Course Content
Private: BA Arabic
About Lesson

Unit 1
Summary Vs Précis

Learning Outcomes

Upon the completion of this unit, the learner will be able to:

  • recognise the difference between summary writing and précis writing
  • learn tips to develop condensed writing style for summary and précis


The art of condensation is crucial not just for a student, but also for a professional. It is all about writing ‘to the point’ – brief and concise. It not only saves time and energy, but also makes you professional in dealing with language and content. For a student, it is an essential skill that must be acquired as it helps you to retain the information you are collecting from eclectic sources. Moreover, those with good practice in condensation art will master the skill to write in clear, direct and simple English over the course of time. The major forms of condensation include summary, précis, abstract, paraphrasing and synopsis. In this lesson, we will be focusing on the first two methods.

Key words

Condensation, Retain Information, Saves time, Professional


5.1.1 Summary Writing

Suppose one of your friends is asking you about a book that you have read recently or a movie that you watched earlier, how will you tell them about it? Obviously, you can’t narrate each and every instance in the book or the movie, rather you would give them a summarised version of the text covering the most interesting and important aspects. Similarly, think of a lecturer in a college taking class on a narrative text. She/He will be providing a summary of the text after including the major points and concepts and guide you through the text. Hence summary writing is an important technique employed by all of us in our day-to-day life knowingly or unknowingly.

Let us now look at the definition of the term ‘summary’. To put it simply, summary is the condensed form of a long text, sharing the same meaning. It gives an overview of the text, usually in not more than a page. Normally, summaries are written either at the beginning of the chapter or text or at the end of it.

Now, let us discuss the purposes of writing a summary.

1. Imagine you are a novelist and you have finished writing a brilliant work. How will you convince the readers to buy it and read? It is through the summary of the book that the reader will get a glimpse of what the book is all about and now if it suits their interests, they will surely buy the book and read it. For example, given below is the image of the back cover of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s book Crime and Punishment:

5.1.1 Summary of Crime and Punishment in the back cover of the book

From this short description, the outline of the story can be understood and the reader can choose for himself or herself whether to read it or not.

As a student, you are often asked to do assignments or make presentations. Now will you copy down the entire websites you surf for information? Or will you succinctly state the key aspects in an orderly manner? No doubt, you will go with the second option. Or else, you will be charged for plagiarism.

Another situation is, consider you have only one week left for your examination. And you have a number of subjects to study. Is it possible to study every text from one end to the next within such a short time? Or, would you study the summary of each text and the highlighted points? The most ideal practice is the second one, since it helps your memory to retain maximum information.

It also improves your reading skills, as you will learn how to do skimming and scanning of the given text.
Professionals use the technique of summary to briefly summarise the key findings of a report or a survey. The Process of Writing a Summary

As beginners, let us look at some tips to be followed for writing a summary:

  1. Read the text thoroughly.
  2. Stay focused about your objective.
  3. Identify the important points. You can underline or highlight them for better understanding.
  4. Write down the summarised version of the longer text using keywords. You can avoid examples, illustrations, similes, metaphors. Strike off unnecessary expressions, if you want. However, follow the right sequence while presenting the ideas as in the original text.
  5. Remember that while writing a summary, do not add or develop any idea of your own, which means don’t add your personal opinions while writing a summary.
  6. Be careful not to reproduce the statements from the original text, but write down in your own words in simple English. Thus it helps you to improve your vocabulary as well.
  7. Another important point to keep in mind is the length of the summary. The ideal length is one third of the original passage. Avoid too many specific details.
  8. Also remember that summarising is not just a rephrasing of the original text, but involves analysing the information to identify the key aspects.

