D. U. C. A. T. S. – The “6 gold pieces” of writer’s voice D

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Annotation Acronyms

The following acronyms may help students to remember different elements of writer’s craft to consider when annotating a text.
D.U.C.A.T.S. – The “6 gold pieces” of writer’s voice
Diction refers to a writer's word choice with the following considerations:

  • denotation / connotation of a word

  • degree of difficulty or complexity of a word

  • level of formality of a word

  • tone of a word (the emotional charge a word carries)

  • the above will often create a subtext for the text

Unity refers to the idea that all of the ideas in a written piece are relevant and appropriate to the focus. Some considerations:

  • each claim (assertion, topic sentence) supports the thesis

  • each piece of evidence is important and relevant to the focus of the paragraph or the piece of writing as a whole

  • occasionally, a writer may choose to purposely violate the element of unity for a specific effect (some humorists / satirists will sometimes consciously do this)

  • it is important to consider what has been omitted from a piece and examine the writer's intent in doing so

Coherence refers to the organization and logic of a piece of writing; some considerations include:

  • precision and clarity in a thesis and supportive arguments

  • the arguments ordered in the most effective way for the writer's intent

  • the sentences and paragraphs "flow smoothly" for the reader; there should not be any abrupt leaps or gaps in the presentation of the ideas or story (unless the writer makes a conscious choice for a specific and appropriate effect)

Audience refers to the writer's awareness of who will be reading his or her piece of writing; some considerations are:

  • Who are the targeted readers?

  • How well informed are they on the subject? What does the writer want the reader to learn as a result of this piece?

  • What first impression is created for the reader and how does the author's voice shape this first impression?

  • How interested and attentive are they likely to be? Will they resist any of the ideas?

  • What is the relationship between the writer and the reader? Employee to supervisor? Citizen to citizen? Expert to novice? Scholar to scholar? Student to teacher? Student to student?

  • How much time will the reader be willing to spend reading?

  • How sophisticated are the readers in regard to vocabulary and syntax?

Tone refers to a writer's ability to create an attitude toward the subject matter of a piece of writing; the tools a writer uses to create tone:

  • Diction, Figurative language, Characterization, Plot, Theme

Syntax refers to the arrangement--the ordering, grouping, and placement--of words within a phrase, clause, or sentence. Some considerations:

  • Type of sentence

  • Length of sentence

  • Subtle shifts or abrupt changes in sentence length or patterns

  • Punctuation use

  • Use of repetition

  • Language patterns / rhythm / cadence

  • How all of the above factors contribute to narrative pace

  • The use of active and/or passive voice

D.I.T.S. – The elements of tone

Diction refers to a writer's (or speaker's) word choice; besides the dictionary definition of a word (its denotation) a word can have an emotional charge or association that creates a secondary meaning (its connotation) "The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." Mark Twain

Imagery refers to mental pictures or sensations that a writer evokes in a reader. Look carefully at the pictures that a writer creates; note his/her descriptive details in the setting such as: colors, objects, weather, seasons, use of light or darkness, look at any symbols and what feelings they may suggest.

Theme refers to the author’s message or to the overarching idea that the text leads the reader to consider. Think about the author's message; what attitude comes through in his/her main point?

Style refers to the writer’s use of language; is it formal, informal, technical? What details did the writer choose to include or omit? Examine the various elements of characterization; assess what messages the writer is sending through his characters’ actions, reactions, thoughts, speech, physical description or other character’s comments. What feelings are created by the writer’s plot? What feelings are created by the conflict and how it is solved or resolved?
T.A.P.S. General literary analysis
Topic: What is the topic of the text?

Audience: To whom is the message directed?

Purpose: What is the writer’s goal?

Speaker: What can be inferred about the speaker’s attitude toward the topic or the audience?
S.O.A.P.S.Tone - Analyzing point of view
Speaker: Is there someone identified as the speaker? Can you make some assumptions about this person? What class does the author come from? What political bias can be inferred? What gender?

Occasion: What may have prompted the author to write this piece? What event led to its publication or development?

Audience: Does the speaker identify an audience? What assumptions can you make about the audience? Is it a mixed in terms of: race, politics, gender, social class, religion, etc.? Who was the document created for? Does the speaker use language that is specific for a unique audience? Does the speaker evoke: Nation? Liberty? God? History? Hell? Does the speaker allude to any particular time in history such as: Ancient Times? Industrial Revolution? World Wars? Vietnam?

Purpose: What is the speaker’s purpose? In what ways does the author convey this message? What seems to be the emotional state of the speaker? How is the speaker trying to spark a reaction in the audience? What words or phrases show the speaker’s tone? How is this document supposed to make you feel?

Subject: What is the subject of the piece? How do you know this? How has the subject been selected and presented by the author?

Tone: What is the author’s attitude toward the subject? How is the writer’s attitude revealed?

S.Q.U.I.D.S. – A reminder of the steps in the process of analysis and commentary


Quotation: a specific line or passage from the text


Identify (explain, hold forth, etc.)

Define / Describe / Deconstruct its


D.I.D.L.S. – A mnemonic for literary analysis
Diction: the denotative and connotative meanings of words (What words does the author choose? Consider his/her word choice compared to another. Why did the author choose that particular word? What are the connotations of that word choice?)

