Chapter 8. Reading and Study Skills – Communicative English for Engineers and Professionals

8

Reading and Study Skills

In this unit

“Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full significant and interesting.”

 

–Aldous Huxley

8.1 Introduction

Reading, basically, is a physical process of comprehending a text using our eyes. However, reading becomes studying when it is done with the involvement of all the mental faculties of concentration, comprehension and analysis. Studying involves the practices of answering questions, note taking, note making, summarizing, reading the text more than once and analyzing the written words thoroughly. The purpose of reading is to understand the material as effectively as possible to retain the information for a long time. When we study, we spend some time learning about a particular subject or subjects, for example: He went to the university, where he studied History and Economics. However, we have to understand that we may only read and not study as we do while reading a newspaper, a magazine or a novel, which we read to pass time, for enjoyment or as a hobby. Nevertheless, we cannot study something without reading or observing it. You read your course books as well as study them. The weather department observes the weather and studies it, but it cannot read the weather. In short, we can say to study is to read, to observe or to know the information in-depth. To strengthen reading as well as study skills, reading comprehension, note taking, note making and précis writing skills should be nurtured carefully.

8.2 Reading Comprehension

Reading is an interactive process between the reader and the text, resulting in comprehension of the text read. Reading comprehension is the ability to understand fully the sense and the meaning of a written or a printed matter. Linguists have shown that the four language skills—listening, speaking, reading and writing—are interrelated. Good listening generates good speaking and good reading generates good writing. Reading is an activity that involves greater level of mental as well as physical concentration. As eye muscles are actively involved in the process, reading stimulates them. The habit of reading also helps readers interpret new words and phrases that they come across in day-to-day conversation. Reading affects our mind; so, whatever we read should be a quality material. A systematic audible reading can improve oral communication too. Above all, reading enhances knowledge and information, entertains us and helps us pass our leisure time. Reading is, undoubtedly, a paramount skill of language.

8.2.1 Mechanics of Reading

Reading is a complex process in which a reader receives inputs through the physical process of reading, followed by decoding and understanding the text, analyzing it and finally giving a proper response. You should be able to identify the written symbols of letters, which make up the words that in turn give rise to sentences. One has to be familiar with the language being used, the visual shapes of words, sound and pronunciation of each word, its meaning and should have the knowledge of grammar of that particular language. Apart from these skills, you as a reader should develop the ability to read at different speeds, skip and skim the text when required, anticipate and read between the lines. These skills are required for loud as well as for silent reading. However, there are certain practices that you should avoid while reading. These undesirable habits are:

  • Moving head from side to side instead of eyes.
  • Indicating words with a finger or something like a pen or a pencil.
  • Reading words inaudibly or too loudly.
  • Noticing one word at a time while reading.

These actions obstruct the process of reading. Instead of reading words individually, develop the habit of perceiving word groups.

8.2.2 Types of Reading Skills

A study of the major types of reading skills may assist you in improving your reading comprehension as well as in employing the required skill for different reading situations. It has been found that these skills are used naturally when we read something in our native language but are often forgotten while reading a foreign language. Such types can be categorized into the following headings:

Scanning:    Scanning is reading something rapidly for some specific piece of information. You can use this skill when you are in search of key words, for example, scanning a telephone book or a dictionary to look for a name or a word. You ‘see’ every item on the page but you do not necessarily read all the pages—you skip anything you are not looking for. You just have to concentrate on the key word and need not recall the exact content of the page. Scanning saves time but it has to be done with accuracy. This skill develops with practice.

Skimming:    Skimming is reading a text quickly to gain a general impression whether the text is of any use to you or not. You can see people skimming through books in a bookstore before they decide to buy them. You need not necessarily search for a specific item or a key word and many parts of the material may be left unread. The purpose of skimming is to get an ‘overview’ of the text that is to check its relevance, grasp its central theme and the main points. It prepares you for the more concentrated effort of detailed reading, which is to follow, if the text is useful.

Intensive Reading:    Reading intensively is to read for detailed information when the aim is to understand the material in-depth. The techniques of scanning and skimming are good launching pads for an in-depth reading.