Let us now look at a few examples. To start with, let us take the masterpiece novel of Maxim Gorky, Mother. Go through the summary given below:

Maxim Gorky’s Mother is written in the backdrop of socialism, talking about the revolutionary factory workers’ attempt to end class struggle. The central character is the Mother of Pavel Mikhailovich, a young revolutionary factory worker – Pelageya Nilovna Vlasov. After the death of her drunkard and abusive husband Mikhail Vlasov, Nilovna raises her son Pavel. But to her dismay, Pavel too followed his father’s path in drinking. However, he suddenly abandoned drinking and started engaging in revolutionary activities. Soon he started bringing political and revolutionary books that were forbidden in the Tsarist reign, to home and began to get engaged in study circles. The anxious mother later decides to stand with her son who is working for the betterment of the proletariat’s working condition. When Pavel got arrested, mother continued his work. Finally, she is caught at a railway station on her mission to distribute the leaflets of her son’s speech at the court, she is arrested and beaten and choked to death. Nilovna stands as the mother figure of all the comrades.

Let us consider another example. Given below is the first paragraph of the first chapter from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

Summary: The narrator Ishmael has a habit of going sailing whenever he is mentally or financially down. It gives him time to philosophically speculate his actions. He believes the other sailors also share this same feeling towards the sea.

Let us deal with one more example. The passage given below is taken from a sample question paper. For your ease of understanding, the important points are given in Bold font.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is making a difference to how legal work is done, but it isn’t the threat it is made out to be. AI is making impressive progress and shaking up things all over the world today. The assumption that advancements in technology and artificial intelligence will render any profession defunct is just that, an assumption and a false one. The only purpose this assumption serves is creating mass panic and hostility towards embracing technology that is meant to make our lives easier.

Let us understand what this means explicitly for the legal world. The ambit of AI includes recognizing human speech and objects, making decisions based on data, and translating languages. Tasks that can be defined as ‘search-and-find’ type can be performed by AI.

Introducing AI to this profession will primarily be for the purpose of automating mundane, tedious tasks that require negligible human intelligence. The kind of artificial intelligence that is employed by industries in the current scene, when extended to the law, will enable quicker services at a lower price. AI is meant to automate a number of tasks that take up precious working hours. Lawyers could be devoted to tasks that require discerning, empathy, and trust- qualities that cannot be replicated by even the most sophisticated form of AI. The legal profession is one of the oldest professions in the world. Thriving over 1000 years; trust, judgement, and diligence are the pillars of this profession. The most important pillar is the relationship of trust between a lawyer and clients, which can only be achieved through human connection and interaction.

While artificial intelligence can be useful in scanning and organising documents pertaining to a case, it cannot perform higher-level tasks such as sharp decision making, relationship-building with valuable clients and writing legal briefs, advising clients, and appearing in court. These are over and above the realm of computerization.

The smooth proceeding of a case is not possible without sound legal research. While presenting cases lawyers need to assimilate information in the form of legal research by referring to a number of relevant cases to find those that will favour their client’s motion. Lawyers are even required to thoroughly know the opposing stand and supporting legal arguments they can expect to prepare a watertight defence strategy. AI software that operates on natural language enables electronic discovery of information relevant to a case, contract reviews, and automation generation of legal documents.

AI utilises big-data analytics which enable visualisation of case data. It also allows for creation of a map of the cases which were cited in previous cases and their resulting verdicts, as per the website Towards Data Science. The probability of a positive outcome of a case can be predicted by leveraging predictive analytics with machine learning. This is advantageous to firms as they can determine the return on investment in litigation and know whether an agreement or arbitration should be considered.
Summary: The advancement in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be made useful in the legal world. Although it cannot help with in-person interaction tasks like decision making, advising clients, writing legal briefs and appearing in courts, it helps to automate tedious tasks like collecting data, organising documents, etc. AI makes use of Big Data analytics and predictive analytics, which are advantageous to legal firms.

5.1.2 Précis Writing

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines précis as a “short form of a text which gives only the important part.” Often used as an adjective, the French word précis means ‘precise, definite, accurate’. It is a short and concise description of an original text giving only the important points. Now you may think, then what is the difference between summary writing and précis writing.

