Writing a commentary
What have you written? | Purpose | Audience | Context | Subject matter | Form and structure | Lexis | Grammar | Spelling and punctuation | Style | Presentation | Drafting and revision

When you write a commentary you should explain why you have made particular choices. You can give information about earlier versions of your work, indicating why you have changed the text at various points. You need to be very specific here, and describe things in terms of language forms, rather than vague general effects or intentions. Don't be evasive - be direct and detailed. You may find it helpful to organize the commentary under these headings:

What have you written?
Let the examiners know what kind of text you set out to write - briefly introduce your work. For example:
* "I have written a series of texts to be used as advertising copy in a new campaign for a potential client."

Purpose

Your purpose may be broadly something like informing or persuading. But you may have some more specific purpose, such as to present safety advice on a given product range to a given audience. You should note broadly any ways in which your purpose has affected your choice of form, lexis, grammar and style - but you will want to comment on these in more detail.

Audience

For whom are you writing? Do you have to attract them (as with entertainment) or do you have a more captive audience (as with an information leaflet or instructions for use of a product)? You should note broadly any ways in which your audience influences your choice of form, lexis, grammar and style - but you will want to comment on these in more detail.
Did you have a real audience for your work? Did you have any comments or response from them?

Context
What is the situation in which your audience will read or hear the text - at home, while eating breakfast; on the bus to work; in a classroom; in a cinema? You should note broadly any ways in which this context affects your choice of form, lexis, grammar and style - but you will want to comment on these in more detail.

Subject matter
Your subject may be self-evident, but you will have to decide what to keep in and what to leave out. Comment on how you have chosen this - for example:
* Which things might you have included, but rejected as inappropriate for your audience, purpose and the situation in which they would read your texts?
* How have you adapted or re-worked any material you found in or took from other sources?

Form and structure

* What form of text did you choose to write?
* What structure did the work eventually take, and why is this structure appropriate (or the best compromise you can manage)?

Lexis
What lexical choices have you made in your work?
* How have you checked to ensure that the lexicon is suitable for the intended audience?
* In what ways have you changed and edited your work to make the lexis more appropriate?

Grammar

How have you adapted the grammar of your texts for your audience? Think of such things as
* clause types and structures,
* use of simple, compound and complex sentences,
* word order
* choices of grammatical person
* choices of verb tense and mood

Spelling and punctuation

if you make a written or print text think about these questions:
* Which spelling conventions have you used (e.g. UK English, Oxford or Cambridge spelling; US English, Webster-Merriam)?
* What punctuation rules have you followed and why?

Style
* What features of style have you used in your work?
* How did you seek to do this? This should be a quite substantial section of comment, referring in detail to examples, and showing how you have revised drafts.

Presentation

* What effects of layout and typography have you used (for written texts) or of sound and other FX (for spoken or broadcast texts)?
* How have these affected the way the audience responds to the text?

Drafting and revision

Ideally you will have asked people other than your teacher to read your work and comment on it. Advice from editors or experienced writers may help you improve your writing - and is worth keeping in your portfolio. Comment on changes you made, both general and specific, and how they have improved the text. Note - this does not mean that you can get them to do the work, which counts as cheating! But it does mean that you can (and should) do some audience research.