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What is Precis Writing, How to Write Precis complete guide for Class 10, Class 12, Graduation and Competitive Exam.

What is a Precis

Precis (pronounced preysee) is a French word meaning precise or exact. It comes from the Latin word ‘praecidere’ which literally means cutting short. In English, however, this word has come to be used in both the senses and means the art of reducing a piece of writing in order to make it precise and definite. Precis-writing has been defined by Sir Joshua Fitch in his famous ‘Lectures on Teaching’ as “the condensation, into a few sentences, of the main drift and purport of a letter, an essay or a formal document”.

Requirements of A Good

A good precis must be (i) accurate (ii) clear (iii) brief.

  1. Accuracy is essential because everything depends on its statement. Whether it is meant as a reference, as to stand itself as a substitute for the original papers. It is useless if it cannot be trusted as an accurate statement of facts and nothing but facts. You cannot add ideas of your own or omit ideas you don’t like.
  2. Clarity is essential because if the meaning of a precis is not clear, a reference to the original becomes necessary and the precis is expressly intended for saving time. Clarity can be acquired by going through the passage 3 or 4 times and by rendering it in simple English.
  3. Brevity is also indispensable for the simple reason that precis is expressly intended for saving time. Omit all examples, illustrations, repetitions and other unnecessary words. HOW TO WRITE PRECIS

How to Write Precis

The matter for writing a precis may be (i) an extract from an essay or a book or (ii) a letter or a document or a series of letters or documents. But the method of procedure is essentially the same.

First, glance through the passage just to get a general idea of its subject and then read it again carefully marking the important points. You have to master all facts in a very short span of time, sifting and examining, admitting and rejecting, being alert in judgement and prompt in decision. When the subject-matter has been thoroughly mastered, you have to begin with a suitable heading and then proceed to draft your precis, remembering that you are doing it for a person who is too-busy to read the original but who requires all that is important therein.

Your precis must not be in the form of a mere catalogue or synopsis of the essential points in the original, but these points must follow one another in their logical sequence and must be welded together by means of suitable connectives into plain continuous narrative but none the less a vigorous and an organic whole.

You may divide your precis into paragraphs if the passage deals with more than one subject or if there are breaks in the arguments in the main theme. You must not, however, alter the facts of the original in any way, nor are you entitled to express your own comments on the subject in your precis.

The very nature of precis makes the style of writing usually terse and suggestive. As the number of words is often limited, they must be the best for conveying the maximum of information in the minimum of space, consistent with three requirement of accuracy, clarity and brevity. Exact words as well as short sentences should always be preferred to long ones.


The Process of Precis-Writing Analysed

Original Paragraph : A man of polite imagination is let into a great many pleasures that the vulgar are not capable of receiving. He can converse with a picture, and find an agreeable companion in a statue. He meets with a secret refreshment in a description, and often feels a greater satisfaction in the prospects of fields and meadows than another does in their possession. It gives him, indeed a kind of property in everything he sees, and makes the most rude, uncultivated parts of nature administer to his pleasure ; so that he looks upon the whole world ; as it were in another light, and discovers in it a multitude of charms that conceal themselves from the generality of mankind. (J.Addison).

Let us first read the passage very carefully with an eye to get its general subject-matter which should be expressed in a short title such as “The Pleasure of Imagination”.

You find that the passage is really the development of one central idea which is given in the very opening sentence. Now you can express the essence of it in some such single sentence as “An imaginative man enjoys many special pleasures.”

Once you have caught the key by hitting upon the central idea, you will not take long to see that the succeeding sentences only amplify it by some illustrations which may be safely omitted in your precis, e.g. “converse with a picture” “find an agreeable companion in a statue”, etc. These are mere ornaments of style and not essential ideas. Then in the concluding sentence, the author offers an indication of the general characteristic of the pleasure which may be briefly put down : “His imagination invests the world with certain charms which are denied to common men.”

Title : The Pleasures of Imagination Precis : A man of strong imagination enjoys many special kinds of pleasures. He finds pleasures in pictures of statues, in descriptions or in nature. His imagination invests the world with special charms which are denied to common men.


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