How to Write a Commentary Essay: Your Student’s Guide

A commentary essay is not the most popular type of academic assignment. Yet, you should know how to write this paper as it may also add up some points to your record book. This step-by-step explains how to write a commentary essay. Useful tips regarding this topic are also given. These pieces of advice from the professional online writers and editors will help you reinforce your ability to write this type of assignment. It can be submitted as both homework or in-class assignment. Some tutors may assign a commentary as part of the examination. So, there is no way out but to learn how to write it.

We will start discussing this type of assignment with a commentary essay definition.

What is a Commentary Essay?

To make it short, a literary commentary is a type of academic assignment aimed to reveal the results of analysis and detailed description of a particular piece of text. It can be a fresh or outdated article, but it is better to choose one that is not older than 5 years. There is no need to involve a general discussion on the topic/thesis statement. Still, it should have a strong thesis.

Except for academic purposes, sporadically commentaries are used for publishing purposes. That means that whenever a publisher needs a commentary for a recently published work, the editor should write one. The primary goal of such type of writing is to initiate a forum where people can voice and opine various perspectives on a given topic.

Commentary Essay Structure and Outline

You should clearly see the difference between commenting on a research paper and a commentary as a subgenre of academic writing. They differ in structure even though the purpose is the same.

If you comment in a single-paragraph to the specific part of a research paper text, it will suffice to insert a comment in your Word’s comment field and so provide feedback to the chosen piece of text. An essay commentary should not cover (or refer to) the whole essay — just a small part of it.

In case you are writing a commentary essay as a separate assignment, you should pick a different structure that is reminiscent of the other academic genres. It should generate around 5 paragraphs in length with the proposed outline looking as follows:

  1. Abstract (summarize the rest of the literary commentary in 250-300 words maximum — 1/3 of a page).
  2. Introduction (introduce the analyzed piece and its author).
  3. Several body paragraphs (include a topic sentence and transitions in each).
  4. Conclusion (summarize everything said above, restate your thesis, and finish on a powerful accord).

You should not use any other references except for the one you analyze. It will be enough to cite the original source and use your own words to illustrate your points of view. As you see, there is no need to add a reference page in the end.

How about the process of writing itself? Take a look at the professional tips on writing a commentary essay below!

Commentary Essay Writing Guidelines

  1. Involve broad thinking & analysis.
    As an author, you must be well-versed in what you are writing in the commentary. Otherwise, you can neither judge the works of other authors objectively nor justify your own opinions. First off, cover the primary concepts and overall beliefs. It is also possible to include a cause-and-effect concept in such a situation.
    Except for the review of the analyzed content, it is crucial to extend the idea and add some personal touch to what you’re writing about.
  2. Stick to the critical but respectful tone.
    Portray a case in the present as well as share some forecast for the future, if possible. Play with the available data as well as with your own thoughts. If you feel like lacking competence in a certain field, it is recommended not to enforce your ideas as something may be wrong with your stance. Instead of focusing on the author of the text and criticizing him/her, your analysis can be restricted to the text alone. Make sure the tone of your discourse is constructive and sober.
  3. Get ready before writing.
    Before starting the first draft, read the analyzed piece several times to make sure you understand its main concept. Perhaps, you’ve missed some critical points between the lines while reading the message for the first time. Write out all the central ideas on a separate sheet of paper to come to them later in the writing process. Highlight the keywords, especially if you plan to submit this document online or publish it on a website. Check the meaning of the terminology you don’t know. Use the dictionary for this reason.
  4. Start with a hook.
    How to start a commentary essay? That is a good question as you have to catch an eye of the readers and make them want to read your work to the end. The best way to grab the attention is to start with a bang: a shocking fact or rhetorical question would do. It can be a quote from the book or article you are going to cut off a section, to put it casually.

Why not sum up these tips along with some new recommendations? That’d be a ready-to-use checklist for you!

Tips on Writing a Commentary Essay

The basic tips that may help you on the way to outstanding commentary are:

  • Define the main problem.
  • Consider the theme & target audience.
  • Decide on the structure & genre of the paper.
  • Decide how to present the information.
  • Be clear about the language and style of your work.
  • Select the artistical devices to hone you supply.
  • Choose what to quote and what not to.
  • Turn the paper into presentable speech.
  • Look for the feedback.
  • Proofread & edit the final draft.

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