What is a Precis?

Precis is a shorter version or a summary, and precis-writing is summarising or producing the gist or main ideas of a passage in brief and understandable form. The word Precis is a French word. It is pronounced as /presee/.

But, it differs from Summary in many respects.

What is the difference between Precis and Summary?

Actually there is a little difference between Summary and Precis. Precis simply means brief or concise. But Summary means relatively detailed or complete. Generally, the words precis a substance or summary or main ideas are used in the same sense. But if there is any underlying idea or advice in the main passage of Substance, it is written in Precis; in Summary is not needed.

A precis is a summary or an abstract, but it represents much more. A summary is a relatively ampler version of any passage or text. But a precis reduces thoughts and ideas to the most basic requirements to express. And it represents them with the highest precision in the fewest possible words. Secondly, in a summary, a matter is reproduced in an abridged form. But in a precis, it is not sufficient to write concisely or to pick out the main facts of a passage. The facts are to be arranged in order as in the passage. A precis provides the meaning of the passage to the reader quickly and easily, with no reference to the original. Thirdly, every precis must have a title. It simply tells what is the subject of the passage. 

Types of Passages

Passages are of three types—

    1. Descriptive— It describes places, scenes or objects.
    2. Narrative— It narrates events or stories or accounts.
    3. Reflexive—It has reflections on virtues or vices or even, on abstract matters (like character, death, etc).

How to write a Precis

(a) First, read the passage carefully and determine its subject [i.e., if it is descriptive, understand what is it about, if it is narrative, understand what is it about; and if it is reflective, mention of merit or demerit etc.] and try to understand it.
The body of a reflective passage is usually at its very beginning. Sometimes at the end, and rarely in the middle.

(b) Then try to understand what the author is saying about that subject. To understand this read the passage several times. If the content is narrative-oriented or event-oriented. Then it will be easy and convenient for you. If its content is expressing quality, you will find the author talking about its benefits. Or, if there is any demerit, then the author tells about why or how to discard it. etc.
Don’t be scared if you don’t know the meaning of a word or sentence. The overall meaning of the passage is all that you have to digest. This will be possible only by reading the passage twice or thrice.

(c) After this, write down the complex sentences in your own language focusing on the principal clause.

(d) Write briefly what is said about each of these statements. Arrange the sentences as if they were a coherent piece—not as if they were disjointed sentences.

(e) Arrange the expressions in your answer in the same order as they are written in the original passage. It has many advantages. But you can arrange them in other ways as per your wish.

( f ) Never ever express any opinion or comment of your own, or add anything that is not in the original passage.

(g) Avoid excitement, address and metaphorical words in the answer; direct speech will avoid all poetic and archaic words and figurative language and use simple language

(h) Do not repeat any speech or sentence. Avoid unnecessary illustrations and examples. Always use simple and plain words. Avoid using idioms, proverbs, ornamental and ambiguous words. Do not copy any quotation or example from the passage.

(i) Even if the sentences in the prescriptive passage are in Second Person, you should use First or Third in your answer.

(j) If the original passage is in the First Person, the precis should be written in the Third Person, first mentioning the words author, poet, etc. (or naming them if possible).

(k) Precis will try to keep within certain limits, but a few words don’t matter. If there is no indication of words or lines, the length of the precis maybe one-third of the original passage, or a little less or more, depending on the content.

(l) Your answer will focus on a good prose — as simple as it is clear.

(m) In any case, your answer shall be in a single paragraph.

(n) Give an appropriate and suitable title to the original passage. Do not use finite verbs in titles.

A few examples worked out

01. The chief record of Wordsworth’s College life is to be found in ‘The Prelude’. Wordsworth did not distinguish himself as a scholar and if his life had any incidents, they were of that interior kind which rarely appear in biography, though they may be of controlling influence upon his life. He speaks of reading Chaucer, Spencer and Milton while at Cambridge but no reflection from them is visible in his earliest published poems. The greater part of his vacations was spent in his native Lake Country, where his only sister, Dorothy, was the companion of his rambles. She was a woman of large, natural endowment, chiefly of the respective kind and had much to do with the formation and tendency of the poet’s mind. It was she who called forth the shyer sensibilities of his nature and taught an originally harsh and austere imagination to surround itself with fancy and feeling, as the rock fringes itself with a sun-spray of ferns. Though the greater part of his life she continued to be a kind of poetical conscience to him.


Mystic support behind noble creation

The early life of Wordsworthis described in ‘The Prelude’. He did not mention any influential memories in his biography. He studied many writer’s works but his own poems were original. He spent his vacations with his only sister, Dorothy, in Lake-Country. His sister’s principal engagement was with composition of his mind. Only she developed the unparalleled skills within his thought for entire life.

