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"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."
A summary or a précis is NOT a personal
interpretation of a work or an expression of your
opinion of the idea; it is, rather, an exact replica in
miniature of the work, often reduced to one-quarter to
one-fifth of its size, in which you express the
complete argument!
A précis is a short summary. It is not a paraphrase, which
merely says in different and simpler words exactly what the
passage being paraphrased has to say. A paraphrase may be a
long as the passage itself. A précis rarely is more than onethird the length of the original selection and may be only
one-fourth as long.
A précis gives only the "heart" of a passage. It omits
repetition and such details as examples, illustrations, and
adjectives unless they are of unusual importance.
A précis is written entirely in the words of the
person writing it, not in the words of the original
selection. Avoid the temptation to lift long phrases
and whole sentences from the original.
A précis is written from the point of view of the
author whose work is being summarized. Do not
begin with such expressions as "This author says" or
"The paragraph means." Begin as though you were
summarizing your own writing.
Read carefully, sentence by sentence, the passage to be
summarized. Try to grasp the writer's main point. Spotting
the topic sentence will help. Look up in the dictionary any
words whose meaning is not absolutely clear. As you read,
take brief notes to be used in your writing.
When you have finally decided what the author's main point
is, write it out in your own words. Do not use the wording of
the original except for certain key words which you may find
indispensable. If you cannot translate the idea into language
of your own, you do not understand them very well. Be
especially careful not to rely too much on the topic sentence.
Do not add any opinions or ideas of your own
Revise your writing until you are sure that you have
given an accurate summary.
Usually you will find your précis is too long, if it is
more than one-third the length of the original.
Continue your revision until you have reduced the
précis to the proper length. For the purpose of this
class your précis should be no longer than 1 typed
double spaced page with 1” margins (approx. 200 –
250 words).
Original text
At a typical football match we are likely to see players
committing deliberate fouls, often behind the referee's back.
They might try to take a throw-in or a free kick from an
incorrect but more advantageous positions in defiance of the
clearly stated rules of the game .They sometimes challenge
the rulings of the referee or linesmen in an offensive way
which often deserves exemplary punishment or even sending
off. No wonder spectators fight amongst themselves, damage
stadiums, or take the law into their own hands by invading
the pitch in the hope of affecting the outcome of the match.'
[100 words ]
Unsportsmanlike like behavior by footballers may cause
hooliganism among spectators. [9 words]
What To Do
Mrs. Johnson, a strong black woman living on her
southern farm with her younger daughter, Maggie, is
waiting for a visit by her elder daughter, Dee. Dee is
returning from her home in the city, and the mother
has cleaned and swept the house and yard in order to
make a good impression.
What to avoid
Walker opens the story by building up the contrast that will
soon be made apparent. Her narrator, Mrs. Johnson, is a
plain, down-to-earth woman who has worked hard all her life
and whose basic value is her home and possessions. The
contrast is her daughter Dee, whose visit she is waiting for.
Dee has left home and lives a sophisticated life in the city.
Mrs. Johnson takes pride in her home, while Dee will regard
the home and her mother's belongings as being of no more
use than to be put on display.
In what to avoid the paragraph starts with a topic
sentence, to which the sentences that follow adhere.
Such writing is commendable elsewhere, but not in a
The other paragraph is better writing as a précis, for it
presents a selection of details only as they appear in
the story, without introductory sentences. In the story
there are no such introductions.
Because a précis should be concise and factual, it is
tempting to write sentences that are like short bursts of
machine-gun fire. Sentences of this kind are often called
"choppy," or "bumpy." Here is an example of choppy
Dee comes in a car. She is dressed flamboyantly. She is
with a strange man. He is short and bearded. She greets her
mother and sister in foreign phrases. The man does, too.
she immediately begins taking pictures. She snaps her
mother with her sister in the background. she also takes
pictures of wandering cows. She makes sure to get the
house in all the shots. She kisses her mother the, on the
An entire essay consisting of sentences like these
might make readers feel as though they have been
machine-gunned. Although you should include
details, you also need to shape and organize your
sentences. Here is a more acceptable set of sentences
revised to contain the same information:
When Dee comes, she is flamboyantly dressed, and
she gets out of the car with a strange, short, and
bearded man. Both Dee and the man greet Mrs.
Johnson and Maggie in foreign phrases. Before
embracing her mother, Dee gets her Polaroid camera
and takes pictures of her mother, her sister, and
wandering cows, taking care to include the house in
all her shots. Only then does she kiss her mother, and
then only on the forehead.
