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Understanding the Basic Rules and Techniques of Précis Writing

Understanding the Basic Rules of Précis Writing
Writing a précis involves summarizing a lengthy passage precisely. This post will give you some important tips and techniques on how to write a précis.
Anup Patwardhan
Last Updated: Jul 14, 2017
Did You Know?
The word 'precis' was adopted from the French word 'précis' in the 18th century. It means a summary or an extract of text or speech.
A precis (précis) is summary of a passage which provides its complete gist. It must completely represent the idea and thoughts of the author. It must also contain all the essential thoughts and cover all facts from the original text or speech. In précis writing and comprehension, capturing the essence of the original text is of prime importance.
A précis must be written in the language of its writer, and not in the language of the creator of the original passage. It should not be simply paraphrasing the original work. That is, it must not just be a replica of the original after filtering out information that is unwanted or unnecessary. A writer must assimilate the given content completely.
Basic Rules of Précis Writing
✎ The length of a précis should not exceed more than ⅓ the size of the original passage. If it is too lengthy, it defeats the purpose of writing a summary. On the other hand, if it is too short, there is a chance of leaving out any points, ideas, or facts that would hamper the whole process.
✎ Always use reported speech. Even if direct speech has been used in the original content, avoid using it in the summary. Change the direct speech to reported speech.
✎ Write the summary in third person. This will provide flexibility in writing. It can be helpful in adding narrative elements. A conversation must be changed into narration.
✎ Write in the past tense. However, use present tense in case of facts that are universally accepted. When the passage speaks of the future, refer it back to the past.
✎ It should be just a summary and not express any opinions, analysis, or personal views. It should not be a commentary on the passage. This will make it more objective.
✎ Keep it precise by avoiding repetition and unrelated content. This will able it to hold the attention of the reader as well. In this way, the summary will be concise.
Précis Writing Steps
✎ Read the passage and understand it completely.

✎ Filter out unnecessary content.

✎ Retain important points.

✎ Arrange the points in a coherent sequence.

✎ Form your own sentences from these points.

✎ Rearrange these points if necessary to form a synopsis.

✎ Create a rough draft first, and then revise it till it is ⅓ of the original.
Précis Format
✎ A précis must have an apt title.

✎ Start with the background and provide context of the passage.

✎ Include the source of the passage, its title, and the name of the author.

✎ Maintain the flow and order of the original.

✎ Avoid usage of abbreviations.

✎ Include the message that the author wants to convey.

✎ Do not use examples, diagrams, graphs, etc., from the original content, unless absolutely necessary.
In a summary, there must be a compression of the given passage without losing its meaning and theme. The conclusion of a précis must highlight the importance and impact of the original work.