Extensive Reading:    Extensive reading is another device often used when we read for pleasure with emphasis on understanding the overall meaning. It is a lighter type of reading, and it may be used at the time of leisure. This form does not generally require detailed concentration, but it should be done with proper understanding. Extensive reading may involve a lot of skimming like skipping boring and irrelevant passages. An average light reading speed is 100–200 words per minute (WPM); however, you can read at a pace in which you feel comfortable.

Word for Word Reading:    This type of reading is generally not recommended but sometimes its use becomes indispensable, when some textual material is not readily understood and it requires a slow, careful and analytical reading. People use this type of reading to understand unfamiliar words, concepts, scientific formulae, etc. For example, going through a legal document, analyzing a written contract or reading a passage for writing a précis, may require such kind of reading. This sort of reading is time consuming and it demands a high level of concentration.

Speed Reading:    Speed reading is a skill that is acquired after much reading practice. In skimming and extensive reading you skip some points and items to gain speed, whereas in this type of reading, speed has to be attained without skipping. You read everything, taking into each detail, but develop speed simultaneously through practice. The more you read, the more your mind adapts itself to this sort. Students appearing for entrance tests for various professional courses have to speed read passages for comprehension. It is a test of their effective grasping of information with time constraints. A good way to increase your reading speed is to adjust the focus of your eyes at one particular word and then zoom at it in a way that you are able to see the whole text. Using this process, you may increase your reading speed by increasing the number of words you take in at each eye stop.

8.2.3 Reading Speed

Edward Fry, in his book, Teaching Faster Reading, talks about three reading speeds. The first is the ‘study reading speed’ which is generally used for total understanding and retention. The second is the ‘average speed’ which is helpful for everyday reading like that of reading newspapers, magazines, etc., and the third is ‘skimming’, as you have seen above, it is the fastest mode of reading. Reading speed is measured in WPM. You should be able to vary your speed as per the requirement of the text. A casual reading is normally faster than a serious one. A newspaper may be read at a fast rate for general news, but you may have to slow down your pace for reading an editorial in the same paper. Technical reports, proposals, agreements also need a slower speed.

8.2.4 Reading Comprehension Skills

Reading comprehension means understanding an idea of a text in its wholeness. It involves interpreting the meaning of words in the prevailing context. When you read a passage closely, make an effort to follow its idea and purpose and at the same time try to understand the writer’s thought process. Students are made to practice comprehension in classes to develop their reading as well as understanding skills. How well you understand a comprehension passage depends on how well you read. By solving such exercises you are, in fact, preparing yourself for a good professional environment, where you will be required not only to grasp messages of written texts but also to respond to them. A good comprehension helps you interpret things in the right context. On the other hand, a poor comprehension may cause misinterpretations. The following are some practical hints to help you inculcate reading comprehension skills:

  • Skim the passage cautiously for overall understanding and to grasp the main idea.
  • Read it for the second time for intensive reading to get the contextual meaning of words, phrases, sentences and writer’s thought process. Read silently and do not mutter or hum words aloud.
  • Use the ‘study reading speed’ of about 200–300 WPM. However, you may increase it with practice, which is surely a good sign, but it should not be at the cost of understanding.
  • Go through the questions carefully.
  • Read the passage for the third time looking for the answers of the given questions.
  • Answer the questions in the given order. Come back to the unanswered questions later on.
  • Answer to the point even if the answer is in a few or just one word. Follow the given word limit.
  • Check your answers for correctness, grammar, spelling and relevance.

Apart from using the above hints, you need to have a good vocabulary for an effective comprehension. As it is not possible to know each and every word, the use of contextual clues can be one of the best ways to improve reading skills. Do not insist on understanding each word while reading. A text can be understood in a general sense by using contextual clues. At the same time, the use of contextual clues can provide a means by which you may increase your existing vocabulary base. You can get such clues by asking these questions to yourself: What does the sentence refers to? What is the part of speech of the unknown word? Is it a verb, a noun, a preposition, an adjective or something else? What do the words around the unknown word mean? How is the unknown word related to those words? In addition to this, use the do’s and don’ts of an effective reading discussed above in Section 8.2.1.