To put it simply, a summary gives all the points in brief, whereas a précis gives only the precisely and absolutely important points. Summary does not cater to a heading except for the purpose of reference, but a précis must have an apt heading. Summary can be either written or spoken (think of how you will explain a film story to your friend), while précis will be always in a written format. Similar to a summary, in précis also the writer should not convey his/her personal opinions.

Writing a précis improves one’s analytical skill as it helps to distinguish the essential and the inessential. It also improves our vocabulary skill as we learn to express the detailed meaning in minimum words as possible. For example, let us take the famous statement by Mark Twain: “I have had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” This can be shortened as “I overthink.” The Process of Précis Writing

The steps involved in writing of a precis of a work are the following:

  • Read the passage thoroughly.
  • Highlight the most essential points.
  • Give a suitable title for the pas-sage based on the central idea dealt with.
  • A précis should have brevity, clarity and grammatical accuracy.
  • Prepare a first draft by arranging and connecting the key points.

Critically review the first draft, edit and revise it. Prepare the final draft by revising the first draft. The ideal length of a précis is one-third of the original passage. Ideally, a précis should contain only one paragraph. Note that the précis should not contain any ideas that are not in the original passage.

Now, see the following passage:

In this age of hustle culture, a breed of new-age professionals are on the rise, and are called social media influencers. They are the cool-looking, working-from-home smart individuals who lure the youngsters to join the ranks. Fame, money, success, you name it! They have it all.
But what real ability do they have to influence others? That’s a million-dollar question.
The fact is, most of these influencers are studying in college, dumped college, or passed college only to become an influencer.
Earlier it was considered that to influence you have to first learn, then you have to implement, and then you might come in front of the public to present your opinion and experiences. We would have thought of influencers as mostly social activists, intellectuals, politicians, or change-makers in society. Not that those people ever claimed to make an influence on the ordinary but they had the natural ability in them to make an impact on others.

Gone are the days! Now is the time of the self-proclaimed influencers. Buy a cheap bookshelf and 50 books from Amazon and become a book reviewer on YouTube. Start writing on LinkedIn and claim yourself as a writer. Put some of your brilliantly filtered photos on Instagram and inform people that you are a model, a blogger, or whatever. And yes, you are there! You are an influencer.

It doesn’t matter what influence you have as long as you have a bunch of followers who keep liking and commenting on your posts, and brands approach you to endorse products. These days becoming a “public figure” is not that difficult, thanks to social media. Anyone can label themselves as a public figure on Instagram.

It’s good to see the young generation flourish and prosper on their own. But here’s the thing — do they realise the goal should not be to influence others? To specialise in a field should be the motto.

Being an influencer could be a lucrative choice for many, but if they are not educated enough, their influence on others might do more harm than good.

Martin Luther King said, “Not everyone can be famous but everyone can be great because greatness is determined by service. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.” With the help of social media, being famous seems far easier these days.
Everyone is striving to be famous, no one wants to be great. The amount of work you need to put in to become great is a tough ordeal, especially for a generation that enjoys instant gratification!

We have to reflect seriously on the advice the real “influencers” of the past gave us or we will have a growing number of people meddling with our minds without doing any good to us or the society in general.

(Source: Ishita Ganguly, “The Rise of Social Media Influencers”, The Hindu, 20 February 2022.)

First Draft of precis:

What Influences the Social Media Influencers?

The new age social media influencers of today’s hustle culture have everything one can dream of. Unlike the real “influencers”of the past who made great impacts on other people’s lives with their wisdom and service-mindedness, the newbies are self-proclaimed influencers with no distinct vision. Their lack of vision can do more harm. Martin Luther King has pointed out the difference between being famous and great. Anyone who has a service mind and a loveable soul can become great. Hard work is necessary to be great, which is tough for a generation that enjoys instant gratification. We must critically analyse and follow the advice given by the true influencers of the past.

Final Draft of precis:

What influences the Social Media Influencers?

