How to Write a Commentary
When you have to write this type of assignment for the first time, you may have questions like “What is a commentary?”, “How to write it”? So we have prepared this article to help you out. It will provide you the guidelines and tips on writing a good literary commentary.
Writing a literary commentary means making a detailed analysis of a new article or a text. Since it is not a thesis, it doesn’t need a general discussion on the topic and a statement. But still, you have to prepare before you start writing it like you would have to before writing an essay. Note that it’s not similar to an essay and is different in many aspects.
What is a literary commentary?
A literary commentary is specifically focused on a complete analysis and detailed description of a specific text. They are generally used for the news and magazine publications where publisher requests it for a newly published article or a story. The purpose of publishing a commentary is to provide a forum where different perspectives can be discussed on a certain topic in a journal.
It takes a broad thinking and analysis
When you are writing a commentary, you are supposed to have an in-depth knowledge. You will be presenting your unique viewpoints on various aspects and problems. Your commentary will have to be discussing the fundamental concepts and general beliefs. You can also discuss the effects of an event or an innovative thing that is freshly applied.
Your commentary will act as an extension of the thoughts of the author and boost or further advances the argument. Thus it works as a perspective that brings more clarity to the idea or the problem discussed in the article.
It should be critical yet with a respectful tone
With your commentary on a text, you will be portraying a situation in present and an anticipation on what can take place in future. You can do this with the existing data and facts along with your opinions depending on a detailed analysis. In a general definition, you will be providing your views and opinions on a focal article using your knowledge and in-depth analysis.
While doing this, you have to take care that your discussions are focused on the subject matter and the message underlined and not on the author of the text. It is vital to be critical but at the same time, you have to be unbiased with the work of the author. So the tone of your discussion should be respectful and constructive that can give your readers a reason to read it.
Steps to prepare for a commentary
You will need to prepare and gather the points to be covered in your commentary. Then you can write an outline and a draft and finally, you can polish it to make it presentable. There are several steps you have to follow to write an effective and successful literary commentary.
Prepare before writing
To have a clear understanding of the text, you may have to read it multiple times. Read each word and sentence carefully to understand the read between lines that the author wants to convey. You will be able to develop an analytical mindset by reading the text slowly.
Read it loudly and several times so that you will be able to have thoughts and ideas. As you have them in your mind, note them on a paper. Have a hard copy of the text so that you can refer it every time you need.
When you note down the ideas, make sure to highlight the important keywords. Mark them with a highlighter or pen in your notes. Especially those words which are bold or italic in the text as they are important. They will help you understand the important message in the text.
You may have questions about some words. You can refer to other sources to understand them and it will help you write your commentary in more details. Some important keywords may be repeated in the article, so they will be very useful in writing in your commentary. Look for such words and highlight them.
Outline the main points
Once you have read the text several times and highlighted the words, you can create an outline of your commentary. This is a general way to prepare a commentary, unlike an essay which requires a thesis statement. Analyse the structure of the article and its content and prepare an outline accordingly.
Generally, it should have an introduction which identifies the important points. Then comes body outline which discusses the ideas and issues in detail. And lastly, there will be a conclusion in which you summarize your analysis of the content.
Steps to write the commentary
Once you are done with preparation, i.e. analysis and creating an outline, you are ready to start writing your commentary. Follow the steps given below.
Identifying the basic information
At this step, you have to note the basic information given in the article. They are the title, the author name, publication date, and the genre. You have to include these details in the introduction section of the commentary.
Note the major event when the major work was introduced. For example, if a particular piece of content was written as part of a larger collection and published at a particular time, you can mention it in your introduction section. However, avoid writing the unnecessary details like the author’s biography or the overall plot. This is because it will seem useless. Avoid them unless you feel it highly relevant in order to strengthen your viewpoint or opinion in the discussion.
Mention about the theme, subject, and audience
This is about the main part of the commentary, i.e. body. In this section, you have to describe the main text and its focus. Discuss the answers to basic questions like who and what is the center of the text? What is the main point of the text? What purpose has been achieved through the content of the article? What are the outcomes?
In an article, the characters and the main event associated with them can be considered as a subject. Then comes the audience. You can identify by observing the dedication of the work towards a particular person or a group. This person or a group can be considered as the audience of the content. Then you have to describe the theme. It can be a descriptive word. For example love or hate or anything around which the entire text is evolving.