Task

  1. Read the passage carefully and answer the following questions:

    Globalization is gradually creeping into every nook and corner of the world, but the ghost of brain drain still continues to haunt India as talented young students continue to go abroad every year for education, as well as for employment opportunities. UNESCO report in 1969, defined brain drain as, ‘an abnormal form of scientific exchange between countries, characterized by a one-way flow in favour of the most highly developed countries’. Even after many years, the definition of brain drain has not changed much as the talented students are still leaving developing countries in pursuit of greener pastures in the developed nations. India has become the outsourcing hub of the world, where all international companies are setting their shops. But this outsourcing is, more or less, a kind of brain drain for those who cannot find good job opportunities in India and have to travel abroad in search of better job profiles. More than 25 per cent of the medical staff in America and Britain consists of doctors, who attended medical school elsewhere. These are the same students who got trained in India, Pakistan or China and have now moved abroad for better opportunities. In the year 2008, maximum students going to the United States of America to study were from India. Most of these students, after finishing their education, get recruited and more often than not settle in abroad. But still brain drain continues to be a cause of worry for India, for we are getting used to thousands of students going abroad every year for education. Former Indian President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam said that reverse brain drain will have to begin if India is to become a developed nation in the future.

     

    (Source: www.merynews.com)

  1. What is brain drain?
  2. Is brain drain still affecting India?
  3. In what way has the definition of brain drain not changed for India?
  4. What major step has to be taken to stop brain drain?
  5. (a) Give meanings of the following words/phrases used in the passage and use them in sentences: haunt; hub; outsourcing; one-way flow; greener pastures

8.3 Note Taking and Note Making

8.3.1 Note Taking

Note taking is a method of writing down the crucial items of a lecture, a meeting or a reading text rapidly, briefly and clearly. Studies show that we tend to forget a good part of a lecture within 24 hours. Unless one has an excellent memory, one should take notes for future references. In the current scenario when information is flooding from every quarter, note taking has got an added importance. Whether you are a high school student or a university scholar or a professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful and comprehensive notes is an important skill. Good notes save our study time as they facilitate us review them for reuse during test preparations, assignments and meetings. At the same time, taking notes helps you concentrate in class and moulds you for the better understanding of a topic. While taking notes, two major questions related to note taking—what to write and how to write—should be kept in mind.

8.3.1.1 What to Write

One has to be a bit choosy at the time of taking notes. Only the most important items should be included. Your notes need not contain everything. If you try to take elaborate notes, then at the time of a test or term paper, you will have to go through all those extra things to get some important information. Your focus, while taking notes, should be twofold. First, ‘what is new to you?’ There is no use in writing down facts you already know. Second, ‘what is relevant?’, that is, what information is most likely to be of use later. Focus on the points, which are directly related to your reading. The details on which you should pay special attention are—dates, numbers, titles, names of people and books, theories, concepts, definitions, arguments, diagrams, exercises, speaker’s conclusion, comments of the other listeners as well as your own interpretation, doubts or questions. Examples, idiomatic expressions and minute details should be excluded.

8.3.1.2 How to Write

The five R’s of note taking are record, reduce, recite, reflect and review. Use them for a holistic approach. You may use either a linear or a patterned format to note down the main points, key words and phrases. Use abbreviations wherever possible; leave out the short words such as ‘the’, ‘is’, ‘to’, etc. However, remember that ‘no’ and ‘not’ are important words. Although note-taking techniques should be user specific, you may use the following guidelines for an effective note taking:

1. Outlining:    Outlining is an effective way to take notes in a hierarchical structure. You may use alphabet, numbers, Roman numerals or bullets/dots to indicate the structure. Outlining can be very useful while taking notes from books and presentations because the authors usually organize the material in a fairly effective way. For lectures, however, outlining has some limitations. The speaker does not necessarily maintain connection between ideas, consequently, there is a risk of losing the relationship between what the speaker just said and what he/she said before.

