Annotating texts

Annotating is a useful way to keep a track of what you notice whilst you’re reading – the notes and marks you make can focus on particular details in the text. For example, if you were focusing on setting, you could circle all the words and phrases used to describe that place.

There are many ways to annotate texts. Try out different approaches to see what works best for you. Examples of common techniques include:

  • circling or underlining words or phrases that are interesting or important and writing notes in the margin
  • using different coloured highlighters to pick out different ideas, techniques or details
  • using one margin to make a note of literary devices and the other margin to add your own responses

Closely annotating texts is an effective way to practise analysing a piece of fiction.

However, in exam conditions, annotations need to be brief and a quick way of responding to a new text. You can use your annotations to pick out details from the text and then develop your analysis of these details in your written response.

Tips for annotating quickly in exams

  • Use abbreviations for longer words (eg allit for alliteration).
  • Don’t worry about making it look pretty - make your marks and notes functional.
  • Use marks that you understand, for example arrows or question marks to focus your attention on certain details.
  • Don’t worry about annotating everything: be selective.