The ultimate guide to writing a précis essay like an expert

To be honest writing précis essays is challenging if you do not know what you are doing.

Yet, the good news is that you don’t need to worry about that anymore.

At first, it’s hard but after reading this article, you will fall in love with writing.

Sounds good? Let’s Jump right in

What is a précis?

Many of you do not know what a précis is and that is okay. We’ve all been there.


According to the Dictionary, a précis is a “concise summary of essential points, statements, or fact.

Let me break this down for you. When writing a précis, write the thesis first and then the main details of the reading in your own words.

Some people may call it a rhetorical precis while others call it a simple precis.


Whatever you call it do not confuse a paraphrase with a précis.

What is the difference between a paraphrase and a précis?

Paraphrasing is rewriting the work of another person to expresses the same meaning but in different words.

But, a précis is the summary of ideas from a reading and it is usually a third the size of the original text.

For example, to paraphrase 500 words, you could end up with 550 or 500 of text with the same meaning as the original text.


When writing a summary of a 500-word reading, then it must be around 250- 200 words in length. The summation will only discuss the important details.

Still confused?

So, how do you know that you are writing a summary?

Here I will list:

The elements of a good critical précis

i).It is 1/3 of the original reading.

ii).It is not a paraphrase or rewriting of the text.

iii).It follows the general format of an academic essay. For example, you start by introducing the author, the title, date of publication and a thesis.

iv). A précis is an explanation of the original work.

v).It is original.

vi).It does not have personal opinions or critique of the reading.

vii).It is all about critical thinking.

viii).It is a critical summary and not a critical review

Before you dive into writing, make sure to understand these elements.

It’s frustrating when your professors ask for a précis. Yet that is the only way for them to know if you are good at critical thinking.

What does this mean? Improve your skills in writing précis and you are well on your way to getting smarter.

But, we are not done yet.

How do you write a précis like an expert?

It’s easy!

The basic step to writing a perfect summary begins with reading the text.

You can’t bathe without undressing right?

To be honest, reading is boring. Isn’t it?

But you can begin by reading the text’s abstract and then flip over to the conclusion.

I am not asking you to be lazy. If you have time to read the text word by word, then read it. If you don’t have enough time, follow my advice.

When reading the first time, highlight important points. By doing this, you will understand the text better when reading the second time. When reading the second time takes a piece of paper and writes down the key points.

I have read the text twice, what now?

Here is the structure of a good précis


Like any other essay, you have to introduce the précis. In the first sentence, name the author along with the date of publication and title of the reading. Then write the author’s main claim or thesis.

Sometimes, authors do not have a clear thesis and you have to come up with one depending on the main claim.

Some scholars may advise you to start a précis with a hook, but this kind of writing does not need a hook.


The body takes a bigger length than the other parts. In this section, you explain the different parts of the text. When explaining the different parts, it is your role to show how the author supports the thesis.

Different authors use different styles to support their thesis. So it is important that you pay close attention to the text’s arguments and supporting evidence. The author may also use different rhetorical devices.

It is also a good idea for you to understand the type of text you are writing a précis on. Is it a theoretical reading or a quantitative reading?

Doing this will make it easier for you to show how the author supports his claim.


Having done that, it’s time to conclude your précis.

You’ve probably heard this a million times.


Like any other conclusion, you have to restate the thesis statement. You must also rewrite the author’s main evidence.

Qualities of a critical précis

1). Keep it short

The length of your précis will depend on what your professor wants.

But here’s the catch…

A 10-page précis will likely be 1 page or 270 words. Always consult with your professor on the length.

2). Clear structure and grammar

This is important. Still confused by the structure of a précis? Please bookmark this article and come back to it when writing.

Good grammar is a must for all academic essays.

Learn the tricks of good grammar. Even if you are an ESL learner, you can still learn the basics of good grammar.

3). Use the present tense.

Remember when we said a précis summarizes the key points of a text? Since you are referring to that text at the time of writing, you must use the present test. Instead of saying:

The author argued…”


“The author states…”

4). Do not use direct quotes

Unlike a critical review, you cannot quote the author’s words in a critical précis. Narrate to your audience what the reading says.

Sample Rhetorical Precis

A precis may be rhetorical is it analyzes a reading and how the reading is written. A rhetorical precis answer the question of the ‘how’ and ‘what.’ In short, it is a combination of the reading’s summary and analysis. More often than not, it’s a six sentence paragraph with specific information. The information in the six sentences may include quotes, bibliography etc.

Rhetorical Precis Template:

Rhetorical Precis Template

i). Author’s info.  In this part, include a short description of the author, title of the reading, a rhetorical verb such as ‘imply’, ‘assert’ as well as the thesis of the discourse.

ii). A detailed explanation of how the author support the thesis statement

iii). An explanation of the author’s purpose

iv). A detailed description of the author’s intended audience.

v). A conclusion


In his essay, ‘Laugh Kookaburra’ (2009), David Sedaris asserts that” to see the country, one has to see the countryside.” I David exemplifies his argument by noting that traveling is much more than moving from one city to another. He describes his journey from Melbourne to different parts of Australia.  David’s purpose is to point out how traveling like the Kookaburra has improved his life. He also urges the audience to travel beyond the countryside.  Considering the metaphorical language in this article, David writes to a travelling audience with some knowledge of it is like to travel to the city.


Sedaris, D. (2009). Laugh, Kookaburra. Retrieved from

Note: The precis above is not an accurate description of the essay, “Laugh Kookaburra” but a sample of how you should write a rhetorical precis.

To Wrap up

All it takes to write like a pro is practice. Some of you have been reaching out and asking if we can help with writing your précis. But you can go to for précis writing help.

How did you like this article? Are you struggling with your essay? You can get your precis writing help here. Either way, we would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and subscribe to our blog for instant updates.

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