Amit works in the content writing team of an organization. Even though Amit has a way with words and a creative bent of mind, his writing lacks precision and focus. As a result, Amit misses out on the biggest writing projects and even a promotion.
Amit’s colleague Neha advises him to do a simple exercise in his free time—find passages of text and summarize them as clearly and coherently as possible. Amit follows this advice and starts summarizing two passages every day for a period of six months. At the end of this period, Amit notices a remarkable transformation in his writing style. His vocabulary has expanded, his use of words more disciplined and the elusive precision that he had become obsessed with has also become a part of his writing style.
Amit’s story is a great example of how summary writing or precis writing can make good writers better by providing them with the sharpness and precision they’ve been lacking.
What Is Precis Writing?
Precis writing is a form of technical writing where you’re required to summarize a passage of text in your own words. Essentially, precis writing rules involve compressing a passage to recollect its most important points. The ideas or themes of the original passage must not be altered in the precis, at the same time, you’re not allowed to copy phrases or sentences from the original text. This means you should always use your own words when writing a precis.
Uses Of Precis Writing
The meaning of precis writing is all about precision. But you might wonder why precis writing should be pursued as a skill. Let’s look at the following points in order to understand the importance of precis writing and how it can be useful:
It can provide structure and clarity to how you approach writing, speaking or even thinking
It’s extremely useful for professionals who have to sit through long meetings or read lengthy documents as they can rely on their precis writing skills to summarize the information at hand
Sentence construction becomes economical and efficient
Practicing precis writing helps improve concentration, focus and the ability to use one’s vocabulary with care
Characteristics Of A Good Precis
A good precis can be judged from whether or not it has the following characteristics:
It’s short, compact and reads smoothly
It uses words that are simple to understand
There’s a logical flow connecting the sentences
There are no complicated metaphors or similes or use of any figurative language
The main points of the precis are easy to locate
Precis Writing Rules: Dos And Don’ts
There are a number of things to keep in mind when writing a precis. These things can roughly be divided into do’s and don’ts of precis writing. The meaning of precis writing and its purpose can only be understood if these rules are taken seriously and observed methodically.
Dos of Precis Writing
As a rule, a precis should be no longer than one-third of the size of the original passage. This is not always possible to execute, but it’s a healthy estimation to have to keep the precis short. The problem with a long precis is that it stops being a summary and starts being a paraphrasing of the original passage, which must be strictly avoided.
List The Important Points
Before you proceed to write your precis, make a list of all the important points that you intend to include in your precis. These points will then act as a guide while constructing your precis and you won’t have to keep referring back to the original passage before writing every word.
Retain The Theme
It’s not your job to even subtly alter the theme of a passage while summarizing it. A good summary is one that keeps the original theme intact, even if it replaces the original words. Thematic consistency is one of the most cherished precis writing rules and you have to be on your guard to ensure that you don’t end up violating it.
Always Use Indirect Speech
You’re not supposed to use direct quotations in a precis. This means that all quotations and instances of direct speech in a precis need to be converted into indirect speech and inserted smoothly into sentences. While doing so, be careful of tense changes from direct to indirect speech as well as other conventional changes that need to be made. For instance, “yesterday” in direct speech becomes “the previous day” in indirect speech.
Always Mention Statistics
If the original passage contains statistics, there’s no reason to drop them from your precis. Usually, statistics help contextualize information or encapsulate it. So, feel free to put those numbers in your precis. The only exception to this is when a passage has an abundance of statistics. Then, just like arguments, you need to take your pick of the most important ones.
Don'ts Of Precis Writing
Most passages you get to summarize won’t be exceptionally difficult to understand. As a precis writer, your job is to simplify what’s already fairly simple. The last thing you want to do is to overcomplicate your precis by twisting the essence of an argument or using your words to change the meaning of the passage.
Not all points in a precis have equal weight. This is why you’re required to make a list of points before writing your precis so that you can identify which points are more important than others. However, it’s still common for precis writers to deprioritize and end up giving more importance to ancillary points.
Inserting Your Opinion
A precis isn’t an op-ed piece or space for you to tell your readers what you think about a subject. Therefore, you’re not supposed to insert your opinion in your precis. Notwithstanding this rule, some writers have a tendency to subtly promote their point of view in their precis, be it through the use of an adjective or partial selection of arguments.
Adding New Content
At no point, while writing your precis are you supposed to include something that doesn’t form a part of the original passage. This extends to arguments, data as well as quotations. Even if you think you know the subject really well, it isn’t your job to embellish your precis with additional information that isn’t contained in the original text.
Example Of Precis Writing
Let’s read the following sample to get an idea of how to write a precis.
Why 2021 Could be Turning Point for Climate Change (by Justin Rowlatt, BBC, January 1, 2021)
In November 2021, world leaders will be gathering in Glasgow for the successor to the landmark Paris meeting of 2015. Paris was important because it was the first time virtually all the nations of the world came together to agree they all needed to help tackle the issue.
The problem was the commitments countries made to cutting carbon emissions back then fell way short of the targets set by the conference. In Paris, the world agreed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change by trying to limit global temperature increases to 2C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. The aim was to keep the rise to 1.5C if at all possible.
We are way off track. On current plans, the world is expected to breach the 1.5C ceiling within 12 years or less and to hit 3C of warming by the end of the century.
Under the terms of the Paris deal, countries promised to come back every five years and raise their carbon-cutting ambitions. That was due to happen in Glasgow in November 2020. The pandemic put paid to that and the conference was bumped forward to this year. So, Glasgow 2021 gives us a forum at which those carbon cuts can be ratcheted up.
Precis Writing Sample:
In November 2021, world leaders will assemble in Glasgow to follow up their Paris meeting from 2015, where they had all agreed to help combat climate change.
Global temperature increases were supposed to be restricted to a rise of 2C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, but as of now, the world is expected to cross 1.5C within 12 years or less, rising to 3C by the end of the century.
Under the Paris deal, countries were supposed to meet again in Glasgow in November 2020. The pandemic, however, has pushed the meeting to 2021, when carbon cuts are set to be increased again.
Master The Art Of Precis Writing
The importance of precis writing cannot be underestimated, especially for those who are involved in technical and summary writing. Harappa’s Writing Proficiently course is designed for professionals to fine-tune their writing by learning about different frameworks, models and principles. As part of this course, you’ll be taught by a world-class faculty and get to master various forms of writing, including precis writing. Enroll for the course today and join employees from organizations like Infosys, Airtel and Standard Chartered in writing with confidence.
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