2. Mind Mapping:    For lectures, a mind mapping may be a better option to keep track of the connections between ideas. Write the main topic of the lecture in the centre of a blank sheet of paper. As a new subtopic is introduced, draw a branch outward from the centre and write the subtopic at the end of the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new subtopic is mentioned, draw a new main branch from the centre and so on. If a point is under the first heading but you are on the fourth one, you can easily draw it in on the first branch. Similarly, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

3.    The Cornell System: The Cornell System is a simple but effective system of note taking. It was devised in the 1950s by Walter Pauk, professor of Education at Cornell University, New York. In this system, we have to leave about 3½ inches space from the bottom of a sheet of paper and draw a line across the width of the page to mark this space. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2½ inches from the left-hand edge of the sheet. Now you have divided your sheet into three sections, the largest section is the ‘notes column’. Take down notes in this space—you can outline or mind map or whatever is suitable to you. Write legibly. The column on the left is the ‘recall column’, wherein you write a series of cues, hints or questions about the corresponding item you have just taken down in the notes. Now cover the ‘notes column’ and use the ‘recall column’ to help you remember facts, ideas and information of the lecture as completely as you can. Then, uncover your notes and verify what you have recalled. Then in the bottom section write a short, 2–3-line summary in your words of the notes you have taken down. This helps you process the information, provide a useful reference when you are trying to find something in your notes later and transfer facts and ideas to your long-term memory. The following illustration gives you the format of the ‘The Cornell System’ of note taking.

 

The Cornell Note-Taking System

8.3.2 Note Making

Note making is another study skill to write down relevant key points of a written material to use them at a later date. This is a more serious and organized method of recording notes than note taking. Notes are taken down rapidly and hence, they may lack proper planning and structure. Note taking is usually followed by note making, where you devote some time to your earlier jottings to systematize them and preserve them for future use. Note taking is more suitable while listening to lectures, presentations or for meetings, while note making is more appropriate for a written text.

8.3.2.1 Purpose

We generally make notes to read a book or to write an article, a research paper or to prepare an essay. We put things into your own words or summarize them as well as highlight the key points. Note making is highly useful at work places too, as it helps not only in writing reports but also in recording the main points of an already written report. At the same time, notes can be preserved for future use like revising, forwarding or recalling information. Note making is, thus, a crucial exercise that is performed not only for others but also for self.

8.3.2.2 Mechanism

When one starts with note making, the two most important aspects that one has to consider are—which points should be included and which should be excluded. These aspects have already been discussed in this chapter under Section 8.3.1.1. While making notes keep the following points in mind:

 

A Diagrammatic Summary of Note Making:

  • Skim the text briskly to grasp its gist, purpose and key points. At the same time take notes (techniques of note taking are given under Section 8.3.1.2 for further use.)
  • Read it again, this time more carefully, to find out the development of idea, the main divisions/chapters/sections of the text and their mutual relationships.
  • Write down the main points and the subpoints in the order as they appear in the text.
  • Rephrase the main points and subpoints into shorter phrases or may be into single words.
  • Use schematizing—using tables, charts or diagrams—for organizing scientific and technical material, which may be in the form of classification, figures, etc.
  • Use standard abbreviations to save time. First few letters of words and phrases can be the functional abbreviations that may be easily understood later also. For example volume: vol; usually: usu; approximately: approx; somebody: sb; especially: esp; secretary: secy; that is: i.e.; compare and contrast: cf; namely: viz; west: w; joul: j; oxygen: O; pages: pp; with effect from: wef; kilogram: kg; computer: comp; month: mth; magnesium: mg; specific gravity: sg.
  • Signs and symbols are useful tools for making notes. Some of them are: dollar: $; at the rate of: @; a number: #; and: &; percentage: %; key point: *; euro: €; copyright: ©; trade mark: ™; not equal to: ≠; infinity: ∞; registered: ®; ohm: Ω; plus or minus: ±; less than or equal to: ≤; greater than or equal to: ≥; almost equal to: ≈, identical to: ≡; house: ; female: ♀; male: ♂; increase: ↑; decrease: ↓; cause: →; results: ←; less than <; greater than: >.
  • Don’t forget to give the key with full forms of the abbreviations and symbols.
  • Give the notes a proper title to help you recall the main theme as well as the gist.
  • Structure your notes in a hierarchical order by inserting headings followed by sub headings, supporting points and may be supporting sub-points. The order of the headings should be logical so as to convey the right attitude of the author. Avoid including more than 3–4 subpoints under a sub-heading to make the details as simple as possible. If there are more subpoints give them a separate subheading.
  • Provide a proper sequencing to the points. You may use capital letters—A B C—for headings, small letters—a b c—for subheadings and Roman numerals—I II III—for supporting points and so on. The arrangement may be altered or reversed as per the need of the text.
  • Decimal system of sequencing is another method of arranging the points systematically. Study illustration given as under:

The numbering 1 and 2 comes in the margin and subsequent number in decimals outside but along the margin.

