Module: The Writing Craft
Time: 10 minutes

In a nutshell: What is prose rhythm?

Prose rhythm is a creative writing term that refers to the rhythm of prose. Prose is writing that isn’t poetry, screenwriting, or another set structure of text. When prose rhythm is used correctly, it sets the flow and pacing of the writing in an effective way. In the context of business writing, this means the stories being told through the writing gain a new dimension.

Examples

Effective prose rhythm: On this particular day, there was a sense of calm in the office. It was as if we all understood what we needed to do; interacting seamlessly and confidently in a symbiosis that was very clearly a result of the tools we’d learnt the day before.

The office is calm and flowing – so the writing flows in a calm pace.

Ineffective prose rhythm: The office was calm. We all understood what we needed to do. We interacted seamlessly and confidently. It was like a symbiosis that was the result of what we learnt at the lecture.

The flow goes against the messaging of the writing with choppy sentences that seem rushed, not calm.

Prose rhythm is often overlooked, especially in business writing. It shouldn’t be, because when it works well, it pulls the reader into the narrative, simply by using sentence length and punctuation in an effective way. When you get it right, you’ll be able to give your writing even more punch – and so get your audience comfortably reading while taking in your story.

In 10 minutes, you’ll be able to recognise effective prose rhythm from ineffective, and implement this tool in your own writing.

Workshop goal: You are able to identify the pace in business writing, and implement the pace you want for your own content.

Steps

  1. Pick a paragraph from a piece of business writing you’ve liked reading. What’s the content about? Is it about an exciting experience? Is it trying to teach you something? Is it about work-life balance? Figure out what the paragraph is actually communicating. office, or in a virtual context. 2 mins
  2. Read the paragraph out loud. Make note of the sentence length, the pauses, and the punctuation in the text. This is the pace in the paragraph. Does it go well with the key message? 1 min
  3. Play around with the paragraph. Add full stops. Make a single long sentence. Make the short sentences long and the long sentences short. What effect does this have on the flow and messaging of the text? 3 mins
  4. Write a paragraph about something you’d like to share. Is the message calm or punchy? Fast-paced or contemplative? Does the flow of the paragraph convey this message well? Re-read aloud until you feel the pace matches the content. 4 mins

Now you’ve identified the prose rhythm in two pieces of business writing, and learnt how to make flow work for your own messaging. This will make it easier for your audience to appreciate your content – and they’ll actually enjoy consuming it.