How to write comments based on quotations, step by step

What is a comment?

As an ESL student, you should be able to write argumentative essays like discussions or comments. Discussions focus on subject matter and require for a more balanced view of the affair. Opposed to that, a comment demands for your personal judgement. If the task description contains a guiding question, you are expected to find convincing answers. If the essay is about a simple statement, you can support it or rebuke it or weigh the pros and cons. In all such cases, you are free to create your own structure by finding suitable categories for your arguments. If the quote is complex or if it’s an entire text, you need to identify the main points and keep to these aspects. Please note: You don’t need to look at both sides of the issue, even though it may be necessary to come back to the author’s main points to disprove them.

How to prepare

Many students expect superb grades because they are fluent in English. However, a comment can be quite a challenge for the unprepared. Here are a few tips for your preparations.

  • As teachers usually lay the foundations for essays by covering all relevant arguments in class, you should not skip too many classes. Especially, prep sessions are not to be missed.
  • You should definitely revise structuring phrases. If your teacher does not hand out collections of useful phases, you can find plenty of lists of phrases online.
  • It also makes sense to do additional research on the issue. Many teachers either use prefabricated fact sheets or look for articles online.
  • Once you know what the exam will be about, collect arguments for and against the motion.
  • If you know you’ve got time management problems, make a timeline for your essay and take it to the exam: 25% of your time should be reserved for your analysis of the case and the draft; use 10% for the introduction, 10% for the analysis, 30% for the main body, 10% for the conclusion and 5% for corections.
  • Leaf through your own materials. Make a list of favourite mistakes and avoid them in the exam.


If we don't get the deal we want, we leave NAFTA and start over to get a much better, a much more fair deal because right now, we're a one-way highway into Mexico, a one-way highway. I mean, you take a look at this, it's one way. They get the jobs, they get the factories, they get the cash, and all we get - we get illegal immigration and we get drugs. And the drugs are poisoning our youth, the drugs are poisoning our youth and others. But we're getting the drugs and we're getting lots of problems.

Donald Trump on a campaign rally on October 14, 2016, in Greensboro, NC

Comment on Trump’s statement regarding illegal immigration!

First steps: Analyse the quote!

  1. First, identify the operators in the task description: It should always be “comment on” or synonymous terms such as “state your opinion about” or “present your view on”.
  2. Then, read the quote.
  3. Write down the overall topic. In this case, it’s illegal immigration.
  4. If possible, add some historical, cultural or political context. Here, you should be able to see Trump’s statement in the framework of immigration and foreign politics.
  5. Also, find out who authored the quote. Here, it’s Donald Trump.
  6. Next, determine whether the author is for or against the motion. He or she might also have rather balanced views on this particular topic.
  7. It’s also important to state the occasion for which the text in question was composed.
  8. With speeches, you need to take down the place and date. With texts from written sources, render all bibliographical data.
  9. It’s important to lay down all the relevant aspects. Here, you are expected to cover “economic impact” and “drugs”.

Next, make a draft!

Before writing, create a draft! In order to do so, make a structured list of all elements that your essay should contain. These are:

  1. Introduction: Don’t forget the heading that presents the genre of your essay and the topic! Start with an appetizer which demonstrates the importance of this motion to a large part of your audience by showing how relevant or topical it is. Ut also makes sense to show how controversial the motion is. Always state the basic facts of your source (author, title, date, bibliographical data, genre; with speeches: occasion, audience, specific date, context; with written texts: medium, publication date, publishing company; the author’s point of view, your point of view;
  2. Analysis: Main aspects of the quote, explanations, definitions;
  3. Main body: Paragraph-wise: topic sentence, address the points raised in the quote, claims and evidence, closing statement, usually containing a conclusion based on the entire paragraph.
  4. Conclusion: Summary; points that appear most relevant; personal evaluation; references to the author and the context; outlook and proposals.

Third step, compose your essay!

