“Précis” is French for “specific” or “precise.” A rhetorical precis is an excellent exercise in being sucicent and being able to identify the most important information in an article or text you are engaging with. Throughout this course you will need to not only read all of the assigned texts for class, but if you wish to perform well on the Q3 essay or during Socratic Seminar, you should be pushing yourself to read Read READ – and creating a precis for those articles and documents that you read is a good way to have a concrete set of ‘notes’ or a reminder to review later.

In order to write a successful precis, and really to do well in this class, you need to be an active reader.  “Active reading requires you to slow your reading down, engage more intentionally with the text, think about it, and focus your attention on its ideas. When you read actively, you can’t just flip pages and daydream about tomorrow’s plans…

    • Skim over the text before reading it.
      Look to see how long it is, where it’s published, how it may be divided into sections, what kind of works cited list it has, whether there are appendices, etc. Use the title to help you predict what the text is about and what it argues. This overview will help you to understand the context, genre, and purpose of this piece as well as help you gauge how long it will take you to read it and how it might be relevant to your class, paper, or project.
    • Take notes about the text’s key ideas and your responses to those ideas.
      Depending on the text and your preferences, these notes could be made on your copy of the text or article or in a separate place. Notes will help you remember and process what the text is about and what you think about it” (Wisc. University Writing Center).

In class we will review how to complete a precis, and read a sample article while looking at an example together

You will then need to work in your groups to write a precis for the article ‘The Ugly Truth about Beauty‘.

Following the format for rhetorical precis writing, and using the best elements from each of your groups in class, this is the sample precis we created in class today for David Barry’s articleL

In the Miami Herald article “The Ugly Truth About Beauty” (1998), David Barry explains that men and women have different perceptions of self-beauty. Barry illustrates this idea by arguing that women will never be happy with their appearance, while “…average is fine for men…(3). He also reasons that women have unreal standards of beauty to meet, which are established by society and multi-million dollar companies that make “women grow up thinking they need to look like Barbie…” and ridicules the idea of men applying cosmetics under Brad Pitt. Barry contrasts men and women’s sense of self in order to explain how men view themselves as average, while women tend to place unrealistically high expectations on their own beauty. Barry directs this analysis to men who set unrealistic expectations for women, or don’t understand why women are so concerned with their looked, and to women who blindly try to meet these expectations by using satirical anecdotes and extended metaphors. 

Additionally, you need to be prepared to write a precis each week over a current event item from a reliable source.