Observe the structure and genre of the content
The content will be in a specific form. The way it is written decides it’s genre, for example, it can be in the form of a poem, or a narrative or an essay. You have to identify if the content matches a particular genre like a poetry or a story or a travel experience. It can also be a fiction or non-fiction content.
It will help you understand and determine the structure of the content. If the content is in long sentences and paragraphs, it can be a descriptive writing on a traveling experience. If its a poem, it will be in short lines and will be divided into stanzas. So you will be able to know its structure based on the genre of the text.
Identify how the text is presented
Look for the voice used in the text. It can be a first person or the second person voice. You can identify this by checking who is the speaker or the narrator. Note the word selection, language, and the diction and observe how they fit with the way the text has been conveyed by the speaker.
If there are words like “you” or “we”, you can say that there are two or more characters communicating with each other in the text. You can describe this in your commentary so the readers know the voice of the text being discussed.
Understand the tone
This is important to know the style of expression of the thoughts. The attitude and the mood of the author can be known by looking at the tone of the text. Depending on the need of the subject, the author may have used different tones in different situations. For example, it may be a light and friendly tone at some point and in some situation and maybe serious at another point or in another situation.
Observe how the tone changes to understand the fluctuations of the mood and changes in the situations or events. The choice of words may play an important role and it will help you understand this thing accurately. Author’s experience and mood may be different in different situations and the words and diction will reflect it effectively.
If the text you are writing a commentary on is an act, you may see that the tone is friendly with some characters and changes to be serious with others. The description of the surrounding will change depending on the tone and mood and can be identified easily.
Look for the literary devices that deepen the meaning
Metaphor, imagery, smile, and alliteration are the devices that can be used to intensify the meaning of the sentence and the message. Identify them and mention in your commentary to describe the point. It can be used to discuss the theme and key points of the text. Refer the sources to understand the literary devices and how to find them in the text so that you can make your discussion effective.
Some sentences will clearly present the imagery, for example, the character describes the test of the food with words like sweet and delicious, juicy etc. Mention such words in your commentary to give your readers an imagination of the situation.
Take the quotes included in the text
To support your points and opinions, you can use the quotes from the text. You can directly take the quotes and use the quotation marks. Use only those quotes which are relevant and can support the discussion.
For example, if you are discussing the theme of the article, you may take the lines that contain the words like love or the words that describe the emotions. They should be showing the mental situation of the character and the theme of the content as a whole.
Wrapping up your commentary with a summary
In this part, you will be concluding the discussion with the summary of your thoughts and viewpoints. They should be used to strengthen your stand and main points you have discussed throughout in your commentary. You have to establish the connection of the text being discussed with the work at large by stating the strong points along with your arguments.
Note that you have to restate whatever you have discussed in the main body part of the summary. Avoid adding new points or thoughts that are not discussed earlier to give it a feel like a conclusion as you see in other writing works.
Make your commentary presentable
After you are done with writing your commentary, you have to read it to identify the room for improvements. You may not be able to write it perfectly at once, so you should read it several times and also loudly. It will give you a chance to view it as a reader’s point of view.
Listen to the words and sentences carefully and observe the tone and style of discussion. Note the places where you need to improve. There may be some points which you can remove or revise. Also, add points if you feel necessary. Make sure that the commentary follows the outline you have prepared in the beginning.
Ask for the feedback
To make it even better, you should read it in front of some friend or a family member and ask for their feedback. You may not find some mistakes and problems which others can see easily. So ask your friends or classmates to read your commentary and ask them to provide a feedback without any hesitation. Note their feedback and use them to polish your writing before you present it to the publisher.
Proofread and correct the text
Review your writing and identify the spelling mistakes or grammatical errors if any. The quality of the text is very important. So you should ensure that there is no writing mistake. Also, observe the punctuations like commas and periods, and correct where you feel necessary.
Make changes in the sentences to make them short as long sentences may be confusing and fail to convey the correct meaning. Same way, look for the complex and long words and use simple words as far as possible. The content of your discussion should be easy to read and understand.
Again, you can ask someone else to read and point out the spelling and grammatical mistakes and sentence structure issues. This will help you improve your commentary. Polish it and make it perfect as much as possible before you present it to your audience.
Best of luck.