How To Write A Good Commentary Essay

Writing commentary is undoubtedly the most difficult part of writing any essay.  All other parts of the essay are more formulaic in nature.  There are standard rules for how to write a thesis statement, a topic sentence, a blended quotation, etc.  But when it comes to commenting on evidence, there isn’t one set way to do it.  In fact, there are many, many comments one can make about a piece of evidence, and no two people will explain the same piece of evidence in the exact same way. Likewise, the exact same piece of evidence can be used to prove two disparate arguments. Nothing shows this is true more than the literary analysis essay.  

If you were to give your students the exact same thesis statements and quotations to use for an essay, you would be amazed at how different the essays would actually turn out!  How can this be?  This occurs because the writer’s voice comes through the commentary.  It is within the commentary that students share their original thoughts and unique insights about a piece of literature.  This presents a challenge for students who are often left asking what to write, and it can be tricky to teach students how to write commentary without putting words in their mouths.  

Commentary Essay Topics: Making Your Paper Stand Out

     A commentary essay tells your audience your opinion on whatever you are writing about but this isn’t an entire essay about you.   You need to make sure to make your argument like you would in any other essay as well.  The only difference is that you can use “I” in this kind of essay.


There are two types of commentary essays that are assigned.  Personal Commentary, where you use a story from your life and Social Commentary, where you give your opinion but you also want to have a valid argument. A Social Commentary is similar to a persuasive essay in that you want to make it more editorial in nature. 

  • Personal Experience:  Telling your audience a story and using it as a way to tell them what you learned. 
  • Book:  Most instructors assign these kinds of essays for a review of a book and they give you a list of topics, like socialism, metaphors, and so on.  This is where you analyze the topic in the work you read. 
  • Essay:  Sometimes you will be asked to write a commentary on someone else’s work, where you give your opinion and argue for or against the topic. 
  • Film:  Film can be used for a commentary essay because it can be interpreted and analyzed.

How to Write a Commentary Essay

   These kinds of essays are just like others but you still have to follow the instructions that you are assigned. 

  • First of all you want to make sure you know who your audience will be because you want to write for that audience.  This will make you essay clear and precise, so they will understand and relate to it.
  • You want to make sure that you set your essay up just like you would any other essay.  You should include an introduction, a body that includes both sides of your argument, and a conclusion. 
  • This is the only kind of essay you can use the pronoun “I” in but don’t go overboard on it because you don’t want the essay to be all about you. 
  • Make sure you have the sources to back up your opinion.  You should have at least three sources to back up your claim.
  • Set up you essay format in the appropriate form, APA or MLA, but it should always be double spaced, 12pt Times New Roman font, have a title page, and these essays are usually four to six pages long, depending on what your instructor assigned you. 

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