How to Write a Critical Precis?

How to Write a Critical Precis

Writing a book is hard: an author has to create original characters and a unique plotline and employ his or her personal language to make this literary work a piece of writing which deserves readers’ attention. Yet, an author has a certain freedom and can take as many words and sentences as he or show needs to express all ideas. What is harder is to create a well-written précis which will become a good substitute for the original book or paper. It should be short and precise and give readers an idea of why the original work is worth being read.

What Is a Précis?

A précis is a summary of a text which maintains the proportions, tone, and the meaning of the original work. It shouldn’t contain your opinion about the work – the summary has to be objective, not subjective. However, it should be written in your own words. Don’t copy original phrases and sentences unless this is the best way to describe a certain concept or idea. The length of a précis may vary; therefore, if you have to write a précis as a school assignment, make sure to double-check how long your writing should be. This assignment is a great opportunity to check how attentive and detailed students are and how developed their analytical and critical thinking is. If a student can write a good, clear summary of a text, then this student has a deep understanding of the author’s idea. It is important to mention that an essay and a précis are two different genres. The structure of a précis is as follows:

Although an essay and a précis have a similar format, they serve different purposes and both require specific techniques.

Steps to Take to Write a Better Précis

If you have never written a précis before, you can find numerous examples and templates of nicely done précis on the internet. Analysis of these works will help you better understand the concept of this task. In general, there are several steps one should take to be ready for writing this kind of assignment.

  1. Read the original text attentively. In case there are some unclear points, you should re-read the original text as many times as you need to fully comprehend it.
  2. Write down key phrases and sentences that, you think, are especially important.
  3. When you make notes and highlight the key moments of the original text, you prepare yourself for creating an outline. An outline makes a structure of any writing clear and organized.
    1. As soon as the preparatory work is done, you can begin to write the précis itself:
      1. With the help of the notes and the prepared outline, compress each paragraph or a logically connected block of text into one or two sentences.
      2. Then, bind these sentences in a way which will mirror the original work.
      3. Once the précis is written, make sure you proofread and edit it. All connections have to be logical. The original tone and meaning must be reflected in your writing.
      Here is an example of how a précis of a long, expressive sentence can look like:
      • Original: The account the witness gave of the incident moved everyone who heard it to laughter.
        Précis: The witness’s story was absurd.
      • Original: Laura made a terrible, terrible mistake when she took David’s letter from him, and Henry had to despise her with all his heart because of all the problems she brought to his family; yet, his heart was still pounding faster every time he saw her or even heard her name, which was the best evidence of his great devotion and love.
        Précis: Although Henry was angry with Laura, he was still in love with her.
      • Original: The biggest lie told by weight-loss gurus: You can cut calories without feeling hungry. You can’t. (Lou Schuler, How to Be Hungry)
        Précis: You always feel hungry when you cut calories.
      A sentence or a paragraph can contain several details; you goal is to decide whether they are new and important for the plot of they have already been mentioned before. You should only pay attention to those points that are crucial for the plotline. Metaphors, allusions, and other literary expressive means can be easily omitted because their primary purpose is to add emotions to the story. Yet, all these tropes are usually not important for the plotline itself – their mission is to make the scene bright and vivid and influence readers’ imagination.