English Précis & Composition

How to Write A Good Précis? While writing out a précis three aims are to be kept in view: Firstly, the general argument is to be clearly conveyed. Secondly, all salient points are to be included. Thirdly, the diction is to be concise yet adequate and independent of the original. The following rules, however, should be followed:

Dos

a) Read through the whole passage you are asked to make a précis of or find out the central through, that is, the general argument contained in it. If not already given, calculate approximately the number of words in the passage set.

b) Read the passage thoroughly (slowly and carefully) twice, thrice, or four times, if necessary, so that clear grasp of the whole passage could be obtained.

c) Mark the salient points (leading ideas) appearing in the passage or make marginal notes, leaving out all unimportant ones or note them down separately on the margin. This requires considerable practice.

d) Give a suitable heading of your précis.

e) Prepare a rough copy with the help of marks or marginal notes. Arrange them, if necessary in what you think to be the best logical order. But it is better to keep the same order of thought as in the original.

f) Write your précis in the third person, indirect form and appropriate tense. The tense of the précis should be the same as that of the passage.

g) It is better to give designations of officials and not their names and titles. At times, the official designation is not mentioned and you have to use the personal name. Whatever, designation you employ, you must stick to it throughout the précis.

h) If necessary, divide the précis into paragraphs and to show where these begin, indent your writing clearly.

i) Revise your rough copy, abridge it and if need be, improve its language. The précis should in itself be a piece of good English.

j) Read once again the original passage to see that all the important points have been incorporated in your précis.

k) Then write out the précis in its final revised form. Handwriting counts here also as everywhere else.

Don’ts

a) Do not express your own opinion, wish, remark or criticism.

b) Do not insert any question in your précis. Its significance, if essential, may be expressed by a statement.

c) Do not convey the ideas in the précis by incomplete sentence.

d) Do not use telegraphic abbreviations.

e) Do not be jerky. This suggests that most probably, you have not understood the sense of the passage properly.

f) Do not retain one or reject the other if two ideas are equally important. Either retain both or give that combined significance.

g) Do not forget that a standard précis will bring good marks in the examination.

ORIGINAL PASSAGE

Our instinctive apparatus consists of two parts – the one tending to further our own life and that of our descendants, the other tending to thwart the lives of supposed rivals. The first includes the joy of life, and love and art, which is psychologically an offshoot of love. The second includes competition, patriotism and war. Conventional mortality does everything to suppress the first and encourage the second. True mortality would be the exact opposite. Our dealings with those whom we love may be safely left to instinct; it is our dealings with those whom we hate that ought to be brought under the dominion of reason. In the modern world, those whom we effectively hate are distant groups, especially foreign nations. We conceive them abstractly, and deceive ourselves into the belief that acts which are really embodiments of hatred are done from love of justice or some such lofty motive. Only a large measure of scepticism can tear away the veils which hide this truth from us. Having achieved that, we could begin to build a new morality, not based on envy and restriction, but on the wish for a full life and the realization that other human beings are a help and not a hindrance when once the madness of envy has been cured. This is no impossibly austere morality yet its adoption would turn our earth into a paradise.

THE NEW MORALITY

Two parts of our instinctive part are to safeguard our selfish interests and to harm our enemies. The first contains joy love and art and the second patriotism and war. Conventional morality suppresses the first and encourages the second. True morality consists in being reasonable rather than harbouring hatred for others. We wrongly call our bad behaviour justice. We must realize this truth. Sympathy and understanding should replace every and hatred. Only this new morality can make life pleasant.

COMPREHENSION

1. Read the passage fast in order to form a general idea of its theme and its main ideas.

2. Next read the passage more slowly with two aims in mind: (a) To confirm if your first impression was correct, and (b) to underline the key ideas.

3. Now read the question based on the passage, and write the numbers of questions against the lines that contain the answers to them.

4. Finally, write down the answers and try to avoid reproducing parts of the given passage; use your own words.

5. All answers to questions on comprehension should be clear and concise, expressed in simple English that follows the rules of grammar and syntax and idiom.

6. Except in the case of meanings of words and phrases, all such answers should be written in complete sentences.

7. Unless otherwise directed, you should base your answers entirely on what is said in passage set.

SAMPLE 1

Education is the instruction of the intellect in the laws of nature, under which name I include not merely things and their forces, but men and their ways; and the fashioning of the affections and of the will into an earnest and loving desire to move in harmony with those laws. For me, education means neither more nor less than this. Anything which professes to call itself education must be tried by this standard, and if it fails to stand the test, I will not call it education, whatever be the force of authority, or of numbers, upon the other side.

