The Art of Precis Writing

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The Art of Precis Writing

A rhetorical précis is a type of academic writing where you summarize another piece of text, its main ideas and arguments, in particular, to provide insight into its author’s thesis.

It is a summary, which gets its name from the French language. It literally means, ‘cut brief’ or ‘precise’. It is a concise synopsis of a published work, like scholarly article or dissertation. If a student is asked to define précis, they can call it a summary of the text but not a paraphrased text. When a student sums up the ideas of certain literary work, it can be called précis. Do note that it is different from paraphrasing because here no need for mentioning all details discussed in a piece of writing.


The following points should be kept in mind while writing the precis.

1. The precis must not exceed one-third of the length of the original passage.

2. The precis must be in indirect form and in past tense.

3. The precis should be in own words of the precis-writer.

4. The combination of the sentence of original passage should be avoided at the maximum.

5. The original words of the original passage should be avoided at the

6. If suitable other words are not available, the original words of the original passage may be used in precis-writing.

7. Different paragraphs are used in precis-writing. At the same time, there must be a continuity from first paragraph to next paragraph.

8. The main ideas or matters of the original passage should be presented in the same order in precis-writing at the maximum.

9. The precis must complete and self-contained and at the same time in lucid and concise.

10. The reader of the precis-writing should understand the subject matter in the same direction and the right sense of the precis-writer.

11. The precis must be in simple and direct. There should not be any grammar mistake in the precis-making.

12. Every precis must have a short and appropriate title.


The steps of writing a precis can be generally categorized as those involving careful examination of the source (with some potential note-taking) , outlining a structure, and writing down the precis itself. Writing a precis is the process of reading through/ analyzing a literary work and extracting the main points, so as to assemble a brief summary of the mentioned work.

Précis writing is not as easy as you might think! You have to keep certain points in your mind before you start to pen it down. How to write a precis? Here are some tips for you to write it.

How to write a book precis and get a good grade? There is no particular template for precis writing, but there are things you can do to make your writing process easier.

Divide your precis into several parts

Distinguish several sections of precis. Authors help themselves by adding subheadings, so pay attention to these dividers – they mean that new ideas will be discussed in a new paragraph or section of precis.

Take notes

Whether you are reading the text for the first time or re-reading it, write the key ideas down to analyze and reorganize them later.

Provide the main idea in each section

Think about all ideas which are important and use them in your precis. Write each new idea down in a single, well-structured sentence.

Create a thesis statement

You should create your precis thesis statement on the basis of your prepared material. It should be an overarching statement which expresses the main theme of the entire text. Don’t forget the follow the tone of the author of the text.

Don’t give your own opinions.

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