What is a Precis?
A precis is a concise and clear statement of
the substance of a longer passage in a connected and readable shape.
A precis must be accurate, brief and clear.
A precis is in the precis writer’s own word and it is about one-third of the original.
Summary and abstract are two other words that convey the same idea as precise.
Why Do We Need A Precis?
These days, people have a variety of jobs to attend to, and they do not have enough time to go into all the details. They just want to know the essential facts of a situation as briefly and clearly as possible. To take some examples, a superior might like to know the main points of an article published in a trade journal or a trade union leader may have to report what happened at a trade union meeting. Each of these situations needs making a precis.
Rules for Writing a Good Precis:
1. Determine the theme if the passage very carefully: It is very important to find out the central idea or the theme of the passage. Soon you will be analyzing the passage to separate the major points from the minor ones, and the various points become major only in relation to the central or main theme of the passage.
2. Precis is not the reproduction of important sentences: Don’t from your precis by reproducing a few sentences and deleting others. Precis writing is not the art of selection and deletion; it is the art of remodeling.
3. Brevity is good but not at the cost of clarity: Brevity is the soul of precis writing. But brevity is not to be achieved at the cost of clarity. If the addition or retention of a few words adds to the clarity of your precise, they should be included by all means. Excessive economy, leading to ambiguity or obscurity, must be avoided.
4. Your precis ought to be intelligible even to a person who has not read the original passage: This is extremely important. He who is familiar with the original passage, of course, enjoys an additional advantage. He is in a position to compare the two versions and find out how far you have faithfully reproduced the facts or preserved the spirit of the original passage. But he who has not read the original passage has to judge your performance only from what you have written.
5. Use your own language: Precis has to be written, as far as possible, in your own words. Precis writing is a test as much of your comprehension as of your expression. Besides, while summarizing the original ideas you will often find that language of the passage is more a hindrance than a help. You cannot help retaining a few significant phrases or technical terms but be sure that sentence structure is entirely your own.
6. Precis is always written in the third person: If the author has used the autobiographical form of narration or description, you should change the form. You should begin your precis with ‘The author says…’ Secondly, you should avoid the use of direct speech in your precise. The use of indirect speech will make it more compact. Be careful of all the rules of indirect speech if the original passage is in direct speech.
7. Use your discretion if the passage contains
statistical information: If the
statistical figures have been included to corroborate certain generalized
facts, you can safely omit them. But if the figures are basic to
the very understanding of the general drift of the passage, they have
to be retained.
8. Observe Proportion: Your precis should be well proportioned. Each part of the original passage should be dealt with according to its relative importance and not according to the space assigned to it.
9. No comments, please! You are not supposed to give any comments, appreciative or critical, on the ideas expressed in the passage. Your job is to interpret faithfully and not to evaluate the mind of the author. You are reproducing – briefly and relevantly – and not creating.
10. Reduce the passage to its one third: Unless otherwise indicated, you are supposed to reduce the passage to one-third of its original length.
It is physically impossible for a well-educated,
intellectual, or brave man to make money the chief object of his thoughts just
as it is for him to make his dinner the principal object of them. All healthy
people like their dinners, but their dinner is not the main object of their
lives. So all healthy minded people like making money ought to like it and
enjoy the sensation of winning it; it is something better than money.
A good soldier, for instance, mainly wishes to do his fighting well. He is glad of his pay—very properly so and justly grumbles when you keep him ten years without it—till, his main mission of life is to win battles, not to be paid for winning them. So of clergymen. The clergyman’s object is essentially baptize and preach not to be paid for preaching. So of doctors. They like fees no doubt—ought to like them; yet if they are brave and well-educated the entire object to their lives is not fees. They on the whole, desire to cure the sick; and if they are good doctors and the choice were fairly to them, would rather cure their patient and lose their fee than kill him and get it. And so with all the other brave and rightly trained men: their work is first, their fee second—very important always; but still second.
Money-making is a common attraction in life. But it cannot be the principal aim of well educated, cultured and brave man. A brave soldier prizes honor and victory more than his pay. A good clergyman is more interested in the moral welfare of his people than his returns. A doctor (good) values the care of his patient far more than his fees. Thus with all the well-educated, intellectual persons, their work is first, money next.