Key Skills


Within this section will be a summary of the main ideas within the text. You will learn who the main characters are and what is happening to them. It is important to have an understanding of the key ideas of the text.


Context is the ideas that were occurring at the time the text was written. This could be related to historical events that happened. It usually will be something that impacts upon the writer’s life. Other contextual ideas could include the role or position of one section of society at the time. Authors like Maya Angelou consider the position of black people in society, whilst Kate Chopin consider the role of women at the time.


Authors use the context to consider what their opinion is on the topic. They could be trying to dispute or highlight an issue. Usually, their background and experiences form this opinion. They are placing an underlying message within their text.


There are several ways that an author presents their message. It could be through:

  1. Language
  2. Structure
  3. Themes

A theme is an idea that is threaded through the text. It could be related to an emotion, such as ‘sadness’ or a topic, such as ‘nature.’ Within each text themes are created through choices in language and structure.

Language analysis is achieved through choosing key quotations and exploring how the words have been used effectively. Many of the quotes identified will be examples of techniques. It is important that you are able to recognise and identify them.

There are some extremely common language features:


A simile is the comparison of one item with another. Usually the words ‘as’ or ‘like’ are used to bring the two ideas together.

For example:

The temperature was hot.

could become,

The temperature was hot like the sun.

However, be careful. You must make your simile effective. How could you make ‘The temperature was hot like the sun’ effective? Think about when the sun is at its hottest: the desert, midday, summer etc. Now, change the simile:

The temperature was hot like the midday, desert sun in midsummer.


A metaphor is a comparison in which something is said to be something else:

  1. The man was a cheetah racing down the track.
  2. The sound drummed on her head.
  3. The vultures tore through the school canteen.

Why use a metaphor?

  1. You can make the ordinary strange and interesting, making your writing more exciting to read.
  2. Your reader is forced to think and interpret when you show them something through the use of imagery, rather than telling them literally.


This is when the word sounds like the word that it is representing. Sound is the key sense that is described with onomatopoeia. Think about: bang, crash and whoosh. With each of these words, you can hear that sound.


Alliteration is repetition of a sound at the beginning of a group of words. An example might be:

The fierce fox fixated on the field mouse.

With alliteration, you must consider the hard sounds and the soft sounds in English. Consider the sound produced:

Lovely vs collided

The ‘l’ sound is soft and gentle whereas the ‘c’ sound is harsh and abrupt. You must consider the tone that you are attempting to create.


Personification is providing an inanimate object with animate features.

Consider a tree moving in the wind:

  1. The leaves dancing
  2. The trunk stood still and upright
  3. The flowers waving

All of these are characteristics of humans, rather than of trees. They provide interesting imagery.

There are other language devices that will be explored as you study each text.

It is important in language analysis to not only identify the technique but to also suggest why it is present.


If you think of a house, you would say that it is ‘structurally sound’. This means that it is built correctly. This means that it will not collapse. This is the same with a text, whether it be a poem, short story or book.

There are several different techniques that are used to create structure:

  1. Title - how does it create an effective start to the poem?
  2. Ending - how does it create an effective ending?
  3. Repetition - which words are stated more than once?
  4. Stanzas - what is the ‘paragraph’ length? This is relevant to a poem.
  5. Rhythm - what beat is used within the text? Usually, this is relevant to a poem.

There are other structural devices that will be explored as you study each text.

It is important in structural analysis to not only identify the technique but to also suggest why it is present.


Comparison is when you draw parallels between one text and another. These might be similarities and they might be differences. It is up to you to determine which you are drawing.

Connectives are required for comparison and contrasting:

Comparing Connectives (similarities)Contrasting Connectives (differences)
Similar towhereas
Similarly unlike
Both Differently
As wellDifferent to
In the same wayOn the other hand
AlsoIn comparison,

These connectives must be used. You cannot use the word ‘but’ and ‘and’.

What is language analysis?
What is structural analysis?
What is comparison?