10 methods for improving your Precis writing skills

Precis, by its very definition means presenting the ideas given in the passage briefly without missing their essentials. It needs not only the knowledge of different methods of condensing the sentences but also a good practice. The different methods, which can be employed for condensing the sentences are given below.

Method 1.

All the rhetorical sentences should be charged to statements. Rhetoric means the use of such language as maybe exaggerated, artificial but very effective. For example the following passage is rhetorical.


Flimsy desultory readers, who fly from foolish book to foolish book, and get good of none and mischief of all—are not those as foolish, unhealthy eaters who mistake their superficial false desire after specifies and confectionaries for their real appetite of which even they are not destitute, though it lies far deeper, far quieter after solid nutritive food ? (Thomas Carlyle)

Expressed as a Statement: People who, without concentration read one foolish book after another get no benefit rather they wrongly believe that their liking for such books is love for true literature.

Rhetorical Sentence. What can be more encouraging than to find the friend who was welcome at one age still welcome at another ?

Expressed as a Statement: It is good to find a permanent friend.

Method 2.

Generalizing the statements.


(a) He fed the hungry wanderer and despatched him singing on the way, with meat in his wallet and a coin in his purse. His parishoners when in need of money had only to repair to his study and were sure of an immediate supply. He was indeed the banker of the village and what he neither expected nor wished to be returned. (George Borrow)

Generalized Statement. He was always ready to help the distressed.

(b) It was Dryden's pen that formed the Congreves and the Addisons who succeeded him ; and had it not been for Dryden we should have never known a Pope.

Generalized Statement. Dryden's writings inspired many in the succeeding age.

Method 3.

By removing illustrations. In fact the purpose of illustrations is to persuade the reader to believe or to give authenti­city to a statement. In a precis illustrations have no place unless some illustrations become an integral part of the passage.


(a) The stream of time which is continually wash­ing the dissoluble fabrics of other poets passed without injury by the adamant of Shakespeare. (Dr. Johnson.)

Literal Statement. Shakespeare loses nothing with the passing of time.

(b) Happily we all shoot at the moon with ineffectual arrows our hopes are set on inaccessible El Dorado ; we come to an end of nothing here below. Interest are only plucked up to show them­selves again like mustard. (R.L. Stevenson)

Literal Statement. Happily our high ambitions are not always realized.

Method 4.

Removal of Tautology. Sometimes certain words which are synonyms of the words already used in the sentence are used. Such words neither modify the meaning nor add to it. These words have no place in a precis. In the following examples italicized words show tautology and can be removed.


(a) It does not necessarily imply that we are to be blamed for it.

(b) His failure follows as a consequence of his indifference to his studies.

(c) If you unite together you can work wonders.

Method 5.

Removal of Pleonasm. It means that certain words in the sentences have the same meaning as some other words have though they are not synonymous. So they repeat the idea and repetitions should be dispensed with in a precis. Italicized words in the following illustrations can be left out without injuring the sense.


(i) He will return within a week's time.

(ii) The report is true because I saw the whole affair with my own eyes.

(iii) He has written this complaint with his own hands.

(iv) He has died his own death.

Method 6.

Circumlocution : Sometimes the writer does not come to the point in a straight-forward manner indulging in verbosity (using unnecessary words for effect) or prolixity (using lengthy or long winded words).


(a) Under the impression that your peregrina­tions in the metropolis have as yet not been extensive and that you might have some difficulty in penetrating the modern Babylon in the direction of the City Road—in short that you might lose yourself—I shall be happy to call this evening and install you in the knowledge of the nearest way. {Dickens—David Copperfield)

Condensed passage. As you are not familiar with the roads of metropolis you may lose your way. So I shall tell you about the nearest way this evening.

(b) He is under the temporary pressure of pecuniary liabilities, contracted with a view to their immediate liquidation which remained unliquidated through a combination of circumstances.

Condensed passage. Nowadays he is facing financial difficulties.

Method 7.

Removing redundancy. Redundant words are those which have nothing to contribute to the meaning of the passage. The words are used for effect. Italicized words in the following examples are redundant


(a) It is a delightful pleasure to travel on a walking-tour in the wide open lonely spaces of the countryside where there are no towns or cities or villages.

Condensed form : It is a pleasure to go on a walking tour in the lonely countryside.

(b) Each and every person is required to give a full and complete account of his income from all sources including salary, wages, rents, properties, earning interests or any other emoluments whatsoever.

Condensed form. Every person is required to give a full account of his income from all sources.

Method 8

Removing ornamentation. Imaginative writers give purple passages—full of figurative and poetic language. In precis conciseness and clarity are necessary. Consequently figurative language is not to be used in a precis. Popular forms of figurative language are :

(i) Metaphors.

Use of a term in a context to which they are not literally applicable, e.g. He shall eat his words. (The word cat is used as a metaphor because it is used for food not words).

(ii) Simile.

When an object, action or thing is compared with another for illustrations, e.g. Her cheeks are red like a rose, (redness -of cheeks is compared with the redness of a flower).

(iii) Conceit.

Is one of the useful figures of speech but it is far fetched or exaggerated, e.g. "Stars Shut Up Shop" or tears as "a brisk cherub's...................... breakfast."

(iv) Hyperbole.

Is an exaggeration of fact used for serious or -comic effect, e.g. "Her eyes opened wide as saucers."

These figures of speech, which just elaborate the idea should be left out.


(a) Life's but a walking shadow ; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more ; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Shakespeare)

Condensed form. All human Endeavour is futile.

(b) We are all like swimmers in the sea poised on the top of a huge wave of fate. (M. Arnold)

Condensed form. Human beings depend on fate.

Method 9.

Abridgement of clauses. Various types of clauses modify the different parts of speech in a sentence. Adverbial clauses tell us more about the verb ; adjective clause modify the noun, and noun clauses substitute noun or pronouns. This means that an adverb can serve the purpose of an adverbial clause and an adjective can be enough for an adjective clause. Clearly clauses or phrases are not to be used in a precis. Following are the examples to show the abridgement of clauses.


(a) That he is so intelligent, puzzled the teachers.

Abridgement. "That he is so intelligent" is a noun clause subject to the verb 'puzzled'. It can be shortened into a noun intelligence' "His intelligence puzzled his teachers".

(b) It is difficult to know what the result will be.

Abridgement. It is difficult to know the result.

(c) He is the men who is very serious.

Abridgement. The adjective clause "who is very serious" can be substituted by the adjective 'serious'. "He is the serious man."

(d) You can come whenever you like to come.

Abridgement. You can come at any time.

Method 10.

Replacing the phrases by one word. If we can think out a word which is a correct substitute for a phrase we can condense a sentence.


(a) His anger was over in a moment. (Momentary)

(b) She is very careful in her expenditure. (Frugal)

(c) These plans are born of his fantastic imagination and had no relation to reality. (Utopian)

(d) This is completely besides the point. (Irrelevant)

He possesses odd and strange habits. (is Whimsical)