Annotation Tips

To annotate a passage is to mark it up. You will develop your own personal style, but here are some suggestions for how to annotate:

1. Do not underline/highlight everything!! If you underline/highlight too much, nothing will stand out and you will have defeated the purpose of annotating. Underline individual words or short phrases only.

2. Use check marks, asterisks, arrows, stars, etc. to mark important items or details. If you highlight, use different colors for different things and create a key for your color codes.

3. Write brief notes in the margins to summarize important points or plot developments.

4. Highlight/underline phrases (not necessarily complete sentences) that describe important characters or the setting.

5. Circle or highlight words that are unfamiliar or unusual. Try to figure out what the words mean through context clues (the way they are used); supplement your guesses by consulting a dictionary.

6. Highlight/underline words, images, and details that seem to form a pattern throughout the text. These patterns usually will lead the close reader to discover a thematic idea.

7. Write brief comments about passages. Agree or disagree. Make connections to other texts or to personal experience.

8. Mark passages that you think might be symbolic. Write a brief note about the symbol.

9. Highlight the use of figurative language (simile, metaphor, allusion, hyperbole, etc.) and consider the author’s purpose for using that element in the story. Make some notes in the margin so you will remember what you were thinking.

10. Consider the author’s tone.

11. Consider diction. How does word choice impact meaning?

12. If you are having difficulty understanding, stop and read again. Sometimes it is helpful to break down a difficult passage or sentence and try to understand it a little at a time. It is okay to do this. Good readers do it all the time. In the margins, write down your interpretation of the difficult text.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Go beyond simply identifying a symbol, simile, allusion, etc. Consider the significance of the device. Always ask yourself: Why did the author include this device? What purpose does it serve? Make a quick note in the margin in response to these questions.

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One thought on “Annotation Tips

  1. Hi there,
    I’m a college English and reading teacher. I’m doing research for our Reading Department day next Wednesday, and the topic of the hour is annotation. May I use this material in our discussion? And do you have any articles that mention best practices? Let me know, and thanks.
    Melissa Castino Reid

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