8.3.3 A Sample Note Making

Read the follow passage carefully and make notes on it. Further, supply a suitable title to it:

A robot can be defined as a mechanical gadget that performs functions normally ascribed to human beings. Karel Capek introduced the word robot while Sir Issac Assimov coined the word robotics, which is a science of dealing with robots.

The study of robotics includes, selection of material of proper quality for the components, design, fabrication, design of electronic circuits, computers and computer programming and its control. The science of robots is still in developing stage and a lot of research is being pursued for making robots more suitable for working.

Depending upon the area in which robots are to be used, robotics is a multidimensional field that includes disciplines such as biology, medical science, psychology, agriculture, mining, various branches of engineering, outer space, etc. At present, robots are mainly used in industries. These industrial robots are reprogrammable and perform a variety of jobs through programmed motions.

Basically, there are two types of robots: fixed and mobile. A fixed robot is attached to an immovable platform. It is similar to a human being standing or sitting in a fixed position while doing the work with hands. On the other hand, a mobile robot moves from place to place. The mobility of a robot is due to wheels or legs or other crawling material provided to it. A mobile robot can be given a human shape. However, the actual shape has nothing to do with the real functioning of the robot.

Title: Robot: A Human Machine

Notes

  1. What is a robot?
    1. Definition of a robot
      1. a mechanical gadget
      2. performs functions ascribed to human beings
    2. Words ‘robot’ and ‘robotics’
      1. robot by Karel Capek
      2. robotics by Sir Issac Assimov
  2. Study of Robotics
    1. matl. for components; circuits; fabri.; design; comp. prog.
    2. research
      1. study in development stage
      2. research—pursued for better robots
  3. Uses of a Robot
    1. multidimensional uses
      1. biology, medical science, psychology, agriculture, mining, various branches of engineering, outer space
      2. At present mainly used in industries
  4. Types of Robots
    1. fixed
      1. immovable
      2. similar to a human a fixed position
    2. mobile
      1. mobility due to wheels, legs or other crawling material
      2. can be given a human shape

Task

Take any article, biography, report or story, and read it carefully and make notes on it.

8.4 Précis Writing

Précis writing is another important productive study technique. A précis (pronounced pray-see/pl. pray-seez; comes from French word ‘Precis’ that literally means ‘precise’) is a shortening of the text of a written work, in your own words. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a short version of a speech or a piece of writing that gives the main points or ideas”. The time constraints of the professional life and the conciseness of the technical language, require a description that is as accurate, brief and to the point as possible. However, one has to keep in mind that it is not just paraphrasing, which merely represents the original text in different and simple words nor is it listing the main points. The basic idea in précis writing is reproduced in miniature form, retaining the mood and tone of the author. It is a type of summarizing that insists on the economy of words or an exact reproduction of the facts with logic, organization and emphasis of the original material. A précis is useful while dealing with lengthy passages that demand careful attention to the logic and organization of an argument.

8.4.1 Advantages of Learning Précis Writing

Précis writing is a rewarding intellectual exercise. The skill is necessary to develop one’s critical thinking, reading and writing abilities, along with condensing and synthesizing techniques. Students need summarizing to write a synopsis or an abstract, to remember the essential details of a long written material and to gain an insight into the underlying meaning of a text. It helps them save time and energy that can be utilized for other fruitful activities. It assists them to develop grammatical skills and vocabulary, as the use of synonyms and one-word substitutions is a great help in the art of condensing. At workplace, it is an immense help in writing the ‘executive summary’ of a technical report.

