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Writing a Commentary Essay

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Writing a commentary essay as part of homework or as an assignment during class can be a daunting task, however it is not as complicated as it seems. A commentary essay is simply an analysis of a text, movie or any other media. In order to write a good commentary essay, you must first understand the purpose of the assignment: whether your instructor wants you to take a certain position on the piece or to simply analyze and draw your own conclusions.

Once you have determined the purpose of the essay, you can begin to gather your evidence and form your argument. Start by taking notes on what you think are the most important aspects of the text, film, etc. that you are analyzing. What themes are present? What symbols do you notice? does the author/director structure the work in an interesting way? How does the media make you feel? Once you have a list of points, it is time to start organizing them. It can be helpful to think of your essay as having three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.

The introduction should introduce the text or movie that you are discussing and provide a brief summary for readers who are not familiar with it. The body of your essay should delve into each point that you noted in your analysis, providing evidence from the text or movie to support your argument. The conclusion should summarize your main points and leave readers with something to think about.

When writing a commentary essay, it is important to remain objective and analytical. Do not simply state your opinion on the text or movie; rather, use evidence from the work itself to support your claims.

What is a Commentary Essay?

A commentary essay, also known as an analytic essay, is a type of writing that examines and evaluates a text. In a commentary essay, you will analyze a text and offer your own interpretation or opinion of it. You will use evidence from the text to support your analysis. Commentary essays are usually assigned in college-level English courses.

How to start Commentary in an Essay

When you begin writing a commentary essay on a text, it is important to read the text carefully and annotate it. Annotation means making notes in the margins or on the text itself. As you read, take note of the author’s argument or main point. Also pay attention to any supporting evidence they provide. As you read, think about how well the author makes their case and whether or not you agree with them.

Once you have a good understanding of the text, you can begin to write your essay. The first paragraph of your essay should introduce the text and provide a brief overview of it. In the second paragraph, you will offer your interpretation of the author’s argument. In the third paragraph, you will discuss any evidence the author provides to support their argument. In the fourth paragraph, you will offer your own opinion on the argument. Finally, in the fifth paragraph, you will summarize the author’s argument and state whether or not you agree with it.

When writing a commentary essay, it is important to remember that you are offering your own interpretation of the text. You should back up your arguments with evidence from the text, but you should also be clear about your own opinion. Be sure to state your position clearly and explain why you hold that opinion.

How to write a commentary essay in 5 steps

Here are steps to help you write a great commentary essay:

Read and understand the prompt thoroughly.

Make sure you understand the question or topic being asked. If you are not sure what is being asked, ask your instructor. Reading and understanding the topic is the first step in writing a commentary essay.

Brainstorm your ideas.

Come up with a few different topics or angles that you could explore in your essay. Jot down some thoughts on each topic. To brainstorm effectively, you don’t need to worry about writing complete sentences. Just get your ideas down on paper.

Choose one topic or angle to focus on. Once you’ve decided on a main idea, start fleshing out your essay by including supporting details and examples. If you’re not sure where to start, try brainstorming again or freewriting.

Develop a thesis statement.

Once you have chosen a topic, develop a thesis statement that will guide your essay. Your thesis should be arguable and state your position on the topic. Thesis statements are important in any type of essay, but especially in a commentary essay. A thesis statement is one or two sentences that state your main idea or argument about the topic you are writing about. A good thesis statement will be clear and specific and will give readers an idea of what to expect from your essay.

Do your research.

Before you start writing, it is important to do your research on the topic you are writing about. If you are not familiar with the subject matter, it will be difficult to write a coherent and well-informed essay. Look for reliable sources of information that can help you understand the topic better.

Create an outline.

Once you have a general idea of what you want to say, create an outline to organize your thoughts. This will make it easier to write your essay coherently. An outline in a commentary essay usually includes the following: an introduction, body paragraphs that support your thesis statement, and a conclusion.

Write your essay.

Now it’s time to write your essay. Begin with an introduction that states your thesis and provides background information on your topic.

Start with a strong hook. Your opening sentence should grab the reader’s attention and make them want to read more. You could try starting with a striking statistic or an interesting story.

Then, write body paragraphs that support your thesis. Finally, conclude your essay with a paragraph that summarizes your main points and restates your thesis.

Edit and proofread.

Once you have finished writing, take a break and then come back to edit and proofread your work. This is an important step in the writing process, so don’t skip it!

With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to writing a great commentary essay.

Commentary essay outline

A basic commentary essay will have the same structure as any normal essay. It will have an introduction, body and conclusion. However, a commentary essay is unique in that it will also have annotations. Annotations are brief explanations or interpretations of the text. They can be inserted directly into the text or placed in brackets beside the text.

Annotations can be used to:

  • Explain difficult words or phrases
  • Provide historical context
  • Comment on the author’s arguments
  • Point out irony or sarcasm
  • Offer your own interpretation of the text

Here is how to create an essay outline when writing a commentary essay:

  1. Introduce your topic.
  2. Discuss your main point or argument.
  3. Support your argument with evidence.
  4. Explain the significance of your argument.
  5. Summarize your points and suggest ways to further explore the topic.

Commentary essay examples

W131 Commentary Essay Writing Guide Example

Commentary essay outline example

The following is an outline of a commentary essay on Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”


In this essay, Swift proposes that the Irish poor should sell their children to rich English landowners as a way to reduce the economic burden on the country. He uses satire to make his point, and the annotations will help explain some of his more subtle jokes.


  1. Swift begins by outlining the dire situation in Ireland, which is plagued by poverty and overpopulation.
  2. He then proposes his “solution” of selling Irish children as food for the rich.
  3. Swift uses irony and sarcasm to show how ridiculous this proposal is, and how callous the rich are towards the poor.
  4. He finishes by pointing out that this sort of thing actually happens in England all the time, with poor people being treated as nothing more than commodities.


  1. Swift’s proposal is a scathing indictment of the English aristocracy and their treatment of the Irish poor.
  2. The annotations provide further explanation of Swift’s arguments and help to show why his essay is so powerful.

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