I've been working with a group of English students recently who are trying to get their qualified teacher status. One of the activities I did with them was precis. Basically, this is where you take a written article, say 200 words, and summarise it in about 70-75 words. leaving out all the examples and flowery bits, just leaving the main points of the original.<p>For want of a topic to precis, I asked the students to download all John Crawshaw's postings and use that. More interesting than simply using a newspaper cutting. John has written an impressive 4,747 words on this discussion board and the students were quite daunted until they realised that the first task was to take out all the repetition. Phew! It came down almost immediately to just over 1,400 words. <p>So the task got underway. Summarise the main points of all John's postings in about 850 words. It took some time but, eventually, a group of brighter students did it and I was impressed by the result. But just for fun I gave the 850 word precis that group one had completed and asked group two to do a precis of the precis. Unusual, but good fun. They would need to summarise what they had in about 500 words. Quite a challenge. 500 words of condensed Crawshaw wit, wisdom and literature. But they did it. Took some time, but they did it.<p>By now I was on a roll. Out of devilment I gave the 500 words to another group and asked them to precis it down to 300 words.<p>This went on and on until I had a real gem in my hands. Everything he has written on the discussion board squeezed into just 50 words. It was nectar. All that distilled venom and hatred. How far could I go? 50 words down to 30, then 30 words down to 10. I was intoxicated by the results.<p>A few hours later I had what I have wanted for a long time. All 4,747 words ever written by my old friend (and yet enemy) summarised in a single word. The precis of precis.<p>Any guesses as to what that single word was?