How to Write a Commentary? Quick Study Guide for Students

“What does commentary mean?” There is a common misconception among the average students in this regard. To put it clear, a literary commentary is not the same as the commentary essay or literary analysis even though they are similar in form and essence. It may take a single paragraph or be a 5-paragraph paper like most of the essays whereas the writer should focus on the analyzed piece of content. The good news is that students do not have to waste time on developing a thesis statement or discussing the entire story (summarizing it) when crafting a literary commentary. It works this way: you simply pick a specific passage and provide feedback on it. Your feedback is basically your sentiment on the chosen message.

There are several types of commentaries:

  1. Literary commentary
  2. English composition commentary
  3. Social commentary
  4. Personal commentary
  5. Scientific commentary

As you can see, the text you should give your feedback on must relate to the specific field of study. For a scientific commentary, for example, you should pick out a scientific journal or scholarly article for this. Likely, you’ll find online or in the college library a lot of material. In some cases, you’ll be given by your tutor specific pieces to read and evaluate. This task might be a bit challenging, so keep the following agenda in mind:

  • Relevant
  • Up-to-date
  • Relevant to your subject
  • Interesting
  • Accessible

If there is no access to the text in its fullness, you’d rather pick out the other one. The point is that you should take a closer look at the entire content to understand what’s it all about. Writing a commentary requires of you reading the whole “story” from cover to cover. If you wish to learn how to write a good commentary, the first rule is to avoid being lazy or postponing the assignment to the last minute.

While reading the selected passage out loud several times, one may find the hidden meaning. It is a useful practice to improve reading, comprehension, memorizing, and critical thinking. Try to read the content slowly to capture every sign that matters. Here is what you should do while reading:

  • Speak out the words loud instead of reading to yourself.
  • Jot down the main points and questions.
  • Underline the keywords (useful when you are writing online).
  • Highlight the words you don’t understand to check them in the dictionary later.
  • Make a list of all possible topics appropriate in your commentary.
  • Pick the idea that makes the most sense to you after finishing your reading.

The next step is to develop a writing plan.

How to Write an Outline for a Commentary?

The next step on the way to excellent commentary writing is developing a perfect outline. Of course, you will shape it differently than the one in a standard essay. Even though the commentary should be much shorter than an average essay, there are more points in the outline to mention. At the same time, you should not bother creating a thesis. Focus on analyzing the structure, message, and form of the work in question. The outline in this situation could look as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Plot
  3. Speaker’s tone
  4. Meter of the poem
  5. Artistical devices
  6. Rhyme & rhythm
  7. Impression on the reader
  8. Conclusion

It is an example of the commentary in a poem. In other words, you have to deal with some kind of introduction, body (main part), and a conclusion. However, try to keep it as short as possible (300-500 words).

Time-Tested Tips for Smart Commentary Writing

Here is a couple of things that might get your reader excited not to stop but to keep on reading.

  • Start with a bang.
    The primary question before you settle down to this assignment is how to start a commentary. It makes sense because you are going to catch the reader’s attention from the very first line. That is why — instead of simply putting the name of the author and the title of the selected story on the front page — begin with a bang. It’s worth starting your commentary with a joke, with an interesting fact, with a rhetorical question, with a literary quote, whatever.
  • Things to keep in mind
    Except for the author’s full name and title of the studied piece, you should remember to mention the genre. If in doubts, check with the web.
  • Voice and mood matter
    It is essential to identify the writer’s style correctly. If you do not know the difference between, let’s say, the ironic tone and the serious one, you are in danger of ending up with a misleading central message.
  • Cite the original text
    You may also need to provide citations from the analyzed content to justify your stance.
  • Save time on research
    Do not use any third-party sources. All you need is an original paper and your head full of wonderful thoughts — it is as simple as that!
  • Make sure you know the topic
    You should interrogate the whole topic to deliver in your commentary an objective point of view. Second, you need to learn the lexical elements of the language used by the author. If in doubt, check with the dictionary.
  • Mind your format
    How about the recommended commentary format? In most cases, your commentary will have to be in MLA or APA style as these are the two most renowned citation styles for referencing academic works.
  • Summarizing your points
    Writing a commentary is all about sharing your opinion on the given topic. Your ideas matter even more than the original ones delivered by the author.
  • Polish the final draft
    You should confirm that the commentary follows a clear outline, formatting, and grammar rules before submitting it to your teacher. Remember proofreading!

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