Precis Writing

How many times did you wonder about how the things they taught you in school would be useful for you later in life?

Would writing long answers - sometimes strectching over pages - in school exams be helpful later? Would answering a few "fill in the blanks" help? Would re-ordering a few sentences help? And the list is endless.

Essay writing was one such thing which I hated throughout my school life. It was "oh so difficult" to write on an unknown topic, for atleast two pages, at the spur of the moment

On the other hand, Précis (pronounced pray-see) Writing was in my good books.

Why did I love it??

The answer is simple. I just needed to read some twenty odd lines and summarise it in upto four lines. Was there any simpler way to get 5 marks? That too by writing just 4 lines?

Why would teachers award a full five marks for a nicely written summary of just four lines?

Back then, I did not understand the importance or the significance of this section of the question paper.

But today, with my modest professional experience of six years, I can safely and confidently say that "Summarising" (Précis Writing, in other words) is one of the most important skill set one must posses.

So, what is Précis Writing ?
It would be vital to list two important definitions here
Précis is a summary (or abstract) of the essentials of a text.

Précis is a brief statement that presents the main points of an argument or theory in a concise form.
And what are the most important steps of writing an effective Précis (Summary)?
First and foremost, it is very important to grasp the theme or idea which is being discussed. It will mean understanding the topic under discussion.
If the précis is to be written for a section of written text, it may require 2 to 3 iterations of reading. And if the summary is to be written for a discussion, it will require effective paraphrasing.
Step two would involve understanding the most important and significant points, ideas and thoughts. They need to be presented with factual correctness in a logical order.
Last step would involve putting the thoughts down on paper in a précise and clear manner. The overall idea should remain unchanged  but yet should be conveyed in a miniature form.
Most importantly, the summary should be coherent so that the reader can understand the essence of the idea being communicated.

Net in net, it's like presenting a three hour movie with a one minute trailer.
Writing a good précis and summary would need a continuous practice. And you can only get better with time as  you learn how to grasp the topic and convey the thoughts effectively.
Everyone these days looks for a good and concise summary, be it on a discussion, or an idea, or something else - consdering the fact that we are always running short of time.
So go ahead and start writing effective summaries.
This is one good way of going back to your simple and humble school life. Isn't that what we all yearn for?

Precis Writing Precis Writing Reviewed by Vyankatesh on Wednesday, November 03, 2010 Rating: 5