Practical English Usage
English grammar and vocabulary exercises
Precis writing tips
The summary or précis of a passage has to be expressed in the fewest and clearest words possible. In a summary you should mention only important points and leave out all unnecessary details.
What is a good precis?
A summary or précis is the shortened form of a passage. A good summary should be complete in itself. It should be able to convey the ideas expressed in the original passage so that a reader who does not have enough time to read the original one should have no trouble getting the message.
A summary should be brief, clear and precise. It should be brief, but it shouldn’t be a number of disjointed simple sentences. A good summary should give ideas, facts or points in the order in which it appears in the original. Note that it is best to write summaries in the same tense as the original.
The original passage may contain pieces of conversation. When you summarize it, all the sentences given in the direct speech should be changed into indirect. The summary should be in the writer’s own words. As far as possible, avoid using the vocabulary used in the original. Also note that a summary shall not contain points not mentioned in the original.
How to summarize a given passage?
Read the given passage thoroughly and try to understand what it means. If you don’t understand the passage after reading it once, read it twice or thrice. Try to find out what the passage is really about. And then provide a title for it.
Underline important points in the passage. Prepare a sketch or outline summary, containing all the points which you have marked in the passage. Compare the outline with the original passage. If you have left out some points, add them. If the outline contains some unnecessary details, strike them out.
Prepare your summary with the help of your notes. Don’t refer to the original. Finally, read what you have written. Correct all spelling or grammatical errors if any.
Some important points
If the passage is in poetry, express its ideas in prose. Write the précis in simple language. Avoid lengthy sentences containing many clauses. Don’t use phrases such as ‘the writer says’, ‘I think’ or ‘in my opinion’.
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