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Diagnostic Essay Notes. Masoni August 2010. Correction Shorthand. S/V AGR = a problem with subject/verb agreement (“the humans tries to…”) T = a problem with tense WW = wrong word FRAG = sentence fragment See the board for more. Structure.

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diagnostic essay notes

Diagnostic Essay Notes

Masoni August 2010

correction shorthand
Correction Shorthand
  • S/V AGR = a problem with subject/verb agreement (“the humans tries to…”)
  • T = a problem with tense
  • WW = wrong word
  • FRAG = sentence fragment
  • See the board for more.
  • These need to be better structured in general, and we will work on this. Commentaries are meant to follow the basic “Intro-Body-Conclusion” format. We will discuss in class how this is different from an essay.
  • Try to avoid making critical judgments about the poem or passage. While it is nice to see that a student appreciates a piece of writing, this kind of judgment is not the job of a commentary. Keep your opinions to yourself.
    • Avoid calling a work “well written.” Also try to void calling an author’s practice “unique.”
  • Get your details straight! The woman in this poem is not being compared to a fish: she is being compared to a rock.
  • This is Criterion A: Understanding of Text – you will lose points if you make mistakes like this.
show don t tell
  • “The setting seems to be a very holy location, due to the white surroundings described in line six.” – SHOW ME!
  • “Also, the author is trying to emphasize the sexual attractiveness of the woman by using the motion with which she eats the ice cream.” – SHOW ME!

When including a quotation, the period goes AFTER the citation.

Eg.: “Now the ice-cream is finished, is paid for. The fish swim off on business: and she sits alone at the table, a white stone” (25-27).

line breaks
  • When quoting a poem, you need to include line breaks in order to demonstrate where the author originally broke (ended) the line.

Eg.: “Now the ice-cream is finished,/ is paid for. The fish swim off on business:/ and she sits alone at the table, a white stone” (25-27).

weak language
  • Avoid weak language: words and phrases like “I think” and “probably” have no place in your commentary.
  • State your argument as if it were true, and let your audience decide, based on the evidence you provide.
line vs quotation
  • When referring to a specific part of a poem, refer to it as a “line,” not as a “quotation.” It is not a “quotation” until you have put it into your paper! And a poet does not write “quotations” – she writes lines.

Please write out numbers (“seven”) instead of using Arabic numerals (“7”), unless they are years (“This poem was written in 1982”) or they are citations (page numbers, line numbers, etc…). There are a few other instances we will discuss as they come up.

  • When referring to a piece of literature, it is customary to refer to it in the present tense, both in terms of the author and the piece of literature itself (the characters, for instance).

Eg.: In this poem, Douglas refers to a woman, whom he compares to a “white stone” (1).

Eg.: The woman is possibly a prostitute.


Certain literary terms are always used in the singular because they are uncountable nouns. Some examples include:

    • Imagery (NEVER imageries – use “images”)
    • Personification (NEVER personifications – use “examples of personification”)
the courtesan
  • Many of you commented that the woman in the poem is most likely a courtesan. Many others commented that the woman is most likely a prostitute.
    • 1. There is a difference between these two.
    • 2. More importantly, NO ONE who asserted this supported it with compelling evidence.
speaker vs author
  • Be careful when referring to the SPEAKER or NARRATOR of the poem – this voice is different from that of the AUTHOR (even when it might not seem to be).
  • In poetry we tend to refer to this voice as “the speaker,” and in prose we tend to refer to it as “the narrator,” or “the narrative voice.”

The titles of poems go in quotation marks.

  • The titles of short stories and essays go in quotation marks.
  • The titles of novels and plays get italicized when you’re typing, and underlined when you’re writing by hand.

After identifying the author by her or his full name, for the rest of the paper refer to the author by his or her last name only.

  • For example, your commentary could begin with the line: In the poem “The Behaviour of Fish in an Egyptian Tea Garden,” Keith Douglas uses a variety of literary devices to convey his meaning.”
  • After that, it should be just the last name: “In line 17, Douglas describes the captain.”
incorporation of quotations
Incorporation of Quotations
  • Make sure to incorporate your quotations into your sentences well. Have a look at the following example. How can you fix it?
    • “Sink with spread fingers, lean along the table, carmined in the end” (7-8). This sentence showed really detailed movements of her.
the introduction
The Introduction
  • There needs to be an introduction to your commentary. “In this poem/ passage, the author ___(what the author does)___.” This is the introduction to your argument, and it doesn’t need to be long, but it MUST lay out the “Big Idea” of your commentary.
  • The alternative is just to jump right in with your identification of literary features, which is not effective.
the introduction1
The Introduction
  • This introduction also needs to sketch how the author does this, even if you are speaking very generally (you will be more specific in the body of your commentary).

So part of your introduction might look like this: In the poem “The Behaviour of Fish in an Egyptian Tea Garden,” by Keith Douglas, the author comments on the nature of modern male/female relations by recasting a “tea garden” as an aquarium. By using a number of literary features, including elaborate diction, extended metaphor and imagery, the reader is made aware of the extent to which women are objectified in this culture.

reference to text rtt
Reference to Text (RTT)
  • Your IB grader will be noting exactly how many lines from the poem/passage you refer to. You MUST try to cover as much of it as possible.
  • Additionally, all of the comments you make on the text need to relate to your main argument. (See next slide!)
  • Also, when you are referring to a line or to multiple lines, reference the line number(s).
  • You all need to work on coming up with arguments that are sufficiently deep to let you talk about all of the poem.
  • Bad: Douglas is trying to show us that this woman is a prostitute.
  • Good: Douglas is commenting on the relationships between men and women in society, and specifically on the way that men make women into objects.
  • Bad: Douglas is telling us that humans and fish are not all that different. We are the same.
  • Good: By comparing humans to fish, Douglas manages to show that human being are very much like animals, particularly when it comes to how we attempt to attract the opposite sex.
  • EVERYONE needs to work on making clear, succinct arguments about the passage. A few of you made good arguments, and all of you had some insights into the passage/poem, but the majority of you did more identifying and summarizing than arguing. This is the hard part of writing a commentary, and we will work hard on it this year.