How To Write a Precis

How To Write a Precis

Writing a Precis - Rules, Recommendations, Patterns

Why should you bother to write a precis? This task displays your critical thinking, the ability to summarize and highlight the most meaningful and important information. Besides, it is a great and easy way of learning new material in various subjects.

If reading carelessly or just "scanning” the contest, you won't be able to comprehend completely the sense of the paragraph. When you do Precis writing, you need to be attentive to every nuance. So, this kind of writing teaches us to read thoughtfully and with concentration.

What is Precis?

Writing a Precis is a typical school task that requires making a summary of a book, review, article or any other piece of written work. There's no need to go into details, comment, express your opinion and offer alternatives as we usually do while writing essays. Just display the text's main point and the writer's arguments without any criticism, approval, and emotions.

However, you should introduce your personal style of writing to show your creative abilities and prove that you understand the basic material. Do you meet some difficulties when dealing with this type of paperwork? View through the tips below and the whole algorithm will be clear.

Precis VS Paraphrasing

If speaking of a summary, we display the writer's concept without adding our own vision. At a glance, it may seem we just retell the story but via another vocabulary. In this case, is there any difference between writing precis and paraphrasing?

While paraphrasing, we should mention all the nuances, including secondary descriptions and lyrical digressions. However, when dealing with writing a precis, it's necessary to mention the main idea and arguments only and their sequence is described below. So, while paraphrasing, you can write the text that is as long as the original article but any precis is always as laconic as possible.

Rhetorical Precis Specs

Before dealing with the writing guide, let's pay attention to a rhetorical precis. What does it mean and what's the difference between the typical precis and the rhetorical ones? We're not going to scare you with the sophisticated explanation because everything is a piece of cake. When writing a rhetorical precis, note that you have to solve two issues. The first task is to clarify what the author says and the second one is to understand how the writer presents his/her thoughts and ideas. Keep in mind this nuance when writing a precis.

Preliminary Work

This foundation allows building your further work and makes it much easier. It's impossible to do a job if lacking the facts, data, feedbacks, and other pieces of information. It's also a non-starter if you have no idea about the author's topic, message, arguments, etc.

Read and Understand

Precis writing starts with the basic text in which every "crumb” goes under the microscope. Read it attentively from cover to cover and give careful consideration to the topic. Is it really clear and don't mislead your expectations? If you're a little confused, look through the related texts, helpful thematic blogs and other relevant resources to come in terms with the author, figure out his offer/problem and ensure comprehensive understanding. Then, it's crucial to follow his arguments and the way he/she supports and makes his/her argument. For this purpose, stick to the following pattern:

  • Read the material 3,4 or even 5 times if it's not dealing with a novel certainly. However, even a novel should be read twice.
  • Scan the narration with your eyes to divide it into semantic categories and reveal all the meaningful connections.
  • Pay attention to headings and focus on their meaning because it's a good idea to use them as guides on the content.
  • Don't be lazy to take dictionaries to look for the meaning of some complicated terms or unknown words.

Make Annotations

To let Precis Writing be hassle-free, make your first step and clarify the text's prior idea that is shining through the whole narration. Beside, collect other valid information that reflects the author's ideas. That's why it's great to annotate the text. Use colorful markers to underline different parts of the article or story. For example, take a red marker to highlight the main point and a green one to underline arguments.

The notes will be also helpful because they will gift a win-win opportunity to rewrite the basic message and ideas with you're a unique language and to use them as a draft while writing a Precis.

Paraphrase the Thesis

Every text has a thesis that used to hide behind various literary device. It's time to turn into a treasure hunter, dig out it in the text, and then write it with your own vocabulary. It means, it's necessary to shed light on the material's controlling point. Take into consideration that a novel doesn't contain a ready-to-use thesis. It requires identifying what the author wanted to show and make you formulate thesis independently. Look through the book reviews to make it easier.

Step-by-step Summary

When the whole text has been already categorized and split into sections, it's time to reduce each part and convey the message of each paragraph in just a couple of sentences. The number of sections you've made might be diverse in terms and it's dependable on the text's length. However, even short articles should be divided into many sections sometimes in order to understand it completely.

Everything depends on the text itself, its style and the level of complexity, whether it's a book precis or you should work with an article. That's why you may feel free to split it into parts because there're no strict rules here. In addition, it's not a difficult piece of work if you pay attention to headings and subheadings that a great hint and can save your time significantly. The most crucial is not to miss the main idea and its evidence/arguments that must be inserted in each section's summary.

