The Art of Précis Writing for CSS and Some General Considerations

The Art of Précis Writing and Some General Considerations

Précis Writing

Writing a précis means making an intelligent summary of a long passage. To write a précis one should have a clear understanding of the passage: only then one is able to include all the essential points, tips and tricks of essay examples in the précis.


“A précis is a brief, original summary of the important ideas given in a long selection. Its aim is to give the general effect created by the original selection.” It is a concise and lucid summary that forsakes all unnecessary details (including illustrations, amplifications, and embellishments) in favor of reproducing the logic, development, organization and emphasis of the original. Retaining the substance of a fuller statement, it seeks to articulate another authors thoughts by extracting the maximum amount of information and carefully conveying it in a minimum number of words.

The Purpose:

Précis writing aims at intelligent reading and clear, accurate writing. It is a skill of both analysis and genesis that critically questions every thought included and excluded, each word used to express those thoughts, and the proportions and arrangements of those thoughts — both in the original and in the précis. In its exaction it mercilessly reveals an author’s wordiness and looseness or thinness of thought and construction. It should strengthen our style, our sense of proportion and emphasis, and our sensitivity to word meanings and an author’s viewpoint.

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Some general considerations for Précis Writing

  • Learn to shorten your words, text of written work, useful writing tips, essential thoughts, ideas or fact.
  • It is generally accepted that a précis should be a third of the passage given. If the original passage has 300 words, the précis should not be more than 110 words in length.
  • A précis should be in the language of the précis-writer. The original passage is not to be reduced in length by just removing unimportant or unnecessary sentences and by reproducing the rest as the précis. It should be a brief gist or summary of the passage expressed in the writer’s own words.
  • A précis should be full i.e. it should contain all the essential thoughts, ideas or fact in the original passage. It should not contain repetitions or observations that are not relevant to the main theme of the original.
  • A précis is always written in Reported Speech. The passage given may be a speech made by a person in Direct Speech, but the précis is to be in Reported Speech or the Third Person or in the Past tense.

Techniques of Précis – Writing

There three kinds of work to be done in producing a clear and successful precis. They are (1) Reading, (2) Writing and (3) Revision.

1) Reading

Read the passage carefully

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If one reading is not enough to give you a general idea of its meaning, then read it second time. As you read, find out the subject or the theme of the passage and what is said about the subject.

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It will be a good thing if you find out the lead or the topic sentence. The lead sentence will help you to see the subject clearly. It will also help you to think of a title.

Now comes the process of selection. The writer of the précis writing passages has to decide what facts or ideas in the passage are essential and what are of secondary or no importance. Taking the main ideas of the passages as your point of reference, it should not be too difficult to write out the important points in the original in a corner of your writing work sheet.

2) Writing

You should first prepare a draft of the précis, keeping in mind, the need to reduce the original to one-third its length. The main thoughts expressed in the passage, the ideas it contains, the opinions presented and the conclusion arrived at should figure in the rough draft. Unimportant things like the names of people and places and dates should not figure in it.

It may so happen that your first draft is too long or that it sounds rather jerky. Shorten it if necessary and write out a careful second draft. Sometimes you may need to work out three or even four drafts, but with reasonable care and concentration, you should normally succeed in producing good précis writing by the second draft.

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3) Revision

When you have made your second (or final) draft, carefully revise it before writing out the fair copy. Look for any mistakes or slips in grammar or spelling and correct them. Don’t forget to give your précis a title.

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