It is important to remember that, in strictness, there is no such thing as an uneducated man. Take an extreme case. Suppose that an adult man, in the full vigour of his faculties, could be suddenly placed in the world, as Adam is said to have been, and then left to do as best he might. How long would he be left uneducated? Not five minutes. Nature would begin to teach him, through the eyes, the ear, the touch, the properties of objects. Pain and pleasure would be at his elbow, telling him to do this and avoid that; and by slow degrees the man would receive an education, which, if narrow, would be thorough, real, and adequate to his circumstances, though there would be no extras and very few accomplishments.

Questions

1. What does education mean?

2. In what sense is there no such thing as an uneducated man?

3. What would a man learn from nature, if he suddenly found himself in this world, like Adam, without any prior knowledge?

ANSWERS

1. Education means the instruction of the human mind in the laws of nature, including the world of nature as well as of man. It would guide human feelings and will to work in harmony with those laws.

2. There is no such thing as an uneducated man, because man takes very little time to learn important lessons from his interaction with things around him. He is constantly learning by trial and error, and cannot be called uneducated.

3. Nature would teach a man, through his senses, what would give pleasure and what would give pain, so that he would learn what to do and what to avoid. Thus he would slowly receive an education that would be quite adequate to these circumstances, even if narrow in perspective.

SAMPLE 2

There is something humbling to human pride in rustic life. It grates against the heart to think of the tone in which we unconsciously permit ourselves to address him. We see in him humanity in all we respect in our species is what has been created by art; the gaudy dress, the glittering equipage, or even the cultivated intellect. The mere and naked material of nature we eye with indifference, or trample on with disdain. Poor child of tool, from the grey dawn to the setting sun, one long task! No idea elicited, no thought awakened beyond those that suffice to make him the machine of others, the serf of the hard soil. And then too, mark how we frown upon his scanty holidays, how we hedge in his mirth, and turn hilarity into crime! We make the whole of the gay world, wherein we walk and take our pleasure to him a place of snares and perils. If he leaves his labour for an instant, how many temptations spring up to him! and yet we have no mercy for his errors: the jail, the transport-ship, the gallows. These are our sole lecture-books, and our only method of expostulation.

Questions

1. Why do we despise a rustic?

2. Is the life of a rustic a bed of roses?

3. How do we punish him for his errors?

ANSWERS

1. We despise a rustic because he is too simple, in dress, in manners, and in mind. He is uncultivated, unrefined, and untouched by the usual marks of civilisation. Besides, we look down upon him also because he works with his hands rather than with his mind.

2. The life of a rustic is very busy and very hard. He has no time for relaxation and recreation. Only toil and labour are supposed to be his lot.

3. When a rustic strays from his labours to taste awhile the joy of life, we punish him inhumanly by sending him to jail or exile, or by executing him.

Expansion of Ideas

Knowledge of Power

People may think that it is might that rules. Indeed, even now there are many worshippers of brute power. But a little thinking will show that it is knowledge that rules the world. A man of knowledge possesses immense influence. He has the knowledge of the men and matters around him which mystify or baffle the ignorant. If he is a scientist, he studies the phenomena of nature and chains the mighty forces of nature and enlists them to human service. Thus today the forces of nature give us light, energy, comfort and power. A man of knowledge understands his fellow men and judges them rightly. That is why it becomes easy for him to lead them. He inspires confidence which an ignorant man, however, powerful he otherwise may be, is incapable of doing. In times of danger the man of knowledge proves himself to be a man of resource. Lastly, such a man knows himself and understands himself. There is no knowledge greater than the knowledge of self. Knowing oneself means mastering one’s passions and controlling one’s faculties. These give one immense power.
So the men of knowledge have always achieved wonders. Ulysses, the Greek hero, contributed more to the capture of troy by his wisdom than Ajax did by his strength, or Achilles did by his courage. It was Archimedes the savant, (a very knowledgeable person) who saved Syracuse from Marcellus and his soldiers when the combined efforts of the army and fleet of King Hiero of Syracuse could do very little. Roger Bacon, the medieval scientist, was thought to have supernatural powers, because of his immense knowledge. The Bible says ‘Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.’ Hence, it can safely be said that ‘Knowledge is Power’.

A STITCH IN TIME SAVES NINE.

This well known proverb ‘A Stitch in Time Saves Nine’ literally refers to the mending of clothes before they become irreparable. What is true of clothes is true for anything that needs mending. The advantage of a stitch in time does not limit itself to fabrics alone. Figuratively, it refers to health, medicine, morals, education and politics. We have often heard a doctor telling his patient that an earlier consultation would have avoided the present painful suffering. a popular story of the son who had turned into a thief and finally went to the prison. He wished his mother had used the ‘timely stitch’.

On a larger perspective, the French Revolution could have been avoided had the French bureaucrats been intelligent enough to appease the people in time. In our personal lives, too, the timely stitches are of immense value. Before our wayward tendencies can turn into confirmed habits, let us apply the stitch in time.
Our ancestors must have realized the importance of ‘timely stitches’ and stored their wisdom in this proverb for us to benefit by it. They have done their duty. Let us do ours.

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