This revision blends the shorter sentences together
while still attempting to cover the essential details
from the story.
Ours is a nation of new-rich people convinced that material
goods will in themselves, make life worth the living. Any
individual who makes a great deal of money rapidly
supposes that wealth is evidence of worth. He imagines that
with his means he can buy happiness. These mistakes seem
folly to one born to property. He knows that because he or
his friends have it, it is no sign that they are worth it.
Happiness, which all men desire, cannot be purchased. We
go in for the nonsense that a full fist indicates a fine spirit.
[96 words]
Phrases and sentences merely copied from original
On the whole we are a nation of new-rich people who
are well washed and well dressed, but we don't know
what we're washed and dressed for. Our material
goods are all standardized and expensively advertised.
Advertisers appeal to our greed and vanity. We think
these material goods are the means to wealth and
happiness. The old rich know that their friends aren't
worth the money they have, but the new-rich don't
know this until they have been rich for a while. [81
Précis misses original points and stresses on
unimportant points.
First, the critical minority says that we are a nation of newrich people all dressed up with no place to go. We think the
material gods advertised by appeals to our greed and vanity
are what makes life worth living. Anyone who makes a lot
of money thinks his money shows his worth and believes
that it will make him happy. The old-rich, however, think
that these ideas are foolish. Born into a rich family with
property, these people know that money and property don't
make them any better people. They know that the opposite
its frequently true. They know that money in itself isn't
worth much and that it won't buy happiness, which is the
thing everyone wants. The new rich however, don't know
these things until they have been rich long enough to find
them out. Almost everyone, regardless of social class,
believes that possessions make their owners better, and the
more you have the more worthy you are. This is nonsense.
163 words]
Précis is too long
The critical minority says we are a nation of new-rich
people who are victims of newspaper, magazine, and
television advertising which, by appealing to our
greed and vanity, tries to convince us that all we need
for happiness is a lot of possessions. We don't need
most of the advertised stuff like appliances, big cars,
and fur coats, but the rest of the world judges our
worth by what we have. In many other countries,
people don't have the material goods we have. We
can't all be as lucky as the old-rich, who don't have to
worry about money because they already have it. [104
Writer of précis has injected his own ideas
Critics of American culture see us as a new-rich people
who, because we are new-rich, think that material
goods make life worth living. We think that money is
an indication of worth and that wealth brings
happiness. The old-rich know better. Born to property,
they do not believe that just because they have it, they
are worth it. They know that happiness cannot be
bought. The new-rich, however, make the mistake of
believing possessions indicate the worth of their
owner. [80 words]
Idea stated in précis writer's words and is less than one
third of length of original paragraph.
To persuade is to convince someone that a particular opinion
or point of view is the correct one.
Any time you argue with a friend, you are each trying to
persuade , to convince , the other that your opinion is the
right one.
Commercials on TV are another form of persuasion .
You will often have to persuade in writing.
Once you learn how to persuade logically and rationally,
you will be less likely to accept the false , misleading and
emotional arguments that you hear and read everyday.
Facts: Facts are simply
statements of what is. They
should appeal to the readers
mind not just to the
emotions. The source of your
facts should be clear to the
Avoid the vague “everyone
knows that” or “it is common
knowledge” or “they all
say”. Such statements would
make your reader suspect
your facts.
Referring to an authority: An
authority is an expert ,
someone who can be relied
on to give unbiased facts and
If you wish to convince your
audience that smoking is
dangerous habit , you might
use one of the surgeon
general’s warning.
Examples: An example
should clearly relate to an
Avoid examples that are not
suitable enough to support
your general statement. That
your friend was once bitten
by a dog does not adequately
prove that all dogs are
dangerous pets.
Predicting the consequences:
This helps the reader to
visualize what will occur if
something does or does not
Avoid exaggerating the
consequences. For instance,
telling the reader “ if you
don’t eat fresh fruit everyday
, you will never be truly
Answering the opposition: Answering possible critics show
that you are aware of the opposition’s argument and are able
to respond to it.
Avoid calling the opposition “fools” or “crooks”. Attack their
ideas not them.
Pay special attention to the audience as you write a
persuasive paragraph.
A persuasive paper should be directed towards a particular
audience. It is helpful to consider just what kind of evidence
this audience would respond to.
When you take your audience into consideration , you will
make your persuasive paragraph more convincing.