Today’s social media influencers have everything. Unlike the “real” influencers of the past who impacted others with their greatness, the newbies are self-proclaimed influencers with no distinct vision, which can be harmful. Martin Luther King states that anyone with a service mind and a loveable soul can become great. But a generation of instant gratification does not have the alacrity to work towards it. Therefore, we must reflect on the advice given by the true influencers of the past.

Let us look at one more example.

In today’s scenario, mass media, specifically visual media, plays a pivotal role in creating an atmosphere of awareness in society. Media refers to different communication channels or ways through which knowledge and information is conveyed to the viewers or the readers. Visual media refers to the media that conveys knowledge and information to the viewers through their eyes; it includes television, cinema, posters, etc. Whatever is supplied through the visual media has an instant and longer lasting effect on the minds of the viewers.

With rapid development of information and technology, the visual media, in the shape of cable TV, with multitudes of domestic and foreign channels has reached almost every house, playing a vital role in moulding public opinion in various ways. It plays a very crucial role in educating, and entertaining the masses. Cable TV has changed the means and modes of entertainment and education.

Sitting before a TV, one can pass and enjoy his free time listening to music, viewing movies, learning techniques of bodybuilding, hearing sermons of religious saints, learning about lives of wild animals, birds, water creatures, knowing about space, and whatnot.

During the election, one can know the electoral positions of political parties and their leaders, from all parts of the country and their impact on the election campaign and all facts of electioneering, just sitting before the TV.

Youngsters and teenage students are seen viewing the channels as per their likings; if  some are viewing the music channels, some are seen quenching their thirst for knowledge viewing channels like ‘Discovery’ or ‘National Geographic’ or ‘History’ etc. The image on the small screen thus creates a significant impression on all, more particularly on the gullible children and on the teens. The young mind takes the reel as real and thus is more often and more easily moulded and motivated by the visual media.

The present day fashion, hairdressing, sexual liberties, dating and awakening towards the rights of the youth, awareness among the women of their rights are because of the role visual media is playing in society. In a hysterical effort to excel others, some channels are showing such scenes and images which are of no importance or have an adverse effect on the minds of viewers.

Showing of sexual and rape cases, with minute details by the anchor and showing brutal scenes of murder, the channels have crossed the limit of ethics and morality. The TV coverage of the massacre creates feelings of hatred among communities and motivates others to wreak vengeance. Obsessed by the sole aim of making a fast buck, the channels are competing with one another to stoop to any kind of absurdity, without considering even for a minute as to what effect such visuals have on society.

(Source: “Study Guru Pathshala”)

First Draft of precis:

Effects of Visual Media

Visual Media conveys knowledge to the viewers through their eyes and creates awareness. It bears an instant and long-lasting effect on society. Cable TV, an important visual media, plays an important role in educating, entertaining and moulding public opinion. One can watch anything they like just by sitting before the TV which includes music, movies, sermons, election results, etc. It also helps to create awareness on fashion, sexual liberties, the rights of youth and women. However, it has certain harmful effects, especially on teenagers and youngsters. They may be misguided by perceiving the reel as real. The sole motive of profit-making and unhealthy competition by TV channels makes it worse. They do not care about ethics and morality.

Final Draft of precis:

Effects of Visual Media

Visual Media conveys knowledge to the viewers through their eyes and creates awareness, bearing instant and long-lasting effects on society. Of all, cable TV plays an important role in educating, entertaining and moulding public opinion. One can watch anything they like just by sitting before the TV. It creates awareness about fashion, sexual liberties, the rights of youth and women. However, it has certain harmful effects, especially on teenagers and youngsters. They may be misguided by their perception of the reel as real. The sole motive of profit-making and unhealthy competition by TV channels makes it worse.


