How to Annotate a Speech

Close-up of microphone in front of auditorium.
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Annotation is a function of active reading, with the objective being to think about and respond to what you read. Most speeches are driven by purpose and contain both rhetorical flourishes and emotional appeals, which can make annotations flow with ease. Begin with one of the great speeches of history -- such as Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech or President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address -- and burnish your annotation skills for other school assignments.

1 Develop Your System

There is no right or wrong way to annotate, so develop a system that works for you. Choose your favorite tool: pencil, pen or highlighter. Write observations, critiques and questions in the margins. Reach for sticky notes only in the unlikely event that you fill the margins so that you don't run the risk of the notes becoming detached from the page. Underline, circle or draw a box around key words. Draw lines or arrows to connect ideas. Show your emotional response to speech passages with exclamation points or stars.

2 Scrutinize the Words

Take the time to annotate the speech in two waves: while you're reading it for the first time and then after pondering its meaning. Identify the purpose of the speech and the intended audience. Focus on word choices -- are they simple or complex? -- and the emotional appeals. Evaluate the use of rhetorical devices, such as alliteration and redundancies. Conclude your review by answering: Did the speech succeed in influencing you? If so, why? If not, why not?

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.