Clarify the Author's Objectives

To write the précis in a proper way, it's crucial to understand what the author's purpose of writing. In the majority of cases, the writer isn't doing to claim his/her goal directly but usually, the authors do it vicariously through their character's words, actions, and emotions. That's why you should reveal the text's purpose internally. How to solve this issue?

  • Think of your emotions the text have caused. Did it entertain you or make you think? Do you feel angry or happy?
  • If speaking of a story or a novel, proceed from a message to determine the writer's objectives unmistakably.
  • With regard to an article or an essay, it's better to analyze thesis rather a message.
  • When dealing a famous book of a contemporary author, look through not only book reviews, but also interviews with the writer to get the first-hand information.

Make an Outline

Precis outline is a win-win tool to be aware of the writer's argument and supports. Start from the thesis and go further to set out all the meaningful points. This outline is for "internal use” only that's why you can build it to your liking. When it will be ready, make a comparison with the original to ensure your outline's correspondence. Make sure you don't mimic the author's style and don't copy his/her vocabulary. Remember to include the author's means of expressing if working with the rhetorical precis.

How to Structure Your Precis

Like any other piece of paperwork, precis require accurate structuring. Let's see its main components to use them as a base for easy and fruitful writing.

  1. Introduction

It's just a single sentence to mention the name of the author, the genre of the text, the date of its writing, and its topic. There's no need to go into lengthy reasoning but it's crucial to remain within one sentence.

  1. Explanation

It deals with the rhetorical precis examples where you should explain how the writer supports his/her argument. It might be contrasts and comparisons, splitting the argument into several smaller ones, illustrations, narration.

  1. Showing a Purpose

In your third sentence, you should write about the author's objectives and show that you understand them. It doesn't mean to analyze the thesis but to display the author's motives. Why did he write this? - That is the question.

  1. Identification

Next sentence should deal with the author's target audience. Since the writer doesn't tell about it directly, it's necessary to define that audience via such hints as language, references, and the background. For example, academic paperwork contains plenty of terms when the article for a wide public. To identify the audience correctly, it would be great to compare the original text with other similar articles.

  1. Expansion

Add some short paragraphs to explain each of the supporting pieces of evidence. This point should be included if your task is to create a long precis. 

  1. Conclusion

It's a final sentence to restate the author's thesis. Remember to exclude outside opinion or view. You should reflect the writer's idea only.

Precis' Features

No matter, whether you write an article or a book precis, whether it will be short or long. In any case, it should be conscious and clear, complete and coherent. Let's look at a good precis' features in greater detail.

  • Precision. Is crucial that means no grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.
  • Credibility. Use only true and reliable facts and stick to the original text.
  • Lucidity. Make your work correspond to common writing requirement and use simple language to let others understand you at once.
  • Logic. Make a consistent presentation of the facts.
  • Brevity. Write only meaningful fact and escape wordiness.

All those characteristics will relate to your paperwork if you start with the precis outline, and check the work several times after you've written it.

Writing Precis Rules

There're several strict rules one should stick to in order to make their paperwork be correspondent to the teacher's requirements. No need to panic, because there're just a few of them and they're rather simple to remember and use them.

  1. A Precis should be written in the third person and in the past tense.
  2. Don't write notes and don't use tables.
  3. No need to use figurative language and imagery, as well as poetic.
  4. You should eliminate repetitions in a speech.

Take into consideration that there are no rigid requirements as for the length of a precis. Nevertheless, as the unspoken rule, it should not include more than 30% of the total number of words of the original article. Certainly, it doesn't deal with the books.

Review Your Precis

It's the last stage but its importance is undeniable. When your piece of writing is finished, you should read it several times to ensure its complete correctness and literacy. Consider the following aspects while editing:

  • Have you displayed the main author's idea?
  • Have you stressed the importance of the article and its audience?
  • Have you managed to save the text's original voice?
  • Have you followed the typical structure?
  • Have you corrected all the mistakes?

No matter how difficult the material is if you use all the tips above and follow rules. Everything is rather simple - just study the text, make an outline, write a precis, edit, and correct mistakes. Don't forget to study some precis examples to get a good benchmark in that effort. By the way, it's not a problem since the Internet is full of various articles, websites, and platforms with relevant samples.


Now, you can easily start your precis writing in order not only to get A+ but also to improve your overall writing skills. You'll be able to tell about people and event clearly and concisely. It's a great skill for fruitful communication with other people in any field of life/business activities.