Precis Writing and Comprehension

Precis Writing and Comprehension – Rules of Precis Writing

Precis Writing and Comprehension! Precis writing is very important for BA students. Basically precis writing is a summary and compression of a complete paragraph. Precis writing is the gist of a complete passage in a one or two lines.

What is a Comprehension?

An exercise in Comprehension is intended to test the ability of a student to read and understand a given passage or passages well enough to answer certain questions upon it. Generally the students read carelessly and do not retain more than a vague idea of what they have read. Exercises in comprehension correct this habit and oblige the students to read the given material attentively and grasp the meaning of what they read.

Questions set in the examination generally pertain to the subject matter of the given passage. They are designed to test how clearly the student has understood the material contained in the passage. The following points should, therefore, be kept in mind while answering these questions:

  1. Read the whole passage carefully a number of times until you are satisfied that you have fully understood:
  2. Its general meaning.
  3. And the various ideas which elaborate its main theme.
  4. Read all the questions carefully before you begin to answer any one of them. This will enable you to find out which material is wanted for each question and to avoid unnecessary repetition.
  5. Write your answers in your own language which should be simple, clear and concise. The answers should be based only on what is written in the passage, and no more.

Must Learn: How to Write report in English?

What is Precis writing?

Precis-writing is an exercise both in reading and writing. It enables a student not only to understand the meaning of a passage, as in the case of a comprehension exercise, but also to write a composition based on the main points of the passage. So precis writing is an excellent training in:

(i) Concentration of attention:

(ii) Sifting of material to select main points of the passage; and

(iii) writing of a composition.

Rules of Precis Writing

There are no hard and fast rules to be followed in making a precis: it is too much of an intellectual process. The following points should, however, serve as a rough guide:

  1. Read the passage once, twice or a number of times to obtain a thorough grasp of its meaning. Repeated readings will make you familiar with the theme of the passage and its main ideas.
  2. Think of some word, phrase or a short sentence, which will sum up the main subject of the passage, while you are reading it. This will give you the title of the precis.
  3. Sift the material of the passage carefully and make brief notes of the main points contained in it. You should be very careful in distinguishing between points of major and minor importance to find out what is essential and what is superfluous.
  4. Make a rough draft of the precis with the help of these notes, without referring to the original. Make sure that you frame your sentences in your own language. A sentence or two or parts thereof from the original passage incorporated in your draft will destroy the unity and homogeneity of your precis.
  5. Count the number of words in the original passage and the draft you have made. The length of the precis should be about one third of the number of words in the original passage. If the draft is too long, try to eliminate details, if any, and condense the phraseology until the draft has been reduced to the required length. If it is too short, consult the original passage to find out that you have not omitted a point of major importance.
  6. Read the original passage and the draft precis together and make sure that the meaning of the author have been rendered in the draft correctly.
  7. Read the draft precis again with a view to removing any mistakes of grammar, punctuation, etc.
  8. Write a fair copy of the precis.

rules of precis writing

In addition to these guidelines the following points should also be kept in mind:

  1. Write your precis in the third person. Summaries of speeches, etc. should be changed into indirect form of narration.
  2. Confine yourself to the ideas contained in the original passage, whether you agree with them or not. Do not make any comments, nor add anything of your own.
  3. Faithful reproduction of the general meaning of the original passage is the first essential of a precis. The second essential is conciseness. So you must avoid all colloquial expressions, circumlocutions, rhetorical flourishes, verbosity, etc.
  4. If the author has given examples to elaborate his point, remove them from your precis. It is the point that matters, and not its elaboration. Examples and details should find no place in a precis.

Examples of the Precis writing

Paragraph

Syed Ahmad had gone to England on a dual mission-to learn and to teach. His mission of learning was fulfilled as well as it might be in a year and five months. He had learnt enough to understand what was there in the character, manners, moves and institutions of the British which had made them rulers of a vast empire. His teaching mission, however, was not so successful. The British were not interested in being taught to understand and respect Islam. What if it was the best religion in the world? They had more important things to think about, as, for example, the discoveries and inventions of science, the reform of society, human progress. Freedom of thought, individual liberty. As for religion well, if it was necessary or useful to have a religion, Christianity was good enough for them, whether as a mythology, or as a moral code, or as ritual system. Syed Ahmad, therefore, had to find other pupils to teach, other congregations to preach to. These he could find only in India. So he came back home full of ambitious plans to impart to his Muslim countrymen all that he had learnt in England as well as all that he had gone there to teach but had been unable to.

Questions:

  1. What did Syed Ahmad learn?
  2. Why were the British not interested to understand and respect Islam?
  3. What plans did Syed Ahmad have to accomplish on coming back home?
  4. Write a precis of the above passage.

Answers:

  1. Syed Ahmad learnt about the character, way of living, and institutions of the British, which had made them the masters of a big empire, during his stay in England.
  2. The British were not interested in being taught to understand and respect Islam because they had other things to do than study a religion. They were pre-occupied in the discoveries and inventions of science, and in bringing about human progress, freedom of thought and individual liberty. Even if it was essential to have a religion, they could do with Christianity which was their religion.
  3. Syed Ahmad planned to teach fellow Muslims in India what he had learned in England and what he had failed to teach the British.

Outline of the Precis:

Syed Ahmad learnt about the character and institutions of the British-failed to teach the British to understand Islam-came back home to tell fellow Muslims what he had achieved.

Precis:

Syed Ahmad’s Mission in England

Syed Ahmad’s mission in England included learning and teaching. He learned about the character, social order and institutions of the British. He failed, however, to teach the British to understand Islam because they had other things to think about-science, society, human progress-than religion. He, therefore, returned to India to teach fellow Muslims what he had learned in England and what he had failed to teach the British. (69words)

example of precis writing