English Proficiency Programme

Summarising Strategy

Formal standard of precis writing: one-third size (number of words) of the original.

Long story/essay, very short summary: possible, and useful, sometimes extremely important.

Example: in 600 words (40-60 sentences), summary of a story/novel/essay of 10-500 pages.

!! ... !! Some people lose control on the part which they deeply appreciate!

They need a strategy.

Read the 'matter' - in normal pace, with free mind, primarily to enjoy it or gain knowledge or get informed - whatever be the case.

OPERATION 1 - List: Sit with the 'matter' all over again, this time with pen and writing pad or notebook. Quickly review the matter and note down its major 'items', without the mention of which its summary will not be complete. Do not number the 'items' initially.
[You may need to insert or remove items as you go on.]

OPERATION 2 - Order: Study this list of items. Revise them and their order, if needed.
[If there are more than 20 items, try to merge some of them. If there are less than 5, then try splitting.]

OPERATION 3 - Adjust:

Suppose there are 13 items in the list.
Roughly 50 sentences over 13 items: Four sentences for an item (on an average).
Plan: Every item to be written in 3-5 sentences roughly.
Check: A:2, B:4, C:3, D:5, ..., M:3
Sum: 48 to 52? Okay.

OPERATION 4 - Draft: Draft every item according to the plan. Typically, no item should start or end in between a paragraph.
[Complete item/s in each sitting, preferably.]

Type out the entire write-up and save.

OPERATION 5 - Edit: Check the manuscript thoroughly and seriously for mistakes of tense (verb forms) and spellings.
[Be humble, look up notes/dictionary.]
Check it further for mistakes of articles, punctuation etc.
[Be serious. But not over-serious!]

OPERATION 6 - Revise: Read through the work thoroughly to get the gist of the matter, afresh - as a reader is likely to read it. If the reader - you only - gets the meaning that the author - you - or the original author meant, then it is all right. Else try to pin-point the discrepancy and correct it.

After a time-gap, read it once lightly
correct/change anything that you spot now for the first time.
Make a PDF version of it and upload/publish/mail.

You may like to remember the strategy as


for List - Order - Adjust - Draft - Edit - Revise.

Note: If you are writing your own story/novel or essay/report, with no space limit, then the strategy is

C-O-D-E-R: Collect - Order - Draft - Edit - Revise

as found in a school textbook.

- Bhaskar Dasgupta