02. Naval architects never claim that a ship is unsinkable, but the sinking of the passenger-and-car ferry Estonia in the Baltic surely should have never happened. It was well designed and carefully maintained. It carried the proper number of lifeboats. It had been thoroughly inspected the day of its fatal voyage. Yet hours later, the Estonia rolled over and sank in a cold, stormy night. It went down so quickly that most of those on board, caught in their dark, flooding cabins, had no chance to save themselves: Of those who managed to scramble overboard, only 139 survived. The rest died of hypothermia before the rescuers could pluck them from the cold sea. The final death toll amounted to 912 souls. However, there were an unpleasant number of questions about why the Estonia sank and why so many survivors were men in the prime of life, while most of the dead were women, children and the elderly.


Enigmatic end of Estonia

Estonia, a well-designed and aptly maintained ferry, left all enigmatic on its disappearance in the Baltic on a freezing night. It sank rapidly and only 139 survived, but the rest 912 passengers succumbed to hypothermia. The incident even raised questions on the gender ratio of the survivors to that of the lost souls.

03. Dolphins are regarded as the friendliest creatures in the sea and stories of them helping drowning sailors have been common since Roman times. The more we learn about dolphins, the more we realize that their society is more complex than people previously imagined. They look after other dolphins when they are ill, care for pregnant mothers and protect the weakest in the community, as we do. Some scientists have suggested that dolphins have a language but it is much more probable that they communicate with each other without needing words. Could any of these mammals be more intelligent than man? Certainly, the most common argument in favor of man’s superiority over them that we can kill them more easily than they can kill us is the least satisfactory. On the contrary, the more we discover about these remarkable creatures, the less we appear superior when we destroy them.


Demising the delicate dolphins

Dolphins, the friendliest sea creatures, the divers’ pioneer, possess a more complex society to get to know of, than that to the people. These mammals are as social as humans in their community but for wonderful communication. Only in the question of killing it, man’s superiority comes over intelligence and this leads mankind devoid of enough kindness.

04. Although speech is the most advanced form of communication, there are many ways of communicating without using speech. Signals, signs, symbols and gestures may be found in every known culture. The basic function of a signal is to interrupt upon the environment in such a way that it attracts attention, as, for example, the dots and dashes of telegraph circuit. Coded to refer to speech, the potential for communication is very great. Less adaptable to the codification of words, sings also contain meaning in and of themselves. A top sign or a barber pole conveys meaning quickly and conventionally. Symbols are more difficult to describe than either signals or signs because of their intricate relationship with the receiver’s cultural perceptions. In some cultures, applauding in a theater provides performers with an auditory symbol of approval. Gestures such as waving and handshaking also communicate certain cultural messages. Although signals, signs, symbols and gestures are very useful, they do have a major disadvantage. They usually do not allow ideas to be shared without the sender being directly adjacent to the receiver. As a result, means of communication intended to be used for long distances and extended periods are based upon speech. Radio, television and the telephone are only a few.


The means of communication

In any known culture, besides speech there are other forms of communication. Signs and signals also possess as potential as speech does to attract attention. Symbol differs from sign and signal because it changes with cultures. Gestures also enrich the ways of communication. But these all have disadvantages in expressing ideas and do have such barren means in distance communication.

05. For all industrial development we need power and the ultimate restriction on power is the fuel from which it is extracted. Is there enough fuel to satisfy our ever-growing hunger for power? For conventional fuels such as wood, coal, and oil, the answer is quite clearly no. The world’s known stock of oil is only sufficient to last sixty years at the present rate of consumption and the rate of consumption keeps going up and up. We are burning too much wood already, and the earth’s known fuelwood forests would be consumed soon. Coal is still in fair supply, but in some areas — notably England — it is becoming increasingly difficult to mine it, and therefore uneconomical.

Besides fuel as a source of power, there is the device for harnessing energy from rapidly flowing water. Few sources of water power remain untapped; and the power they yield meets only a fraction of our total need. Moreover, it is not very dependable, because water stored in reservoirs depends on rains which are sometimes freakish.

Conventional fuels release energy by combustion; but fission makes use of another kind of fuel, remarkable for its concentration of power. All fissionable material is extracted or manufactured from two elements uranium and thorium, and the world has plentiful stock of them. But even so they will not last forever. There is probably enough to last for several centuries. Fission in the techniques known up till now converts only one-tenth of one per cent of its fuel into energy. Complete conversion of fissionable fuels into energy is known at present at laboratory level only. If it can be harnessed into a practical power device, one pound of fissionable fuel would be equivalent to three billion pounds of coal. Now the scientists’ quest is to find out some more efficient process for using these fuels outside the laboratory on an industrial scale. But after even fissionable material is gone, what then? There is no reason to despair. The sun is continually pouring solar energy on earth: we have only to gather and harness it. Those who think that man will one day be left without any source of power are not far-sighted enough.


