Precis Writing

Precis Writing – Rules, Dos & Don’ts

How To Write A Precis

Pre’cis-writing is a very important exercise in English. Pre’cis-writing, in one form or another, is a part of the daily duty of the officials in any organisation. For this reason candidates for recruitment to almost all types of services are required to do pre’cis-writing in the English paper. Therefore, students should learn the art of pre’cis-writing properly to score good marks in English.

Pre’cis  literally means a summary or a short form of a text which briefly gives only the important points. It is defined as a ‘precise’,
‘concise’ or ‘abridged’ statement. But pre’cis is more than a summary. It is actually a clear, brief, accurate, well-connected abstract gist of a given passage without losing the main substance of that passage.

Steps in Pre’cis-Writing

1. Understanding

The most important step in pre’cis-writing is to understand clearly the meaning of the original passage. Without grasping the meaning of the passage, it is not possible to write a pre’cis. Once the meaning of a passage is clearly understood, it is possible to begin the task of stating the meaning in precise form. The only way to understand clearly the meaning of the passage is to read it repeatedly. A candidate has to read the passage a third or even a fourth time to understand it thoroughly.

2. Selection of points

Once the meaning of the passage is clearly understood, it becomes easier to find out the main points in the passage. The candidate must be able to judge the central idea or the main theme of the passage to enable him to arrange his ideas and present them in a precise manner by pruning all unnecessary details.

3. Making a Draft

Writing a good pre’cis requires making a draft with the main points. After a student has been able to locate the main points in the passage, he should make a rough or a draft with those points in his/her own language as far as possible. Then he should read the draft to find out if there is any omission or repetition of points.

4. Vocabulary

A pre’cis is to be written in simple language and in the candidate’s own English. A good vocabulary or stock of words is essential. Ornamental language and bombastic words  should be avoided as far as possible. Sentences and expressions should not be lifted from the original passage. Only words may be lifted when no alternative is available in English.

5. Conciseness and Clarity

Conciseness is the essential characteristic of a pre’cis. Clarity is another important feature of a good pre’cis. Clarity implies absence of vagueness, ambiguity and circumlocution Each and every sentence must be concrete and exact.

6. Sequenece

A proper sequence or order is essential in pre’cis-writing. A pre’cis must present a clear and unbroken sequence of ideas. The ideas must be inter-connected and follow one another in a proper sequence. Generally the order of the pre’cis should be the same as that of the original passage. The pre’cis must be an organic whole, not a mere jumble of different parts. It must be a complete literary entity, having a beginning, a middle and an end.

7. Giving a suitable Title

A Pre’cis must have a suitable title. The title says what the précis is about. It may be called pre’cis of the Pre’cis. It shows whether the student has understood the passage or not. It is usually based on the central idea of the passage. The title should not be very long.  A short but attractive title is always preferable. A title should be specific, not general.

Points To Remember for Pre’cis

  1.  A pre’cis is to be written in indirect speech, because a third person is presenting the views of the writer. Direct narration or quotation can never be used.
  2.  A pre’cis should be written only in assertive sentences or in the form of statements.
  3.  First Person singular (I) and Second Person (you) can never be used. For 1st Person singular, expressions like ‘according to the writer’, ‘in the
    opinion of the writer’, ‘the writer says or thinks or advises’ may be used, and for Second Person, “We’ or ‘the reader’ may be used.
  4. No personal opinion or comment can be used. You may or may not agree with the views expressed in the passage, but you cannot make any comment of your own. You have to faithfully reproduce the ideas of the writer.
  5. No idea from outside the passage can be included. A pre’cis should be written only on the basis of the information given in the passage.
  6. Unless otherwise specified, a pre’cis should be one-third of the original passage. To reduce a passage to this size, all examples, illustrations, quotations, comparisons, allusions, references should be excluded. All unnecessary details are to be left out and only the bare essentials are to be retained.
  7. No point is to be omitted and no point is to be repeated.
  8. No questions are raised in a pre’cis, only the answers are to be given.
  9. Use of single word expressions is very helpful in reducing phrases or clauses into one word. But they should be used without any ambiguity.
  10. A pre’cis should be written in your own language. As far as possible, words, phrases of sentences should not be copied from the original. But technical words, phrases or proper nouns can be used.


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