8.4.2 Qualities of a Good Précis

A good précis has the characteristics of the 5Cs, that is, completeness, conciseness, coherence, correctness and clarity. Completeness: A précis contains all the major points of the original text. Conciseness: It is brief and precise and its length is approximately one-third of the original passage, but one should be very careful not to lose or distort the original meaning. Coherence: (unity of thought) The ideas and the sentences are well knit and well linked to one another. Presentation of ideas in a précis should not be done through disjointed or unlinked sentences. Correctness: It is grammatically correct with right spellings. Clarity: The ideas are expressed distinctly so that even a reader who does not have enough time to read the original text has no trouble getting the message.

8.4.3 Skills Required to Write a Good Précis

Précis writing is not as creative as other types of writing skills. Nevertheless, drafting a précis is not a mechanical process as it does call for certain talents on the part of the writer. These desirable qualities are:

  • Good concentration
  • Good reading ability
  • Good comprehension
  • Good analyzing skills
  • Good summarizing skills
  • Good command on language

8.4.4 How to Write a Précis?

To write a précis effectively, the above stated skills are essential. Along with these, practice is utmost necessary to draft a good brief. Here are some steps that may be followed to write a useful summary:

  • Keep a blank sheet ready to take down notes to be used for compiling the précis.
  • Skim the text carefully in the first reading to get a general idea. Note down the main topic and the author’s purpose of writing the passage.
  • The main topic or the central idea, that may be traced from the first few or the last few lines, can be in the form of a short phrase or a word.
  • Give a second or a third reading and read word for word to select and underline the important supporting ideas. Each paragraph should have one key point. The supporting points should be marked differently. Look up in the dictionary for any words whose meaning is not very clear. Eliminate the non-essential items.
  • Only relevant details should be included and all the non-essentials should be struck off such as: (a) unnecessary or irrelevant ideas, (b) repetitions, (c) examples and illustrations, (d) anecdotes, stories, etc., (e) adjectives, (f) abbreviations, contractions and slangs, (g) clichés, (h) proverbs, quotations and idiomatic phrases, (i) comparisons, (j) rhetorical and flowery expressions.
  • As you read, list the key ideas and the subpoints separately on the note sheet. Take notes and write an outline summary containing all the points, possibly in the same sequence as you have marked them in the passage. (For details refer to note taking, Section 8.3.1.2 of this chapter.) If you have left out some points, add them and if the outline contains unnecessary details, strike them out. Keep supporting points as your reserve material.
  • Always give the name of the article/document, the author and the source (whether it is from a magazine, a book, an encyclopaedia, or a technical report, etc.). Students while writing a précis may state: ‘The following is the précis of the passage given in question no.—.’
  • Exhibit unity and coherence by arranging the key ideas of the outline notes in a logical order. Now, get ready to write a rough draft of the précis.
  • Prepare the rough draft with the help of your notes. Combine the key ideas into one or more smooth paragraphs, maintaining the unity of thought. Make sure that you retain the order of the original points in your précis but sometimes, you may have to change the order for the sake of unity and logicality. However, as the author’s view point and attitude are the most important aspects, see that they are conveyed in the right spirit.
  • Write the rough draft in your own words and not in the words of the original text. Avoid using the vocabulary used in the original except for certain key words, which you may find indispensable. After careful second and third reading, put the work aside, and then start writing. This will force you to use your own words without the temptation of borrowing directly from the original.
  • Do not refer to the original text or begin with the expressions as ‘In this article.’; ‘The author says’ or ‘The paragraph means.’ Begin as though you were summarizing your own writing.
  • A précis is written from the point of view of the author whose work is being summarized. So, you should not use phrases such as ‘I think’ or ‘in my opinion’.
  • Use simple and direct language, short and crisp sentences and familiar and unambiguous words. This will bring clarity as well as economy of words to the précis.
  • The sentences should be grammatically correct. It is best to write summary in the same tense as the original.
  • If the text is subjective in nature and the writer has used the first person ‘I’ for himself or herself, it has to be changed into third person he/she, only if the gender is known, otherwise use the term ‘the author’.
  • All the sentences given in the direct speech should be changed into indirect narration.
  • Note that the summary should not contain anything that is not given in the text. You should not make any interpretation nor should give personal opinions or any introduction/conclusion about the original text.
  • Capture the tone or feeling of the original, particularly if it is humorous, satirical, aggressive or moralistic.
  • As stated earlier, the length of the précis should be around one-third of the original passage. Check the length. If it is more than the limit, edit it. You can also borrow a supporting idea kept in reserve, in case the length is shorter than the limit.
  • Review the rough draft for completeness, clarity, conciseness, coherence and correctness of grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  • Check all important points for irrelevancy.
  • Write down the fair draft of the précis of the original text.

