Guidelines of precise writing

It was not so in Greece, where philosophers professed less, and undertook more. Parmenides pondered nebulously over the mystery of knowledge; but the pre-Socratics kept their eyes with fair consistency upon the firm earth, and sought to ferret out its secrets by observation and experience, rather than to create it by exuding dialectic; there were not many introverts among the Greeks. Picture Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher; would he not be perilous company for the desiccated scholastics who have made the disputes about the reality of the external world take the place of medieval discourses on the number of angles that could sit on the point of a pin? Picture Thales, who met the challenge that philosophers were numskulls by “cornering the market” and making a fortune in a year. Picture Anaxagoras, who did the work of Darwin for the Greeks and turned Pericles form a wire-pulling politician into a thinker and a statesman, Picture old Socrates, unafraid of the sun or the stars, gaily corrupting young men and overturning governments; what would he have done to these bespectacled seedless philosophizers who now litter the court of the once great Queen? To Plato, as to these virile predecessors, epistemology was but the vestibule of philosophy, akin to the preliminaries of love; it was pleasant enough for a while, but it was far from the creative consummation that drew wisdom’s lover on. Here and there in the shorter dialogues, the master dallied amorously with the problems of perception, thought, and knowledge; but in his more spacious moments he spread his vision over larger fields, built himself ideas states and brooded over the nature and destiny of man. And finally in Aristotle philosophy was honoured in all her boundless scope and majesty; all her mansions were explored and made beautiful with order; here every problem found a place and every science brought its toll to wisdom. These men knew that the function of philosophy was not to bury herself in the obscure retreats of epistemology, but to come forth bravely into every realm of inquiry, and gather up all knowledge for the coordination and illumination of human character and human life.


A précis is a brief summary. Writing a précis is valuable training in composition. Since the writing requires you to be clear and concise, you must choose your words carefully and arrange them skillfully so you get the maximum amount of meaning into the minimum space.

In addition to its value as a writing exercise, précis work is excellent reading practice. In order to summarize another’s ideas in your own words, you must understand the idea thoroughly.

Guide line of Précis

Basic steps in writing

1. A précis is a short summary

It is not a paraphrase, which merely says in different and simpler words exactly what the passage being paraphrased has to say. A paraphrase may be as long as the passage itself. A précis rarely is more than one-third the length of the original selection and may be only one-fourth as long.

2. A précis gives only the “heart” of a passage.

It omits repetition and such details as examples, illustrations, and adjectives unless they are of unusual importance.

3. a précis is written entirely in the words of the person writing it, not in the words of the original selection.

Avoid the temptation to lift long phrases and whole sentences from the original.

4. A précis is written from the point of view of the author whose work is being summarized.

Do not begin with such expressions as “This author says” or “The paragraph means.” Begin as though you were summarizing your own writing.

In writing a précis proceed as follows:

1.      Read carefully, sentence by sentence, the passage to be summarized. Try to grasp the writer’s main point. Spotting the topic sentence will help. Look up in the dictionary any words whose meaning is not absolutely clear. As you read, take brief notes to be used in your writing.

2.     When you have finally decided what the author’s main point is, write it out in your own words. Do not use the wording of the original except for certain key words which you may find indispensable. If you cannot translate the idea into language of your own, you do not understand them very well. Be especially careful not to rely too much on the topic sentence. Do not add any opinions or ideas of your own.

3.     Revise your writing until you are sure that you have given an accurate summary.

4.     Usually you will find your précis is too long, if it is more than one-third the length of the original, it is too long, continue your revision until you have reduced the précis to the proper length.

Précis of passage

Title: Critically evaluate précis 2006


Historically eminent thinkers in Greece before Socrates were inclined towards unearthing the mysteries of life through practical media rather than constructing reality through cumbersome theoretical undertakings. Therefore it was an anomalous interlude when philosophical discourses became centered on futile excursions of purely theoretical value. Indisputably, for great figures like Plato, such an approach could be an initial stage in philosophical perfection; but certainly not its end product. The latter included broad themes like political existence of man. In this wholesome perspective, operational aspects of existence, for instance ameliorating human character, was the ultimate goal of philosophy


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