Précis Writing

Précis Writing

What is Précis Writing? 

Shortening of a text, in one’s own words, is known as précis writing. The term is derived from the French word précis meaning ‘precise’. Thus, a précis gives an accurate and concise description of the substance (or the main idea) contained in the text without losing its meaning. In fact, it is an exact reproduction of the logic, organization, and emphasis of the original text.  

Use of Précis Writing

Précis develops our capacity to discriminate between the essential and the non-essential. It helps you to learn to choose your words carefully and construct your sentences in a concise manner.

Difference between Precis writing and summarizing:

 1) MeaningPrécis is a brief statement of a piece of writing such as a report, article, or a chapter from a book  A summary is a short account of longer pieces of work such as a thesis or a novel.
 2) Order of writingPrécis follows the order and proportion of the material in the original  The writer of the summary is free to change the order and proportion if he wishes to do so.
 3) OriginalityPrécis states only the thought of the original text  The writer of the summary is free to interpret the material and to comment on it

Précis writing format

1) A précis must not exceed one-third of the length of the original passage.

2) Avoid unnecessary repetition

3) A precis should have a short and appropriate title.

4) Precis should be written in the words of the precis-writer.

5) Do not introduce ideas of your own in the precis.

6) Do not criticize or change the author’s ideas.

7) Always use the third person i.e reported speech or past tense while writing a precis. Only universal truths should be written in the present tense. 

Précis writing with an example:

Sample: One great defect of our civilization is that it does not know what to do with its knowledge. Science, as we have seen, has given us powers fit for the gods, yet we use them as small children. We do not know how to manage our machines. Machines were made to be man’s servants, yet he has grown so dependent on them that they are in a fair way to become his masters. Already most men spend most of their lives looking after and waiting upon machines. And the machines are very stern masters. They must be fed with coal, and given petrol to drink, and oil to wash with, and must be kept at the right temperature. And if they do not get their meals when they expect them, they grow sulky and refuse to work, or burst with rage, and blow up, and spread ruin and destruction all around them, So, we have to wait upon them very attentively and do all that we can to keep them in a good temper. Already we find it difficult either to work or play without the machines, and a time may come when they will rule us all together, just as we rule the animals.



We do not know what to do with our knowledge. Science has given us superhuman powers, which we do not use properly. For example, we are unable to manage our machines. Machines should be fed promptly and waited upon attentively; otherwise, they refuse to work or cause destruction. We already find it difficult to do without machines. In the course of time, they may rule over us all together.


There is a stark difference between Precis writing and summary writing. The writer should be mindful of the differences while writing because a single error might change the context. 

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