  • The art of condensation
  • Writing to the point – brief and concise
  • Saves time and energy
  • Helps students retain information
  • Master skill to write in clear, direct and simple language
  • Summary – a condensed form of a long text
  • Shares the same meaning
  • Usually not more than a page
  • Can be in written or spoken form
  • Will help improve reading skills
  • The process of writing a summary
  • Précis writing – a short form of a text which gives only the important points
  • Improves analytical and vocabulary skills
  • Differences between summary and précis
  • The process of précis writing

Objective Questions

  1. What is the condensed version of a long text, covering the essential information within it called?
  2. Does a summary have a heading?
  3. Is summary always in written form?
  4. What gives only the precise and absolutely important points?
  5. In what form will a précis be always in?
  6. What will a précis have at the beginning?
  7. Can personal opinions be added while making a summary or a précis?
  8. Writing a summary helps improve which skill?
  9. What helps in improving analytical and vocabulary skills?
  10. How does the art of condensation help people?


  1. Summary
  2. No
  3. No, it can be in spoken form also.
  4. A précis
  5. Written form
  6. A heading
  7. No
  8. Reading skill
  9. Writing a précis
  10. It helps in saving time and energy.


  1.  Attempt writing a summary of the last movie that you watched or a book that you read recently.
  2. “Writing précis does not mean resorting to a pale imitation of the original but involving yourself in a creative process.” Do you agree with this view? Discuss.
  3. Read the following passage and write a précis:
    The ongoing pandemic and unpredictable weather systems are signs of a planet in peril. Here’s taking a look at climate change and its possible fallouts. If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it is to wake up and smell the pollution. Climate change is no longer the looming threat that it once was. It is as real as it can be and the toll that it has taken on our planet is for everyone to see. Which is why, it is high time we rose to take action. Is COVID 19 the jolt we all needed to sit up and take notice? This is because climate change is crippling the planet that we call home.

    More than ever, 2020 has been a turning point for the majority of us. It took a pandemic of this magnitude to teach people basic sanitary practices. Here are some of the other environmental challenges to consider.

    With more than 50% of the total population earning their livelihoods through agriculture, India cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the practices that are dominant in this sector. World over, agricultural practices are not sustainable. It’s time to reflect on how much we are complying with the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations to ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices.

    This is as much a burning issue as the smog-causing fires around the NCR region. It is vital to act upon this as it is reported to be one of the augmenting factors of the coronavirus impact. Apart from various cardiopulmonary ailments caused by particulate matter (PM 2.5, PM 10), the WHO states that worldwide around 4.2 to 7 million people die each year from air pollution and that 9 out of 10 people breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants.

    As world consumerism continues to grow rapidly, so does plastic pollution. In 65 years, from 1950 to 2015, plastic consumption increased from 2 to 419 million tonnes, out of which 11 million tonnes went directly into the oceans. This has been lethal to marine life and the ecosystem. If we don’t rethink our practices it will cause untold damage to our environment.

    About one-third, nearly 1.3 billion tonnes of food, is lost or wasted. Food waste and losses account for annual greenhouse gas emissions of 4.4 gigatons. In a developing country like India, which already ranks poorly (94) in the Global Hunger Index, 40% of food waste occurs at the post-harvest and processing levels.

    Policy makers have for long been urged to strictly tax greenhouse gas emitting activities and push for innovation of low-carbon procedures. One such practice is the implementation of the National Carbon Tax by countries like Europe, Japan, and Canada. The Paris Agreement states that countries need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since it is a voluntary agreement, there is a need for something more concrete.

    Governments need to significantly expand support for green innovation. A study found that it would take until 2033 to stop global warming if all greenhouse gas emissions were halted in 2020. The time to act is now.
    (Source: Sudarshan Gurjar, ‘‘Environmental Crisis: A Grim Reality’’, The Hindu, 11 December 2020.)

Suggested Reading

  1. Kumar, Sanjay and Pushp Lata. English for Effective Communication, Ox-ford UP, 2013.
  2. Robert, Barraas. Students Must Write, Routledge, 2006.
  3. Bailey, Stephen. Academic Writing, Routledge, 2006.