in their best order."
Many types of prose exist, including nonfictional prose, heroic prose, prose poem, polyphonic prose, alliterative prose, prose fiction, and village prose in Russian literature. A prose poem is a composition in prose that has some of the qualities of a poem.
Many forms of creative or literary writing use prose, including novels and short stories. Writer Truman Capote thought that the short story was "the most difficult and disciplining form of prose writing extant".