What is Precis Writing and How to write Precis writing


Précis writing is a basic and very useful skill. The word ‘précis’ is French and it means the removal of all that is inessential. It is pronounced presee.

“A précis is a brief, original summary of the important ideas given in a long selection. Its aim is to give the general effect created by the original selection.”

A précis is concise and avoids all unnecessary details in favour of reproducing the logic, development, organisation and emphasis of the original. Précis writing aims at intelligent reading and clear, accurate writing. Therefore, to sum up, précis is a much shorter version of an article, a speech, etc. giving the main points or ideas from it. It is, of course, shorter than a summary.

What is Precis Writing and How to write Precis writing
  • Rules for Writing a Précis

1. There are three kinds of passages: descriptive, narrative and reflective. Read the passage of which the précis has to be written carefully. At least three attempts are needed for proper understanding of the passage. In the first reading, the student should try to understand the subject matter or the topic on which the passage is written. In the second reading, the student should try to understand the central idea or main theme of the passage. In the third or final reading, the important ideas should be numbered as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. These ideas are connected to the central idea. Therefore, a logical reference to these ideas must be determined. Now, the student may write down the précis. Remember that précis writing is an exercise of close reading, understanding and logical development of ideas.

2. The length of a précis should be more or less one-third of the passage given. So, if the given passage consists of 180 words, the précis of the passage should be written in approximately 60 words. If the words exceed the limit in the first attempt, reduce it to the required limit. Generally, there are four ways to reduce the word-count:

[A] Avoid repetition of ideas

[B] Avoid long, complex sentences involving multiple subordinate clauses.

[C] Replace a group of words with a single word.

[D] Omit any unimportant idea that may have been included.

3. Précis should preferably be written in your own language. You should not include sentences, phrases from the given passage. You should take the ideas from the passage but write those in your own language.

4. A student has to mark the important points in the passage. Such points must not be left out in an effort to reduce the number of words.

5. The language of a précis should be direct. There should be no introduction or conclusion. A précis should not use telegraphic language or disconnected sentences or ill-arranged clauses. A précis should be like a well-formed, well-constructed passage.

6. A précis should not use examples, illustrations, figures of speech, dates, comparisons or incidents. Such eliminations would help in reducing the word count of the passage.

7. A student while writing a précis should not give her/his own opinions. She/He may hold some opinions of her/his own for and against the subject matter of the passage but she/he should never express opinions of herself/himself in the précis.

8. The precis should be in one paragraph.

9. The précis should be written in indirect speech. Direct narration should be changed to indirect speech. If the given passage is written in direct narration then a student may begin with “The author says that…”. It should also be written in third person.

10. A précis should have a suitable title. The choice of the title is extremely important because it shows how far the student has been able to understand the passage. The title of the précis should be based upon the central idea.

  • Some Examples of Condensing Words or Sentences :

1. Tigers, elephants, bears, jackals, boars and monkeys lived in the forest. The sentence can be compressed as-Different animals lived in the forest.

2. Teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers gathered there. The sentence can be shortened as-People of different professions gathered there.

3. Ram arrived at the place and Rahim arrived there at the same time. The sentence can be compressed as-Ram and Rahim arrived at the place simultaneously.

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