Barbara P
Barbara P

Precision Writing 101: How to Write a Precis

11 min read

Published on: Dec 3, 2019

Last updated on: Nov 24, 2023

How to Write a Precis

Ever had trouble making a short and clear summary? You're not alone. Lots of people find it hard to shrink big ideas into a brief precis.

Making a good precis is more than just shortening words. It's about getting the main point of a text in fewer words while keeping its important meaning.

But don’t worry! 

In this blog, you'll find a detailed, step-by-step guide on crafting a precis that works. Whether you're a seasoned writer or a beginner, we'll teach you how to express ideas with clarity and brevity.

Ready to make your writing better? Let's learn how to be clear and short!

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What Exactly is a Precis?

A precis is a concise and condensed summary of a longer piece of writing, capturing the essential ideas and main points while maintaining clarity. 

Think of it as a snapshot that filters the key elements of a passage, scholarly article, or document. 

The goal of writing a precis is to convey the original author's message accurately and efficiently, omitting unnecessary details and retaining only what is crucial.

Key Elements of a Precis

Writing a précis involves focusing on important information to ensure a clear and accurate summary of the original text. Here are the key elements you should consider:

  • Main Idea and Thesis

The precis should begin by stating the main idea or thesis of the original work. This is the central message that the author wants to convey.

  • Supporting Points

Identify and include the essential supporting points that contribute to the development of the main idea. These should be the most significant arguments or concepts presented in the source material.

  • Conciseness

One of the critical aspects of a precis is brevity. Aim to express the main points in a concise manner, avoiding unnecessary details or examples. Focus on clarity and precision in your language.

  • Clarity of Expression

Clearly convey the meaning of the original text. Use simple and straightforward language while maintaining the integrity of the author's ideas. Ensure that the reader can easily understand the summarized content.

  • Coherence

Arrange the points in a logical order, maintaining a coherent flow throughout the precis. This helps the reader follow the structure of the original work and understand the connections between different ideas.

  • Accuracy

Ensure that your precis accurately reflects the main points of the original text. Misinterpretation can lead to a loss of meaning, so strive for precision in conveying the author's intended message.

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How to Write a Precis - Step by Step Process

Mastering the art of precis writing involves a systematic and step-by-step process. Follow these guidelines to create a concise and effective precis:

Step 1: Understanding the Source Material

To begin the process of writing a precis, it's essential to thoroughly understand the source material. 

Read the original work carefully, paying close attention to the author's main idea, key arguments, and supporting points. 

Take notes on significant details and examples that contribute to the overall message. A solid grasp of the content is the foundation for creating an accurate and concise summary.

Step 2: Identify the Author's Purpose

Dive deeper into the author's purpose behind the writing. Ask yourself why the piece was written and what message the author aims to convey. 

Understanding the author's intent will guide you in selecting the most critical elements to include in your precis. 

Whether it's to inform, persuade, or entertain, recognizing the purpose enhances your ability to capture the essence of the work.

Step 3: Summarize the Main Idea and Thesis

Craft a clear and concise statement that encapsulates the main idea or thesis of the original work. 

This serves as the focal point of your precis and provides readers with a quick understanding of the author's central message. 

Ensure that your summary maintains the nuance and complexity of the original idea while presenting it in a more condensed form.

Step 4: Identify Key Supporting Points

List the primary supporting points or arguments that the author uses to reinforce the main idea. These are the building blocks of your precis. 

Identify evidence, examples, or data that the author presents to substantiate each supporting point. 

Step 5: Create a Precis Outline

A well-organized outline serves as the roadmap for condensing a longer piece of writing into a clear and concise summary. 

Here's how to write a precis outline:

1. Introduction

  • Start with a brief introduction that includes the title and author of the original work.
  • Clearly state the main idea or thesis presented in the source material.

2. Author's Main Points

  • Identify and list the primary supporting points or arguments made by the author to develop the main idea.

3. Condense Each Point

  • For each supporting point, condense the information into a concise statement or sentence.

4. Maintain Logical Flow

  • Organize the condensed points in a logical order that mirrors the structure of the original work.
  • Ensure a smooth transition from one point to the next for coherence.

5. Clarity and Coherence

  • Review the outline for clarity and coherence, making sure that the main idea and supporting points are expressed in a clear and easily understandable manner.

6. Conclusion

  • Conclude the outline by summarizing the key takeaway of the entire precis.
  • Emphasize the significance of the author's main idea and its supporting points.

Step 6: Writing Clear and Concise Sentences

In the actual writing phase, focus on expressing each point in clear and concise sentences. Strive for brevity without sacrificing accuracy. 

Eliminate redundant information and choose words that convey the intended meaning with precision. Aim for a balance between clarity and conciseness to create a summary that is both informative and to the point.

Step 7: Review and Revise for Precision

Once your precis is drafted, review it critically. Ensure that each sentence contributes meaningfully to the overall summary. Check for coherence, clarity, and adherence to the original meaning.

Revise sentences that may be unclear or verbose, aiming for precision in language and content. This step is crucial for refining your precis into a polished and accurate representation of the source material.

Expert Tip

You can also explore our blog for comprehensive information on rhetorical precis.

Citing in a Precis

While precis writing involves condensing the ideas of an original text, proper citation is still essential to give credit to the original author and source. 

Here's how you can cite the sources in a precis:

  • Author and Title

In the introductory section of your precis, clearly mention the author's name and the title of the original work. This provides context for your readers and acknowledges the source.

Example:

In "The Art of Precis Writing" by John Smith...

