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What is a Precis?

A Precis is a form of summary that is most often used to summarize works of non-fiction and speeches.  A precis is original writing.  It does not contain any of the precis author’s own thoughts but rather, summarizes someone else’s writing using the precis author’s own words.  There is no (or very little) quoting.

A precis is not the precis writer’s ideas about the original work.  Those thoughts and ideas belong in discussion, later.  A precis should be written in as precise a manner as possible.  A precis is the basic thesis of the original work, less the details, summarized.

 

How to Write A Precis

I find that starting with something I am unfamiliar with is easier.  I can concentrate more on what the author is saying and less on whether or not I agree with what the author is saying.

So, find a piece of non-fiction writing.  Start at the beginning with the first paragraph, what is the author telling you?  Summarize this paragraph into about one sentence.  Go to the next paragraph….

If you are writing a precise on an article — peer-reviewed, newspaper, blog, etc. — or speech, the writing that you are summarizing probably doesn’t have many paragraphs.  A book just takes longer!

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When you have summarized each paragraph, combine your writing by combining the sentences into a paragraph or, several paragraphs, and edit!

When you have a paragraph or paragraphs that make sense, repeat the process.  Again, summarize your writing into one or more sentences.  Go back to making paragraph(s) and repeat until you have only a clear and concise summary remaining.  It may be as little as a single sentence or your summary may require a few paragraphs.  This is your precis.

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Clear and concise is the most important part of this process.  Eliminate all repetition and unnecessary words (but not until you have it all in your original set of sentences).  You need to understand and summarize everything from the original writing!

Following through the process can surprise you.  Preconceived ideas about what the unsummarized writing is about, may disappear when we have thoroughly read and understood what was written…..