How to really write a phenomenal Precis? ‘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, and convey the essential ideas of the passage given in detail earlier.
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 a long, 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:
1. Read the passage, as many times as possible. Try to grasp the meaning and the theme in general at first.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Now prepare a list of the main points found out. After that, prepare a rough draft of the precis.
5. Do not use phrases or sentences from the original passage. Use your own words, as far as possible.
6. Revise the passage you have written and check up, if any point is left out from the given passage-
7. Adjustment of ideas can be suitably modified in your plan of the precis. But the sequence should give the impression of a whole piece.
8. Do not add or take out ideas from the passage. Say briefly but accurately all the points mentioned by the writer.
9. Use the third person and past tense in your precis.
10. Have only one paragraph, even if there are many in the passage.
11. 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 fair attempt.
12. Mention the number of words used by you in the end.
1. She spent her money in performing kindly acts for the benefit of the poor. (14 words)
Precis: She spent her money in charity. (6 words)
2. I have no admiration for a man who one day makes up his mind to do a thing and the next day changes his mind. (25 words)
Precis: I don’t like a man with a vacillating mind (9 words)
3. God has the power to see everything and anywhere in the universe. (12 words) Precis: God is omniscient. (3 words)
4. That which will last for ever. (6 words)
Precis: Everlasting (or, eternal) (1 word)
5. He spent his life trying to learn how to transform baser metals into gold. (14 words) Precis: He spent his life trying to learn alchemy.(8 words)
6. This jewel is beyond any price. (6 words)
Precis: An invaluable jewel. (3 words)
7. He was cut off by death in the bloom of his youth. (12 words)
Precis: He died young. (3 words)
Hints: In the above examples, figures of speech, idiomatic expressions, illustrations, digressions, quotations have been avoided and the knowledge of one word substitution has been used.
1. His dress was somewhat like that of his companion, but being scarlet showed that he was not a monk, but a soldier who fought for Church and his religion. On the right shoulder of his cloak was a cross, showing that he belonged to the Order of Knights, Templar, gentlemen who spent their lives in what they considered holy wars against those who were not of their own faith. (Sir Walter Scott.) (69 words)
The Knight Templar
His scarlet dress, with the cross on his right shoulder, showed that he was not a monk like his companion but a Knight Templar who fought in crusades. (28 words)
2. At present, Easter meanders over thirty-five days of the calendar, from March 22 to April 25, to everybody’s inconvenience. There is not a single business interest in the country or a single family that would not welcome a stratification of the time-table. (44 words)
The present movable Easter is admittedly inconvenient and a fixed Easter would be welcomed by all. (15 words)
1. He is plainly a man who has violated his oath of allegiance to the country. (15 words)
Precis: He is a traitor. (4 words)
2. Richard’s courage in a battle might without exaggeration be called lion-like. (11 words)
Precis: Richard was a lion in battle. (6 words)
3. The science of war that constituted more than rational force of Greece and Rome as it now does of Europe, and those disciplined revolutions which harmonise and animate a confused multitude, were unknown to the Persians. (36 words)
Precis: Scientific warfare and disciplined military operations were unknown to the Persians. (11 words)