  • Academic Integrity

Even though a precis is a condensed version, it's crucial to maintain academic integrity. If you use specific phrases or terminology from the original text, put them in quotation marks and cite the page number.

Example:

According to Smith, "precis writing requires a keen understanding of the source material" (p. 56).

  • In-Text Citations

Depending on the citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.), include in-text citations where appropriate. This is particularly important if you refer to specific ideas, examples, or quotes from the original text.

Example (APA):

Smith (2010) emphasized the importance of clarity and conciseness in precis writing.

  • Reference Page or Works Cited

At the end of your precis, include a reference page or works cited page. Follow the specific guidelines of the citation style you are using to provide a complete and accurate citation for the original work.

Example:

Smith, J. (2010). The Art of Precis Writing. Publisher.

  • Publication Information

Include the publication information of the original work, such as the publisher, publication year, and page numbers. This ensures that your readers can locate the source material if needed.

Example:

Smith, John. The Art of Precis Writing. XYZ Publishers, 2010, pp. 45-78.

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Precis Examples

To better understand the concept of precis writing, let's explore a few examples that showcase the transformation of an original text into concise and focused summaries.

Precis of a Paragraph - Example

Original Paragraph:

"In Shakespeare's tragic play 'Hamlet,' the protagonist, Prince Hamlet, grapples with existential questions and moral dilemmas. The famous 'To be or not to be' soliloquy captures Hamlet's internal struggle as he contemplates the meaning of life and the consequences of taking one's own life. Throughout the play, Hamlet's introspective nature and complex emotions contribute to the overall theme of existential angst and the consequences of inaction."

Precis:

In 'Hamlet,' Prince Hamlet's existential pondering, epitomized by the 'To be or not to be' soliloquy, delves into the profound questions of life and the moral implications of suicide. Hamlet's introspection, woven throughout the play, intricately weaves a narrative of existential angst and the consequences of indecision.

Precis Ap Lang - Example 

Original Passage:

"In our fast-paced society, multitasking has become a norm. However, research indicates that the human brain is not designed for simultaneous engagement in multiple tasks. While multitasking might create an illusion of efficiency, it often leads to decreased productivity and heightened stress levels. Understanding the limitations of multitasking is essential for fostering a more focused and effective work environment."

Precis:

Multitasking, a prevalent practice in our society, is scrutinized through research revealing its incongruence with the brain's design for simultaneous engagement. Despite its apparent efficiency, multitasking frequently results in reduced productivity and increased stress. Recognizing these limitations is paramount for cultivating a focused and effective work environment.

Precis of a Summary - Example

Original Text:

"In the novel '1984' by George Orwell, the protagonist Winston Smith navigates a dystopian world under the oppressive rule of the Party. The novel explores themes of totalitarianism, censorship, and the manipulation of truth. Winston's rebellious spirit and quest for individuality clash with the Party's regime, leading to a harrowing exploration of the consequences of challenging authority in a surveillance state."

Precis Summary:

George Orwell's '1984' delves into a dystopian society dominated by the Party, where protagonist Winston Smith confronts the perils of totalitarianism, censorship, and the distortion of truth. Winston's defiance against the Party's control leads to a chilling examination of the repercussions of rebellion in a surveillance state.

Tips for Writing an Effective Precis

Crafting an effective precis requires a combination of analytical skills, clarity of expression, and attention to detail. Here are key tips to enhance your precis-writing skills:

  • Thoroughly Understand the Source Material

Before attempting to write a precis, ensure a comprehensive understanding of the original text. Identify the main idea, key arguments, and supporting details.

  • Focus on the Main Idea

The primary goal of a precis is to capture the main idea of the original text. Concentrate on distilling the central theme and core arguments without getting lost in minor details.

  • Be Concise

A well-crafted precis conveys essential information without unnecessary elaboration. Aim to condense the material while preserving its meaning.

  • Express Ideas in Your Own Words

Use your own language to articulate the ideas presented in the original text. This demonstrates a true understanding of the material and helps avoid plagiarism.

  • Maintain Clarity and Coherence

Ensure that your precis maintains a clear and logical flow. Use transition words to connect ideas and create coherence, making it easy for the reader to follow your summary.

  • Follow the Structure of the Original Text

Organize your precis to mirror the structure of the original work. Maintain the order of main ideas and supporting points, preserving the intended flow of the author.

  • Omit Repetition and Irrelevant Details

Eliminate redundant information and irrelevant details. Your precis should focus on the crucial elements of the text, contributing to a more impactful and focused summary.

  • Maintain Objectivity

Write in an objective and neutral tone. A precis is not the place for personal opinions or interpretations. Stick to representing the author's ideas faithfully.

  • Adhere to Word Limit Guidelines

While the word count for a precis can vary depending on the length of the original text, it's essential to adhere to any specified word limit.

In conclusion, mastering the art of precis writing is a valuable skill for anyone looking to communicate with clarity and precision. 

By understanding the main ideas, focusing on brevity, and expressing thoughts in your own words, you can create effective summaries. Remember to maintain objectivity, omit unnecessary details, and adhere to word limits. 

If you find yourself needing assistance or seeking professional help with your writing tasks, visit MyPerfectWords.com. 

Our expert writers are ready to provide guidance and support, ensuring your writing is clear, concise, and meets your goals. 

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Frequently Asked Question

How long is a precis?

The length of the precis should vary. However, it can be 100-200 words long.

Is precis writing in the third person?

You can easily write a precis in the third person and past tense. However, a precis should always write in your own words and without borrowing from the original passage.

 
Barbara P

WRITTEN BY

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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