How to write a Precis?

In many subjective English papers, students are also asked to write a precis, apart from an essay or a letter.

Unlike an essay or a letter, most of the students are not very clear about the art of precis writing. In this article, we will clear some of the misconceptions regarding precis. We will also discuss some rules, guidelines, dos and don’ts and tips when it comes to precis writing.

What is a Precis?

Precis is a summary (or gist) of a given comprehension passage in limited number of words, such that all the important aspects and details of the passage are covered.

Precis writing checks a student’s capability to not only comprehend a given passage, but also understand what parts are more important, and then write them down in his/her own words. So, precis writing checks both your reading comprehension skills, and your writing skills.

How to write a Precis?

Now, let’s begin and learn how should we go about writing a precis. We will give a set of steps that you may follow. But as you get more practice and get a hang of it, you may skip or merge some of these steps.

Step 1: Read the Comprehension

The first step obviously is to read the given comprehension. While you are reading it you may note down the important points.

However, some people like to take only mental points, as it allows them to read the passage faster. If there’s not much time left in the exam, then too writing main points may not be feasible.

You can choose either strategy as per your comfort level and your past experiences in mock tests.

Step 2: Prepare a rough draft of the Precis

Unlike an essay, you need not brainstorm a lot or waste much time in structuring a precis. That’s because in a precis there’s no scope for you adding your own ideas or showcase a lot of creativity. Also, we just need to structure a precis in the same way as the original comprehension passage.

But still, in a precis we may be required to select and reject certain points, facts and ideas of the passage. So, we need to have a rough draft of the kind of points that we are going to include in our precis. Do so before you start writing. It can be done on a paper in the form of synoptic notes or in your mind.

Once you are clear what things you are going to include in your precis, start writing.

Step 3: Write the Precis

While writing a precis, keep in mind the word limit. You will have to decide on the run which portion of the precis will get how many words.

Make sure that the main idea of the original passage gets the lion’s share of words. However, do not overdo it. We should touch upon all the main parts of a passage. Focussing excessively on one aspect of a passage is bound to make our precis lopsided.

Also, we need to write a precis in such a way that we can conclude it where the original passage ended. So, word management is of utmost importance.

Otherwise, you will cross the word-limit, and may get penalized by the examiner for it. In some paper-based papers, you may not be left with any space to write, if you cross the word limit.

Use simple and precise language. There’s no need to use very tough vocabulary and over-the-top flowery language that may end up eating a lot of unnecessary space.

Precis writing is not a test of how creative writer you are. Rather it checks your ability to eliminate the fluff and jot down only the most essential stuff. So, make sure you do not skip any essential point of the original passage.

You should not count every word again and again while writing a precis. It will consume a lot of your time unnecessarily. Rather just count the lines and multiply it with the estimated average of the number of words per line.

Keep in mind the following points:

  • If word-limit is not given, then by convention your precis must be around one-third of the word count in the original passage.

  • Try to include all the important keywords, terms and facts from the original passage in your precis. However, if there are a lot of facts given, then choose only the most important ones and give more weightage to the main idea of the passage. A precis must be easy to read and should convey the main idea of the passage.

  • Do not add any information or facts from your end. Just confine yourself to the given passage. A precis may eliminate some non-essential things from the original passage, but it cannot add anything new. You should also not add any opinion on or criticism of the topic at hand in a precis.

  • Do not use any abbreviations that have not been used in the original passage. Some students do so to bring down the word count. This is not an acceptable practice. However, if the passage has used some abbreviations, then feel free to use them. However, do write the full form at least once, preferably when you write an abbreviation for the first time.

  • Avoid using questions in precis. Even if the original passage has used questions, you should convert them to normal sentences (affirmative or negative).

Step 4: Proof-read the Precis

Once you are done writing, you must re-read the precis once. Remove any vocabulary, punctuation or grammar mistakes that you spot.

We should always re-read whatever we write, be it precis or essay, letter etc. You will be surprised how many mistakes we commit unconsciously while writing.

Obviously, you will only be able to do so if time permits. So, it depends on your time-management skills. At least allot 3-4 minutes of your time for proof-reading and last-minute minor corrections.

Extra Books and Tools

Though the matter on our website is in-depth and comprehensive enough for the needs of most of the aptitude exams, but it may also feel daunting for the same reasons. Moreover, some learners prefer books over websites. So, if you are a beginner level English learner, and prefer books, you may explore the following English Grammar books too.

1. Wren & Martin - This book has been around for long and is still considered one of the best. Though many concepts have not been dealt with in much depth here, but beginners may find it a breeze to read. Once you are done with it, the content on our website will work as a rich add-on. If you are getting this book, make sure you get the key to its exercises too.

Link for Indian readers: Wren and Martin

2. More advanced learners may refer to the following books. However, buy them only if you must. Most of your English Grammar learning needs will easily be met by our website.

Essential English Grammar by Raymond Murphy
Link for Indian readers: Essential English Grammar

Intermediate English Grammar by Raymond Murphy
Link for Indian readers: Intermediate English Grammar

Advanced English Grammar by Martin Hewings
Link for Indian readers: Advanced English Grammar

So much so for Englsh Grammar. But what about Comprehension skills and Vocabulary?

We strongly believe that Comprehension skills and Vocabulary are more a matter of practice. The more you read, the better you will become in them. In fact, this will help you in Grammar too. Afterall Grammar rules are just in the nature of temporary scaffholding - the goal is to read, write and speak a language without consciously remembering even a single Grammar rule.

So, we suggest you to read vividly. Ideally, carry some tool with you that you may refer to learn the meaning of any word that is new to you. There are many ways you may go about it.

* The old method: Carry a good dictionary with you. But who does?

* Download a Thesauraus app on your mobile or just google it. Better, but we still need to stop reading, open app, type and then search. Boring!

The methods mentioned above kill the joy of reading. Who wants to stop reading in the midst of an interesting plot and look for the meaning of a word? And if you are a lazy soul like me, oh man! No chance!

That's why I prefer to read on gadgets like Kindle. We may just tap on any word and see its meaning there and then. It's also not taxing on the eyes.

If you guys know about any more such books, gadgets and technologies that are awesome and may help English learners, do share 😇
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