precis

precis

Read: Preface; correspondence; e-mail; memos; letters. “All writing occurs in a context and involves a number of choices,” writes Margaret Woodworth in her essay on the Rhetorical Precis. The idea behind this assignment is for you become close readers of the assigned entries and to be able to comment in a precise way on the important features of the chapter(s). For each of the five odd numbered weeks, you will write summaries of some of the sections you have read in the book (I will tell you which ones to write on for any given week). These summaries are called precis statements or just precis (pronounced pray-see). Each week’s precis (no matter how many you write that week) are worth a total of 20 points. This week, you have five precis to write, one each for the sections you read (see above). The rhetorical precis form is a highly structured four-sentence paragraph that records the essential rhetorical elements of a unit of spoken or written discourse. To do these well, you must concisely summarize important information, an important skill for a writer. The precis has four sentences, and each sentence has a specific purpose and form. The Rhetorical Precis Form: 1. Name of author, genre and title of the work, date in parenthesis; a rhetorically accurate verb (such as “asserts,” “argues,” “suggests,” “claims,” “implies,” and so on); and a THAT clause containing the major assertion (thesis statement ) of the work. 2. An explanation of how the author develops and/or supports the thesis, usually in chronological order. 3. A statement of the author’s apparent purpose, followed by an “in order” phrase. 4. A description of the intended audience and/or the relationship the author establishes with the audience.The following is an example of a precis statement written about a different work, by a different author. The format, though, of each sentence and the overall precis is accurate, so it gives you a good idea of what a finished precis looks like. Charles S. Peirce’s article, “The Fixation of Belief (1877), asserts that humans have psychological and social mechanisms designed to protect and cement (or “fix”) our beliefs. Peirce backs this claim up with descriptions of four methods of fixing belief, pointing out the effectiveness and potential weaknesses of each method. Peirce’s purpose is to point out the ways that people commonly establish their belief systems in order to jolt the awareness of the reader into considering how their own belief system may the product of such methods and to consider what Peirce calls “the method of science” (4) as a progressive alternative to the other three. Given the technical language used in the article, Peirce is writing to a well-educated audience with some knowledge of philosophy and history and a willingness to other ways of thinking. Because you’re only writing about sections of a book, your own precis will look a little different, perhaps more like this: Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu, in their textbook Handbook of Technical Writing (11th ed.), argue that e-mail should be treated as seriously as other correspondence because . . . A further requirement for this course is that each precis you write includes at least one quote from the chapter you are summarizing, as was done in the linked example above in the third sentence. I ask this for two reasons: first, to be sure you’re actually reading the book as required; second, to get used to citing information in your writing. If you look at the structure of a precis, you’ll see that it tells who the writer is, who the audience is, and what the relationship is between the two. It explains the what, how and why of the original document. In short, in the shortest possible space, it tells the reader a great deal of information about the summarized document. This is the very essence of good, concise writing: using no more words than necessary while not missing any important details. Length: Although you are writing five precis statements this week (one for the Preface and one each for the four other sections) they should be submitted as one document, one assignment, with five paragraphs, each with four sentences.


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