8.4.5 Methods for Editing Long Sentences

Long sentences can be extremely effective for elaboration but for summarizing they may be quite wordy. The following strategies may be useful for condensing them:

  1. Avoid using passive constructions as they create wordiness. Compare ‘The boy was stuck by the driver who was driving a red car’, with ‘The red car hit the boy’.
  2. Avoid using too many prepositional phrases, for example, ‘the bank account of Mr. Deshpal’ rather than ‘Mr. Deshpal’s bank account’.
  3. Use connectors—that, unless, and, which, whereas, but, so that, etc.—intelligently to check repetitions, to reduce the number of words and to link ideas. For example, ‘The crowd would disperse. It was our wish. Our wish was encouraging,’ can be reduced to ‘Our wish that the crowd would scatter, was heartening’. However, be careful and don’t use too many of them.
  4. Use word substitution for conciseness. ‘He came and offered his services’, may be replaced by ‘He volunteered his help’. (Refer to Section 4.7 in ‘One-Word Substitution’ for more examples).
  5. Learn the art of reducing a clause to a phrase, for example, ‘He confessed that he was guilty’—‘He admitted his guilt’./ ‘The master was as bad as he could be’—‘The master was altogether bad’.
  6. Trim down a list of same category words to a common term—‘taps, pipes, bends, joints and water seal’—can be condensed to ‘plumbing material’.

8.4.6 A Sample Prećis

Write down a précis of the following passage and give it a suitable title.

In the realm of human conduct and behaviour, Indian movies are an infinite source of ingenuity. All our new fashions related to, the style of our hair, the design of our footwear, cut of clothes we wear, interior decoration of our houses, and even our body language, manners and habits at social and public gatherings, somehow have originated from the film industry. It is there that they first appeared with all the glamour of their freshness and the appeal of their intense charisma. Nothing ever grows dreary and stale there. Even the most ordinary things are provided with a halo that changes them into objects of exquisite appeal. Dress designers, photographers, hair stylers, shoe companies, manufacturers of articles and of a thousand other varieties of luxury goods, interior designers and other men in different trades look to this industry for direction and inspiration. The science of make-up, is the product of the cinema industry without which it would lose much of its fascination. All such new and wonderful ideas enhance the professional knowledge of the traders and manufacturers and help them meet their customer’s demand for newness. (Words 184)

The précis of the given passage is as under:

 

The Influence of the Indian Cinema

The Indian cinema is the source of many original ideas which get circulated in Indian society, in the form of fashions, decorations and even the mannerisms of people. The allure of the films changes the most ordinary into something glamorous. Traders and manufacturers capture the public demand by using them as profitable tips to maintain freshness in their up-coming products. (Words 60)

Task

Write down a précis of the following passage and give it a suitable title:

Global warming appears to have taken a toll on the climate patterns in Kashmir valley, which has been experiencing a decline in snowfall and rise in temperature, weather scientists have found. Analysing the snow accumulation and ablation patterns in Pir Panjal and Shamshawari regions of the valley during the winters of 2004–05 to 2006–07, scientists have shown that the seasonal snow cover has reduced while the maximum temperature is increasing steadily. The senior scientists of Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment have reported that this decreasing trend in areal extent of snow cover, rise in maximum temperature and reducing rate of total snowfall may be the indicators of global warming or climate change. The total snowfall in the winter of 2004–05 was 1082 centimetres across the valley that declined to 968 centimetres in 2005–06 and further to 961 centimetres in 2006–07. February, the second month of maximum snowfall, showed rapid fluctuation with 585 centimetres in 2004–05 compared to 207 centimetres in 2005–06 and 221 centimetres in 2006–07. (Words 166)

 

(Source: The Times of India)