Monday, 23 March 2015

How to summarize a given passage

In the busy world of today people have little time to read long winding reports and documents. Summaries, on the other hand, are easy to read. They are short and include only information that is relevant.Here are some guidelines for summarizing a passage.
Read the given passage to find out

  1. What the passage is about
  2. What its tone is
  3. What type of writing it is

Find a title for the passage
The title should be a brief statement of the central theme. It should be pointed, not vague.

Read the passage again, as carefully as possible trying to understand every sentence. Since you have already understood the central theme of the passage, it should be easy for you to find out what is important and what is not important.

Anything that is not related to the central theme is irrelevant or superfluous and should not be mentioned the summary.

In the passage the author may have expressed the same idea in different words for emphasis. There is no room for repetition of ideas in a summary.

Examples and illustrations are often easy to dispense with. If you find an example indispensable, it may be included in the summary.

Do not include quotations, metaphors, similes and other figures of speech.

Before you start writing the summary, jot down the important ideas in the passage. Do not copy words and phrases from the passage. As far as possible the summary should be written in your own words.


The summary of a passage is the passage in its shortened form. In a summary, we only express the main ideas. And to keep it short, we must express those ideas in as few words as possible.

What is a good summary?
A good summary must be complete in itself. It must contain all the important information in the passage so that a reader, who doesn't have time to read the original passage, will have no difficulty in understanding what the passage is about.

The summary should be brief, clear and precise. That said, it should not be a number of disjointed simple sentences. You can use linking expressions to connect the ideas.

Give ideas, facts or points in the order in which they are given in the original passage.

If the original passage contains sentences in direct speech, it must be changed into indirect speech in the summary.

The summary must be written in the writer’s own words. As far as possible avoid using the same words that appear in the original passage.

A summary must not contain anything that is not in the original.

How to summarize a given passage?
Read the given passage carefully and try to understand what it means. If you don’t understand it by reading it once, read twice or thrice until you know the details.

Try to find out what the passage is about. Sometimes you will also need to find a suitable title for the summary.

After reading the passage prepare an outline summary containing all the important points.

Prepare your summary with the help of the outline. Do not refer to the original.

If the passage is in poetry, express its ideas in prose.

Learn English Writing

For many ESL students learning to write good English is much more difficult than learning to speak. Even advanced level students face this problem. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Written communication is more formal than spoken communication.
  • You have to avoid grammatical or spelling mistakes in written communication.
  • Spoken communication, on the other hand, isn’t exactly about grammar: It allows for more grammar mistakes. What’s more, you don’t have to learn spelling to speak.
  • People tend to think while writing; not much thought goes into speaking.

The following points can be helpful when considering how to learn English writing skills:

Speaking skills are something that we learn unconsciously. Writing, on the other hand, takes a conscious effort on the part of the learner.

Writing involves the learning of a number of rules and structures.

How to improve one’s writing skills
Good writing skills can be developed with practice. The first thing that you need to do is to learn the grammar rules. Although, you can speak without learning much grammar, you won’t be able to write correct sentences if your knowledge of grammar is poor. So if your job involves a lot of writing, there is no excuse for not learning the rules.

Learn different sentence patterns. These are the basic structures that we use to construct sentences. A basic understanding of the most common sentence patterns will help you to write numerous grammatically correct sentences.

Keep writing. That is true. Your writing skills improve with practice. Therefore, make it a habit to write at least 200 words a day. Keep a diary. In this digital age, blogging is perhaps better than writing a diary. Participate in online forums where people express their ideas in English.

Coherence and transitions

You may have the most convincing ideas in the world. You might have even managed to express them in the most beautiful sentences. However, if these ideas are not properly connected, you will not be able to produce the desired results. Readers should be able to move from one thought to another.

This wouldn’t be possible if you do not use enough connecting devices.

When you provide transitions between ideas, your reader will have no difficulty getting the point.

You can provide transitions between ideas using four techniques: You can, for example, use transitional adverbs; you can repeat keywords or phrases or you can use pronoun reference or parallel form.

Using transitional tags
The most common transitional tags are of course the little conjunctions – and, or, nor, but, so, yet and for. Transitional adverbs are not so simple. Examples are: however, nonetheless, therefore, however, on the other hand etc.

The use of the conjunctions and and but come naturally to most writers.

However, the question whether you can begin a sentence with a conjunction may still arise. Of course, the initial conjunction is a sign that the sentence should have been connected to the previous sentence. However, in many cases, the initial conjunction is a powerful device that calls attention to the sentence. If that is what you want, then you don’t have to connect the two clauses. However, if you begin every one of your sentences with a conjunction, the result can be disastrous.

Here is a list of common transitional adverbs.

Also, again, and, and then, equally important, besides, first, further, in addition, furthermore, finally, last, in the first place, next, second, too

Also, similarly, likewise, in the same way

Of course, naturally, granted,

Although, at the same time, yet, and yet,  but at the same time, even so, despite that, even though, however, for all that, in contrast, instead, in spite of, nevertheless, notwithstanding, on the other hand, on the contrary, otherwise, still, regardless, though, yet

Repetition of keywords and phrases

By repeating keywords and phrases, you can create a powerful cohesive effect. Be careful, though; too much repetition can create a ludicrous effect.

Of course, repetition isn’t desirable. However, if it is used correctly, it will make your prose more interesting. The key is finding that word or phrase that is crucial for the reader’s comprehension of the passage. By repeating this word / phrase, you can leave a powerful impact on the reader. Just make sure that you do not overdo it.

Read the sentence given below. It is a quote from Abraham Lincoln.

‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.’

This sentence is a classic example of the power of repetition.

Repetition can be employed to connect both sentences and paragraphs.

Pronoun reference
Pronouns avoid the repetition of ideas. They connect ideas because they almost always refer to a noun or noun phrase in the previous sentence.

You can use a pronoun to refer to a noun. The pronouns this, that, these and those can be used to refer to entire sentences.

Make sure that all pronouns have clear references. This is necessary to avoid ambiguity.

Parallelism is the deliberate repetition of phrases or even clauses of the same kind. This is a powerful technique. Inexperienced writers often assume that they cannot repeat the same phrase or clause structures. But that is a wrong assumption. Parallelism within the sentence is highly desirable.

Vary the sentence patterns. For example, you should consider writing a compound sentence after a complex sentence or simple sentence. You should use different types of linking words. All of these techniques add variety to your writing. You must still ensure that every sentence you write has a parallel structure.