Keep in mind the following aspects:

  • Use the simple present for reasoning and stating facts, to consider a long-term process and its effect, use present perfect; for narration and flashbacks, use simple past.
  • Instead of trying to impress by refined sentence patterns and wordy eloquence, use plain sentences that contain one important message each. Clarity matters more than brilliance.
  • Use structuring phrases and signposting to create order!
  • You are expected to present your own point of view. However, make a distinction between claims (“I think”, “I suppose”) and facts (“As a matter of fact, …” / “There is sufficient evidence that…”).
  • It is essential not to digress from the central topic. It should run through your essay like a common thread.
  • As students often forget to come back to the analysis as soon as they deal with the main body, make sure you quote from it throughout your essay just to highlight the fact that you stick to the point.

Last step: Revise your essay!

  • Read your essay for content problems. Is anything missing? Are some of the facts incorrect? Does the arrangement of facts make sentence?
  • Then, proceed to language and style. If you have enough time, it makes sense to read you essay backwards. This should enable you to find more mistakes.

Sample Essay

Donald Trump’s position towards illegal immigrants: Comment

America has always defined itself as a nation of immigrants. But it is also true that immigration has become a controversial issue which has polarized the public opinion in the U.S. In a speech given at a campaign rally on October 14, 2016 in Greensboro, North Carolina, Donald Trump attacked Mexican immigrants for bringing in drugs and ruining the U.S. financially. But is it really true that illegal immigrants only cause “lots of problems”? In my point of view, Trump’s claim is false in many respects.

To be able to comment on this issue, we need to clarify what Trump intends to say with his statement and define relevant terms. Demanding a “fair deal” with Mexico in the framework of NAFTA, he states that illegal immigration is a one-sided affair using the metaphor of a “one-way highway”, he claims that illegal immigrants profit from finding employment in the U.S. (“They get the jobs”), by earning higher wages than in their country of origin and by receiving public welfare (“they get the cash”). According to Trump, the U.S. will not profit in return. Quite on the contrary: Trump postulates that America faces a serious drug problem and “lots of problems” caused by illegal immigrants. Such problems could be housing shortages, an increase in public spending and higher crime rates. When speaking of illegal immigration, Trump refers to immigrants who have crossed the border illegally to settle down permanently in the U.S.

Is it really true that the financial gains of illegal immigration are restricted to the immigrants themselves? It is doubtlessly true that Mexicans may improve their standards of living by entering the United States. Compared to Mexico, the United States are economically thriving. However, we should not underestimate the impact illegal immigration can have on private companies and public revenues. Undocumented immigrants usually find work in the lowest-paid sector of the economy where they are vital for various businesses, especially in logistics, gastronomy and agriculture. Also, they contribute an enormous amount in tax money, directly by paying income tax and indirectly by generating revenues from sales taxes. Clearly, the gains overrun the losses.

Trump’s next argument focuses on narcotics. There is no denying the fact that most drugs for the American market are produced abroad, mostly in South America. But can we really blame illegal immigrants for America’s drug problem? To my mind, it is wrong to accuse undocumented immigrants for internal problems like ill-funded programs for drug users. It is also wrong to hold them responsible for failed efforts to bring down organized drug dealers within the U.S. Beyond their cultural heritage, there is no connection between criminals and ordinary people and their personal pursuit of happiness. This is why I believe Trump’s assertion is false.

To conclude, I entirely disagree with Donald Trump’s verdict on illegal immigrants. Of course, immigration can create negative effects on the job market and an increase in public spending. But these and other problems are clearly outweighed by the profits created by illegal immigrants in the U.S., not to mention the benefits illegal immigrants generate for their home countries. Culturally and economically, the United States have always profited from a large influx of immigrants. In my opinion, Trump endangers both the economic stability and social peace in the U.S. To further his private aims and his own political career, he puts America’s international reputation at stake. Instead, the U.S. should reconsider their immigration policies and give illegal immigrants fair chances to contribute their share to the American Dream.