Writing Guide: Lenses and Annotations


Literature (Poetry): Close Readings

Poetic techniques associate one thing to another — typically through an equation or a tension. Use a variety of lenses to analyze these techniques in clauses, lines, or words. For each of the techniques listed below, ask: What’s the effect? Why? How else could it be written?

- Paradox: a central contradiction or question the writer is seeking to resolve

- Perspective: the narrator may not be the author; what is distorted, dubious, or left out?

- Recurring Motif: a word, image, or idea repeated with similar or different associations

- Diction: aka word choice: the tonal effects and conceptual associations of certain words

- Association: metonymy replaces word with association / metaphor equates two things

- Syntax: anaphora/chiasmus/apostrophe may affirm certain words — or ironize them

- Meter: iambs/trochees/anapest/dactyls/spondees link — or halt — words rhythmically

- Sound: alliteration/consonance/ rhyme link — or halt — words through tonal effects

- Genre: sonnets, villanelles, sestinas stress & recontextualize phrases in different ways

- Line breaks: graphical presentation and enjambment (sentence continues past line)

- Characterization: how genre, graphical presentation, and line breaks shape ideas

- Context: repetition, plot, biography, or history may question or give phrases meaning

Literature (Prose) and History (Primary Source): Selective Close Reading

- The more you underline, the more you’ll have to review later… so avoid underlining

- Generally, underline once per page *max*, but close-read select passages (see above)

- Don’t only analyze. Synthesize. Jot page numbers where similar phrases/ideas appear

- Copy key sentences at bottom of page to remember better; draw arrows to key phrases

History (Secondary Source): Skimming for Information

- Identify the relevant topic sentence; is it supporting previous points or making new ones?

- If topic sentences flow one to the next, skim body paragraphs for data / write in margins

- Determine the overall structure of the essay you’re reading — can you draw it?