The UVic Writer's Guide

A Sample Passage To Summarize

Read the following passage--how would you summarize it?

The invention of the process of printing from movable type, which occurred in Germany about the middle of the fifteenth century, was destined to exercise a far-reaching influence on all the vernacular languages of Europe. Introduced into England about 1476 by William Caxton, who had learned the art on the continent, printing made such rapid progress that a scant century later it was observed that manuscript books were seldom to be met with and almost never used. Some idea of the rapidity with which the new process swept forward may be had from the fact that in Europe the number of books printed before the year 1500 reached the surprising figure of 35,000. The majority of these, it is true, were in Latin, whereas it is in the modern languages that the effect of the printing press is chiefly felt. But in England over 20,000 titles in English had appeared by 1640, ranging all the way from mere pamphlets to massive folios. The result was to bring books, which had formerly been the expensive luxury of the few, within the reach of all. More important, however, was the fact, so obvious today, that it was possible to reproduce a book in a thousand copies or a hundred thousand, every one exactly like the other. A powerful force thus existed for promoting a standard uniform language, and the means were now available for spreading that language throughout the territory in which it was understood. (Baugh, A History of the English Language)

Now look at two summaries of it, one from a textbook and a second from a student. The two may be compared with each other, and with your own, checking for conciseness, clarity, and accuracy in the sentences, and the selection of information (major points and qualifications).

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated Sept. 24, 1995