Introduction of Precis Writing
‘Precis’ is a French word. It means “summary.’ It also means an ‘epitome’ or ‘abstract.’ A precis should give the sum and substance of the original passage.
It helps students in retaining the minimum from various sources—books, references, magazines, yearbooks, etc. It is not a paraphrase, in which we will give all the details. Here, we have to remove the chaff and retain the grain.:
A good summary, or precis, contains approximately one-third of the number of words of the original piece. It does not mean that unrelated thoughts can be put in any form. There should be continuity of ideas and expressions in a precis.
It is also an exercise in comprehension and helps all types of people, students, professionals, lawyers, journalists, secretaries, market surveyors, and researchers. Without the knowledge of precis writing, any exercise in report-writing, speech-drafting, letter description of incidents, directions from the decision-makers, project planning, etc. would remain incomplete. It is, therefore, very useful for the advanced students to know how to write accurately, logically, and concisely. A precis exercise is a succinct summary of the ideas, or expressions of some writer, given in details in the source material. It makes a shorter account of an extended, detailed version.
Without a project report, one cannot understand the various details of the scheme in question. And a precis is a way to turn the whole episode, description, narration etc. into a shorter piece of precise report, easy to grasp and follow.
How To Make a Good Precis
It is an art. It is grasped and mastered by training and regular practice. Following are some points to be remembered by the precis writers:
- Read the passage, as many times as possible. Try to grasp the meaning and the theme in general at first.
- The heading of the passage should be located. This may be found either in the opening sentence or the last one. The key or the topical sentence should be found out. The most essential ideas, round which the passage and its subject matter revolve, should be picked.
- Read the passage again. This time the speed should be slow. Sentence by sentence, the main points are to be noted. Examples and illustrations should be left out.
- Now, prepare a list of the main points found out. After that, prepare a rough draft of the precis.
- Do not use phrases or sentences from the original passage. Use your own words, as far as possible.
- Revise the passage you have written and check up if any point is left out from the given passage.
- Adjustment of ideas can be suitably modified in your plan of the precis. But the sequence should give the impression of a whole piece.
- Do not add or take out ideas from the passage. Say briefly but accurately all the points mentioned by the writer.
- Use the third person and past tense in your precis.
- Have only one paragraph, even if there are many in the passage.
- Revise your draft to check the points. Cut uncalled-for accounts and details if the precis is still longer than the required length. A few words more or less are allowed. If the draft is clear, concise, coherent, and condensed, copy out the honest attempt.
- Mention the number of words used by you at the end.