The inevitable energy-yielding

All industrial developments need power extracted from fuel. Unlike renewable energy sources, conventional or natural sources are running out with time. Besides fuel, there are water power plants. But, as water power plants are dependent on rain has made those freakish. Therewithal combustion technique, in fission reaction plenty of Uranium and Thorium ensures extraction of highly concentrated energy. But it is limited in nature as well. Scientists are trying to bring this into a practical field out of laboratory practices, but the question remains what next when all these fissionable materials are used and consumed. Some believe, the day is not far when men will be left with only the solar power but the rest.

06. There is no doubt that people are growing more and more interest in the seas, and that there is a great need for that interest. Men have long tried to probe the secrets of the oceans to gain knowledge for its own sake, but there are other practical reasons for doing so. The sea can provide us with many things that we need in everyday life. Future generations will probably draw more on the seas for their food, and not only food in the form of fish. Minerals necessary for modem industries are there also. When we can find out how to extract them.

We have explored and mapped most of the land, and we are quickly exploring the air. The seas present a greater difficulty because we cannot yet, and probably never shall, be able to set foot on the deep ocean floor.

The aim of the extensive oceangoing expeditions, and of the marine biological stations around the coasts, and even of those who simply study the shore uncovered by the tide, is to build up our knowledge of this vast and unfamiliar world beneath the waves. In some cases, the knowledge gained can be put to practical use, but much of it is for interest only.

For the very early mariners, the interest lay in the currents, and especially those at the surface, that carried their ships along. They were also interested in the weather over the sea. Yet, even these hard-bitten seamen were not immune from a curiosity about the animals and plants that lived below the waves. Their first impulse may have been to seek trade overseas, or to fish for food, but over and above this anything strange or beautiful, whether brought up in their nets or cast ashore by the tides, caused them to wonder. So, from the earliest time, the pursuit of the practical everyday things went on side by side with the inquiry that springs from a desire to know more. Bit by bit grew the knowledge of the physical features of the seas, of such things as currents, waves, and winds, as well as of the biology, the knowledge of animals and plants.


Acquisitive expedition: intra-ocean urge

In the waters is lain the uncountable-year-old secret to be found to attain knowledge, and men have been fishing that out for decades. Food and minerals are the other reasons to dive into the blue water. But, unlike land and air, it is difficult to set foot on the deep ocean bed. This enhances the interest in expedition more than what marine biological stations and academic knowledge do. Sea weather, currents, animals and plants beneath the waves, and ancient trading had pulled the fins of divers in early age. But now, the beautiful or strange things make them eager to jump into the waters off the coast to pursue the interest that expedites the race with diverse knowledge.

07. Man and women are of equal rank but they are not identical. They are a peerless pair being supplementary to one another, each helpless the other, so that without the one the existence of the other cannot be conceived, and therefore it follows as a necessary corollary from these facts that anything that will impair the status of either of them will involve the equal ruin of them both. In framing any scheme of women’s education this cardinal truth must be constantly kept in mind. Man is supreme in the outwards activities of a married pair and, therefore. It is in the fitness of things that he should have life is entirely the sphere of women and, therefore, in domestic affairs, in the upbringing and education of children, women ought to have mere knowledge. Not that knowledge should be divided into watertight compartments, to that some branches of knowledge should close anyone; but unless courses of instruction are based on a discriminating appreciation of these basic principles, the fullest life of man and women cannot be developed.


Alike basics: converging dual-edge

Men-women pair is non-identical but supplementary to each other. For one’s loss suffers the other, as one is co-existential part of the duo. Thus, women’s education is important. It would be unfair to divide knowledge based on men’s outwards activity and women’s domestic affairs. Awarding both the same quality of basic instructions can develop undiscriminating edges for men and women.

08. Nobody can teach you how to write poetry; but here are one or two hints you may find useful. Use simple metres and short lines-the ballad is a good one to start with-and don’t worry too much about the rhymes : rhymes are difficult to handle at first, and the need for finding a rhyme is apt to prevent you from saying what you want to say: better a bad rhyme, or not rhyme, than a word which rhymes perfectly but makes the line sound silly. Secondly, don’t be afraid of using words-new words, old words, curious words, long words, ordinary words, words whose meaning you don’t quite understand, words that seem to be “unpoetical”; always be looking for more words to use; every poem should be an experiment in words; and every poem should flaunt words as proudly as a peacock flaunts its tail. Thirdly, write about things, because they interest and touch you, not because they seem to you typical subjects for poetry. A street accident, a pet rabbit, a spitfire, a good dinner, a visit to a seaside or the dentist, whatever shocks, pleases, frightens, or excites you is material for poetry.


