Precis writing

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 The word ‘precis’ is derived from French .The word précis means an abstract, abridgement or summary; and précis writing means summarizing. To make a précis of a given passage is to extract its main points and to express them as clearly and as briefly as possible. and it means a straight forward condensed statement of the salient features, ideas or information contained in the original passage and it is written in a clear and concise way in the writing own words. A precis is a summary, and precis-writing means summarising. Precis-writing is an exercise in compression. A precis is the gist or main theme of a passage expressed in as few words as possible. It should be lucid, succinct, and full (i.e. including all essential points), so that anyone on reading it may be able to grasp the main pointsand general effect of the passage summarised.

Forms of condensation

Précis is lengthier than the abstract and follows the exact order of points of the original passage. It is a clear statement of base facts without any unnecessary frills. In fact  précis writing requires writing of the essential facts/ideas in a clear, exact and concise way. In this sense précis is more like original piece of writing. As a précis writer, you use your own words to write the gist of the passage.

Skills required

The aim of précis is to present to a busy reader, the main ideas of original passage as concisely and clearly as possible, in a readable form. In this sense a précis is like an original piece of writingPrecis writing demands power of judgement and evaluation as the passage usually contains important ideas and a number of unnecessary words.

Method of procedure

1. Reading. (a) First read the passage through carefully, but not too slowly, to get a general idea of its meaning. If one reading is not sufficient to give you this clearly, read it over again, and yet again. The more you read it, the more familiar will it become to you, and the clearer will be (i) its subject, and (ii) what is said about that subject. Ask yourself, ‘What is it I am reading? What does the author mean? What is his subject? What is he saying about it? can I put in a few words the pit of what he says?”

(b) Usually you are required to supply a title for your precis. This is a good stage at which to do this. Think of some word, phrase or short sentence that will sum up briefly the main subject of the passage. For example, look at Exercise 155, No.20, in which the first sentence gives the subject, all the rest of the passage being an expansion and illustration of it: “Hospitality is a virtue for which the natives of the East in general are highly and deservedly admired”. This at once suggests the short title of “Eastern Hospitality”. But you will not always find such convenient key-sentences in the passage you have to summarise. In their absence, you must get a clear idea of the subject from the passage as a whole, and then sum it up in a suitable heading.

The effort to find a suitable title at this stage will help you to define in your mind what exactly the subject, or main theme, of the passage is.

(c) Further reading is now necessary to ensure that you understand the details of the passage as well as its main purport. Take it now sentence by sentence, and word by word. If the meanings of any words are not clear, look them up in a dictionary. Detailed study of this king is necessary, because a phrase, a sentence, or even a single word, may be of prime importance, and the misunderstanding of it may cause you to miss the whole point of the passage.

(d) You should now be in a position to decide what parts of the passage are essential and what parts are comparatively unimportant and so can be omitted without any loss. This process of selection is not so easy as some people think. Begineers select; but they often select in a haphazard or mechanical way. It requires some practice to be able to say, “ This is essential to the meaning of the passage, and that is only incidental and unimportant.” The best guide, of course, is the subject or main theme of the passage. If you have a clear and correct idea of that you will soon see what is important and what is unimportant.

At this stage it is useful to jot down your conclusions in brief notes-writing down the subject, the title, and the details which you consider essential or important. (This is a better plan than underlining sentences and phrases in the original.)

2. Writing(a) Rough Drafts – Your should now be ready to attempt the writing of the precis; but be sure of the limits within which it must be compressed. If the number of words is given you, this is easy; but if you are told to reduce the passage to say, a third of its length, count the number of words in the passage and divide by three. You may use fewer words that the number prescribed, but in no case may you exceed the limit.

It is not likely that your first attempt will be a complete success. The draft will probably be too long. In fact you may have to write out several drafts before you find how to express the gist of the passage fully within the limits set. A good deal of patience and revision will be required before you get it right. It is a good plan to write the first draft without having the actual words of the original passages before one’s eyes.

(b) Important Points – The following points must be kept in mind:

(i) The precis should be all in your own words. It must not be a patchwork made up of phrases and sentences quoted from the original.

(ii) The precis must be a connected whole. It may be divided into sections or paragraphs, according to changes in the subject – matter, but these must not appear as separate notes, but must be joined together in such a way as to read continuously.

(iii) The precis must be complete and self-contained; that is, it must convey its message fully and clearly without requiring any reference to the original to complete its meaning.


1. Read the passage at least two times to familiarise yourself with the theme and the main ideas contained in the passage.

2. Give the passage a little, a suitable title would help you to identify the name of the passage.

3. Write down important points and arrange them in the same sequence as the original passage.

4. Make a rough draft. A précis should not be more than 1/3 of the original unless otherwise directed.

5. Write the precise in the indirect form of narration using only the third person

6. Scrupulously avoid all examples figures of speech, illustrations and comments.

7. Retain all those facts and ideas which are related to the main ideas, reject those which have minor importance.

8. Drop all redundant words and expressions.

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