  • different words for the same thing often suggest different attitudes (happy vs. content vs. ecstatic)

  • denotative vs. connotative (dead vs. passed away)

  • concrete vs. abstract (able to perceive with 5 senses, tangible, vs. an idea or concept that exists in one’s mind, intangible)

  • monosyllabic vs. polysyllabic
  • positive vs. negative (slender vs. skinny, determined vs. stubborn)

  • colloquial / informal / formal

  • cacophonous vs. euphonious (e.g., harsh sounding, raucous, croak or pleasant sounding, languid, murmur)

Images: Vivid appeals to understanding through the five senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. (What images does the author use? What does he/she focus on in a sensory way? How do the kinds of images the author puts in or leaves out reflect his/her style? Are they vibrant? Prominent? Plain? NOTE: Images differ from detail in the degree to which they appeal to the senses. A farmer and a real estate developer would use different imagery to describe the same piece of land. Imagery would differ in a romantic vs. realistic description of the countryside.)
Details: Facts that are included or those that are omitted (What details does the author choose to include? What do they imply? What does the author choose to exclude? What are the connotations of the choice of details? NOTE: Details are facts or fact-lets. They differ from images in that they don't have a strong sensory appeal. Hard Copy vs. CNN vs. NPR)
Language: The overall use of language such as formal, clinical, informal, slang (What is the overall impression of the language the author uses? Does it reflect education? A particular profession? Intelligence? Is it plain? Ornate? Simple? Clear? Figurative? Poetic? Make sure you don't skip this step. Ambassador will speak differently than a cop or a kid.)

Sentence Structure: How the author’s use of sentence structure affects the reader (What are the sentences like? Are they simple with one or two clauses? Do they have multiple phrases? Are they choppy? Flowing? Sinuous like a snake? Is there antithesis, chiasmus, parallel construction? What emotional impression do they leave? If we are talking about poetry, what is the meter? Is there a rhyme scheme? Long flowing sentences give us a different feeling than short choppy ones. If the narrator has awkward sentence structure, we night think he is uneducated or fearful. Sophisticated mature sentences might suggest artistic creativity.)

S.M.E.L.L. – Evaluating argumentation and persuasion (with rhetorical appeals)
Sender/receiver relationship: Who is the speaker? Who is the audience? What is the tone directed
from one to the other?
Message: What is the content and/or claim?
Evidence: What kind of evidence is given and to what extent?
Logic: What is the quality of the reasoning? What types of appeals are being used?
Language: What stylistic and rhetorical devices are being employed?

S.O.L.L.I.D.D.D. - Analyzing rhetorical elements and author’s style
Syntax: Sentence structure
Organization: The structure of sections within a passage and as a whole
Literary Devices: Metaphor, simile, personification, irony (situational, verbal and dramatic), hyperbole, allusion, alliteration, etc.
Levels of Discourse: Cultural levels of language act, with attendant traits (does the narrator’s voice represent a particular social, political, or cultural viewpoint or perspective?)
Imagery: Deliberate appeal to the audience’s five senses
Diction: Word choice and its denotative and connotative significance
Detail: Descriptive items selected for inclusion
Dialogue: Spoken exchange selected for inclusion

S.L.L.I.D.D. T.O.P. – Analyzing a Passage
Syntax: defining/effective sentence structure
Language: type used (refer to ‘language’ words) and connection to audience (do a SOAPS)
Literary devices: metaphor, personification, hyperbole, etc.

Imagery: visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory

Diction: connotative word choice
Detail: concrete aspects of the passage
Tone: identify specifically/provide a pair of different yet complementary tones (refer to ‘tone’ words)
Organization: movement in the passage between tones, ideas, defining literary/rhetorical strategies
Point of view: perspective of the passage and significance (do a SOAPS)

TP-CASTT Analysis – useful for analyzing poetry
Title: Ponder the title before reading the poem
Paraphrase: Translate the poem into your own words
Connotation: Contemplate the poem for meaning beyond the literal
Attitude: Observe both the speaker's and the poet's attitude (tone)
Shifts: Note shifts in speakers and in attitudes. Devices that help readers discover shift:

  • Key words (but, yet, however, although)

  • Punctuation (dashes, periods, colons, ellipsis)

  • Stanza or paragraph divisions

  • Changes in line or stanza length, or both

  • Irony (sometimes irony hides shifts)

  • Structure (how the work is written can affect its meaning)

  • Changes in sound (may indicate changes in meaning)

  • Changes in diction (ex: slang to formal language)

Title: Examine the title again, this time on an interpretive level
Theme: Determine what the poet is saying

S.A.T.T.T. – especially useful when first considering a narrative work

Setting: when and where is the event occurring? Could there be any symbolic significance to the author's choice of setting?
Action: What is occurring in the passage? Why did the author choose those particular actions?

Time: How much time elapses? How is the passage of time (if any) depicted? How is it significant to the text?
Tone: What is the author's attitude toward the subject? What does that suggest about the author? the topic?
Theme: What message is the author trying to convey? What lesson is being taught?

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