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CSS and PMS Précis Writing Techniques

By Saeed Ullah Khan Wazir.

The art of professional, organic précis writing necessitates rigorous, meticulous practice, basic understanding and comprehension of language sensitivities and stylistic devices. Small surprise, students of competitive examinations pay little attention to this fundamental, critical area of CSS/PMS Précis and Composition Paper. In CSS and PMS, the English Essay and Précis papers serve as straight knockout blow resulting in ruthless elimination from the very race as there is no system of grace marks  and reappearing in the papers. As a writer and aspirant to CSS, I have decided to share my knowledge with keen, desirous students of CSS and PMS by writing on important topics and areas of vital importance.

Epistemologically derived from French, the word précis” means a summary. A critical précis is a clear, concise, and logical summary of a passage preserving its essential ideas only. A précis is usually reduced to at least one-fourth of its original length and frequently much more.

According to Prof. Mazhar Saeed Mazhar, CEO of NOVA CSS academy, a precise is like a miniature portrait of the passage: it retains the absolute essential points accompanied with the mood and tone of the author of the passage. The three prerequisites are as follows: The first thing is that one needs to convey the general idea of the argument with absolute clarity. The second thing that you need to do is to make sure that all the important points of the original passage are included in the précis. Lastly, make sure that the language of the précis is clear, crisp and concise, and follows the rule for correct diction.

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According to Atta Ur Rehman Torkhel, the following are some of things that should not be a part of or a reflection of the précis:

# simply a summary of a passage.

# simply an abstract of a passage.

# an outline of a passage.

# a mere selection of a few important sentences from a passage.

# a collection of disconnected facts and statements.

Don’ts of writing a critical précis:


Rules for Good précis Writing

  1. Decide Theme of the Passage: The main theme of the passage should be find out through careful reading and then main points and ordinary points are find out for giving importance. These things are essential for brief and clear presentation of précis.
  2. No Reproduction of Important Sentences: The sentences of original passage cannot be used for précis-writing. précis-writing is an art of remodeling of sentences without affecting main theme of the original passage.
  3. Have Brevity and Clarity: Brevity is the soul of précis-writing. But, at the same time, clarity should not be given up. Mere deletion or addition of few words of original passage cannot be a précis-writing. Moreover, brevity should not create any ambiguous in the minds of the reader.
  4. Reflects the Intelligence of the précis-writer: The style of language and words used in the précis-writing indicate the intelligence of the précis writer. In other words, the précis-writing preserved the spirit of the original passage with different words and sentences.
  5. Use Own Language: The précis-writer should use his/her own language for précis-writing. The writer should not retain any significant phrases or technical terms of the original passage. It means that the writer should use his/her own sentences for précis-writing.
  6. Avoid Direct Speech and Use Indirect Speech: The précis-writing is presented in third person point of view. The text of the original passage i presented in direct speech. Now, it is the duty of the précis-writer that he/she should present in indirect speech.
  7. Inclusion of Statistical Information: If statistical information are included in the original passage, they can be used in the précis-writing for maintaining quality. If statistical information are excluded, it affects very purpose of précis-writing and convey different meaning.
  8. Observe Proportion: Original passage is divided into many parts. Each part is dealt with according to importance but not according to length. In this way, objectives of précis-writing are achieved.
  9. No Comments but Conclusion: The précis-writer need not give any comments over the original passage but should give conclusion. It means that the précis-writer need not evaluate the mind of the author but interpret the original passage in a meaningful way.
  10. One third of Original Passage: It is the general practice that the length of précis-writing should be one third of original passage. If so, reader can get full information and do his/her job very effectively.

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First Reading: 1. Read every word slowly and carefully until you clearly understand the sense of the passage. 2. Look up all unfamiliar words, phrases, and allusions 3. Identify the dominating idea, the essential thought, of the passage. Ask if this idea were omitted, would the fundamental meaning of the passage be changed? 4. Determine what emphasis and space to give the thought in each section; write a heading for each section.

Second Reading: 1. Underscore with a pencil the important facts containing the essential thoughts. This is a process of differentiation between what is essential and what is not. Generally you will omit examples, illustrations, conversations, and repetitions. 2. Reread your selections to see that they are wise and adequate. 3. Determine if your underscoring expresses the main ideas. Final Reading: Rapidly and intensely reread the origin, dwelling on the important facts selected for a précis.

First Copy: 1. Close the book/original. 2. Write a summary of the thoughts as you remember them. 3. Compare with the original and correct, asking: Did you retain the logical order and development of these thoughts? Did you emphasize the dominant thought or erroneously emphasize a minor thought? Did you omit any necessary facts? names? dates? places? Is your précis clear to one who has not seen the original? Are your sentences clear and well-constructed? Did you use third person and the past tense? Did you punctuate and spell correctly? Did you make any grammatical or rhetorical errors?

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Final Copy: 1. Read your first copy through carefully. 2. Condense wherever you can, substituting single words for phrases and phrases for longer clauses. 3. Use only simple figures of speech. 4. Clearly and concisely express the essential points. 5. Reduce verbiage while still making the point and retaining some of the flavor and spirit of the original. 6. Be fair to the sentiments expressed, even if you don’t agree with them. 7. Rewrite neatly.

Sample English précis Writing Passages Passage

For clinical understanding, the following passage has been given:

These are two considerations which deserve at least a word in any discussion of the future of the Indian theatre. The first is the rapid development of the cinema as a competitive for prophesied favor. At first, in the early flush of cinematic triumph people—some of whom might have been expected to, know better—prophesies the extinction of the theatre. It is now clear that though here and there, temporarily, the theatre may be affected, the cinema cannot hope to replace the stage and elbow it out of existence. Experience in the West has shown that the stage will always be required as a federal studio. For the technique is different and great stage actors have, always, to their disgust, discovered that film acting is at least only second best to them; it cannot mean to them what the stage means. Something is lacking in the human touch. In the theatre heart responds to heart and mind acts on mind in a way unknown to the cinema. Thus there is no danger of extinction to the theatre. On the other hand, the rivalry of the screen ought to and will put theatre to a new test and give it a new stimulus that may well lead to still higher planes of artistic achievement. Finally, a word about a national language spoken, written and thought might do for the theatre in India. With the new awakening in social life the need of a common tongue is being increasingly felt. Much work is being done to bring out a common linguistic medium. The day when, it is accepted will be a great day for the Indian theatre, as it will be for all art in the country. But the theatre, because its life blood is spoken word, will gain most. With a common tongue, with a live national consciousness, the theatre will become to its own as definite instrument of national unity reflecting the national mind, interpreting the national heart and dreaming national dreams for the future.

Précis Summary


Two things are to be considered when we think of the future of the Indian theatre. The first is the rivalry of cinema. At one time it was thought that the cinema might oust theatre. But now it is admired that the stage must always be there as a feeder for the studio. Besides the great stage actors do not like the inhuman techniques adopted by the cinema. On the other hand, its challenge might make the theatre rise even to greater heights. Secondly, the adoption of a language may do much for the Indian theatre. Such a language is being formed. When adopted, it will enable the stage to keep the cause of national unity by dramatizing the national consciousness.

About Author:

Saeed Ullah Khan Wazir is a freelance writer, human rights activist, aspirant to CSS and having specialization in English Literature and Linguistics from NUML, Islamabad.

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