Anthology: an art

Writing poetry cannot be taught. As a hint, it is possible using short syllabic beats even with no rhyme. Rhyme impedes writing for the beginners. It deflects the thoughts. Word selection must be unreserved and diverse. A bold verbatim usage in poetry shows ornamental and experimental nature. In poetry, the subject having common or regular things and incidents enchants and touches more.

09. Everybody knows what a “good” man means and how he should be. Our definition of a good man is one who does not smoke, drink or avoid the usage of bad language. A good man is ideally expected to converse in front of men as he would in front of women. He is also expected to attend Church regularly and have correct opinions on all subjects. He has a wholesome horror of wrongdoing and realizes that it is our painful duty to reprimand sin. He is not anticipated to have wrong thinking and has the authority to protect the young. His duties are not just restricted to the professional front but also needs to spend quality time doing good deeds. He must be patriotic and a keen believer in military training, he should promote industry, must be sober and have virtue among wage earners and their children. He must be a role model for all and it is expected that he leads a way that the younger generation would willingly follow. Above all, of course, his “morals” in the narrow sense must be admirable.


Pioneer: A person of personality

People tag a man good according to the articulation and action of the man. Good decisive and subjective power in various aspects makes a man upright. He keeps himself away from sin and so does for the youth. Well-balanced usages of time and deeds are such qualities. His virtuoso for all, if moral, leads him into a pioneer with a great personality.

10. This is the answer to the question, what is the aim of education? Well, its aim is to know the first rate in any subject that we study with a view of achieving it as nearly as our powers allow, if we could fix this firmly in our minds, we should not stumble through a variety of lessons lectures and books like a drunk man, only partially aware where we are or what we are doing. We should cease to think that we go to school or college to pass examinations or to secure degrees or diplomas or to satisfy our teachers, though these may be and are incidental and limited objectives. We should have brought order into our education by realising its true aim and we should have dependent in our minds through practice the sense that a worthy purpose in life is the desire for excellence. The pursuit of the best, or the first-rate.


Education: Beyond academic aim

The aim of education is subjective. If it depends on any subject, one fumbles, in mind, with one’s understanding in various aspects of life. Academic knowledge only helps gain a degree and artificial satisfaction which is limited. Through a true aim and minute practice, one gains pursuit of the best in one’s life.

11. Education ought to teach us how to be in love always and what to be in love with. The great things of history have been done by the great lovers, saints, men of science and artists, and the problem of civilization is to give every man a chance of being a saint, a man of science or an artist. But this problem cannot be solved unless men desire to be saints, men of science and artists. And if they are to desire that continuously they must be taught what it means to be these things. We think of the man of science, or the artist if not of the saint, as a being with peculiar gifts who exercises more precisely and incessantly perhaps, activities which we all ought to exercise. It is a commonplace belief that art has ebbed away out of our ordinary life, out of all the things which we use, and that it is practiced no longer recognize the aesthetic activity as an activity of the spirit and common to all men. We do not know that when a man makes anything he ought to make it beautiful for the sake of doing so, and that when a man buys anything he ought to demand beauty in it for the sake of that beauty in it for the sake of that beauty. We think of beauty if we think of it at all, as a mere source of pleasure, and therefore it means to us an ornament added to things for which we can pay extra as we choose. But neatly is not an ornament to life, or the things made by man. It is an essential part of both.


Love and beauty in life

In history, great men showed how education teaches us to be involved in love, and everyone gets an equal chance to be great. So does one become if one desires continuously. It is believed that saintly activities are no more in regular life. Man demands beauty in his work or in buying things. Beauty begets pleasure, thus seems ornament but not to life.

12. To know one’s own business and to mind nothing else, that is the way to carry on the work of life. This sounds like a common saying, yet few really acknowledge it, even in principle. It is not often that even the first step-that of knowing what one’s business is is honestly taken; it must be allowed that with many there are intellectual as well as moral difficulties in the way of this first step. The easier method of getting rid of the intellectual difficulty is for a man to ask himself what is not his business; and many a kindly person may be surprised to find that he has been in the habit of considering it a virtue to waste time, thought, feeling, and other means of interests which truly are no business of his at all. He may have to confess that he has been constantly wasting sympathy on sorrows and evils which he cannot remove or alleviate. The sympathy which does not mean action of some sort is not much of a virtue in any man; while in those human beings who habitually indulge in sympathy for its own sake, it is apt to become hateful and vicious cowardice.


One’s prime concern

The principle of life works in one’s own pursuit. One hardly takes it at first albeit there are intellectual and moral difficulties. It becomes easier when one finds what is not one’s duty, which seems time-killing for a few kind people. Wasted sympathy cannot be undone; so, unnecessary sympathy manifests no righteousness in a man. Whereas, to show sympathy for own sake raises hateful and cowardly manner.