How do you do specific word analysis?

Analysing quotes can be tricky, especially when you don't know where to begin. However, specific word analysis is the area that can get you the most marks and push into the upper grade boundaries an in exam. Don't be afraid to pick one or two words and focus on them in detail as this shows confidence.

1. A good thing to start with is ascertaining what word group the word is in. For instance, Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 116' starts with the words 'Devouring Time'.

'Devouring' is a present participle which creates a sense of immediacy

'Time' is a noun and a typical concept to the Romantic period 

or, 'Devouring Time' is an adjective followed by a noun that describes the barbaric nature of Time whilst personfiying Time as a being 

2. What effect does the word type have?

For example, with 'Devouring Time', there is two different interpretations of word type and this means that the phrase is ambigous

3. Where in the text is the secific word and what effect does this have?

E.g. 'Devouring Time' is the beginning text of the poem and this means that Shakespeare is intentionally introducing ambiguity to his poem

Or, if your specific word is in the middle of a line, ensure that you explore the relationship between it and the rest of the line.

If you are analysing the last word or line in a text, why did the writer chose to put these as their last words and what parting impact do theyleave?

4. On of the most important things to consider when doing specific word analysis is how does this word link to the bigger picture? This means, can you link your analysis to a more general comment about the text. 

It may help to try and link the word to one of: tone, theme, imagery, context and why the author has chosen to use this word.

For instance, Shakespeare uses lots of ambiguous animal imagery in 'Sonnet 116' and this comment on the sppecific word could be linked to the bigger picture with context since the ambiguity attached to such imagery helps obscure controversial issues like the homosexual relationship the sonnet focuses upon. 

5. Finally, keep in mind that secondary evidence can be helpful in consolidating the analysis you have achieved thus far and really impacting that you now what you are talking about!

Kate M. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature tut...

7 months ago

Answered by Kate, who has applied to tutor A Level English Literature with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


Evelyn H. A Level English Literature tutor, GCSE English Literature t...
View profile
£20 /hr

Evelyn H.

Degree: English (Bachelors) - Southampton University

Subjects offered: English Literature, History+ 1 more

English Literature

“A Bit About Me I am an English student at Southampton University whose main interests include late-Victorian fiction, contemporary women's poetry and dystopian fiction (although I love anything and everything really!). I have been an ...”

PremiumHester T. Mentoring -Personal Statements- tutor, Uni Admissions Test ...
View profile
£24 /hr

Hester T.

Degree: English Language and Literature (Bachelors) - Oxford, St Edmund Hall University

Subjects offered: English Literature, English+ 2 more

English Literature
-Personal Statements-

“I am studying English at Oxford University. I come from a family of teachers and since I was 14 I taught kids the flute, later on I tutored students for GCSE English and I've also helped friends (and my little sisters and their friends)...”

PremiumAmy C. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature tuto...
View profile
£24 /hr

Amy C.

Degree: Viking and Anglo-Saxon Studies (Masters) - Nottingham University

Subjects offered: English Literature, English and World Literature

English Literature
English and World Literature

“Hello! I'm Amy. I know that choosing a tutor is incredibly difficult (I've received tutoring before too!), so I'm going to give you some information about myself, my experience, and about my style of tutoring to hopefully make things ...”

About the author

Kate M. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature tut...
View profile
£20 /hr

Kate M.

Degree: English Literature (Bachelors) - Exeter University

Subjects offered: English Literature

English Literature

“Top tutor from the renowned Russell university group, ready to help you improve your grades.”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Other A Level English Literature questions

How do I effectively analyse a passage from a text?

How do I ensure that may ideas are original and stand out?

How can I apply critical work to my own writing?

How should I structure an essay with the question beginning "How far do you agree..."?

View A Level English Literature tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss