Summary Writing: Writing the Summary

Summary Writing

In the previous two posts on summary writing, we have examined the how to analyse a summary question, how to find the points from the relevant paragraphs and organise them. The next step is to change the points into your own words and to remove words so that it is 80 words or less. Let us see how it can be done.

I. Summary Writing: Using Own Words

Before you start to write your draft, you will also need to underline all the keywords of each point. It is usually between four to six words but do not be side-tracked if you can only find three or less words as it varies from point to point. To score high marks, you need to change these words, yet keep the meaning exactly the same. You are underlining these words so as to ensure that whatever you change,  the content is the same, and you are still using your own words. 

Without further delay, let’s look at the strategies to draft your own words. You can just write these words just above the sentence or phrase to save time and energy.

a. Delete

This tip is mostly used for reducing the number of words. To reduce the number of words, you can:

  1. Delete Repeated Words.

Example: He is a clever, kind and intelligent boy. (8 words)

Rewritten: He is a kind and intelligent boy. (7 words)
(Delete either ‘clever’, or ‘intelligent’ – they mean the same thing.)

  1. Delete words that explain the obvious or provide excessive detail

Example: Imagine a mental picture of someone engaged in the intellectual activity of trying to learn what the rules are for how to play the game of mahjong. (27 words)

Rewritten: Imagine someone trying to learn the rules of mahjong. (9 words)

  1. Delete unnecessary modifiers and determiners

Example: Any particular type of salad is fine with me. (9 words)

Rewritten: Any salad is fine with me. (6 words)

b. Substitute

Substitution is the most basic strategy for use your own words. It also happens to be the key strategy for the comprehension question that asks for “use your own words”. When students are beginners in summary, this is the best method to use. Basically, you change the keywords by using synonyms or phrases that have a similar meaning. Do note that this strategy focuses on using own words rather than cutting down words, so be careful when you substitute that you do not end up adding so many words that it exceeds the word limit.

Example: His comments were often rude, offensive and hurtful.

Rewritten: His comments were often insulting and hurtful.

Example: The wan polar sun supplies little heat.

Rewritten: The weak polar sun provides little warmth.

c. Shorten

Yet another common strategy is to shorten longer phrases into a single word or shorter phrase. Always ensure that the meaning of the phrase is still captured. This helps to shorten the number of words as well as using your own words.

Example: Someone who is leading others needs to know his men. (10 words)

Rewritten: A leader needs to know his men. (7 words)

Example: The pen, pencil, eraser and writing pad are on the table. (11 words)

Rewritten: The stationery is on the table. (6 words)

d. Combine

Combining is actually a skill learnt since Primary school. It is also known as synthesis. Basically, you combine two or even more sentences into one sentence using connectors or conjunctions. The end result is usually a shorter sentence. If you combine some of the other strategies listed before, this becomes a powerful tool.

Example: The typhoon forced more than a thousand people to escape from villages in the mountains. It poured over one meter of heavy rain on mountainous areas. (26 words)

Rewritten: The typhoon forced more than a thousand people to escape from the mountainous villages due to the heavy downpour. (19 words)

Example: The human brain makes up 2 percent of a person’s weight. It consumes around 20 to 30 percent of energy. (20 words)

Rewritten: While the brain is 2 percent of a person’s weight, it consumes around 25 percent of energy. (17 words)


Rephrasing means changing word forms or even the structure of the sentence. This is a good way of ensuring the content of the point remains basically the same while making it seem like using your own words. The change of word form is especially useful when one cannot figure out a similar word, yet does not want to copy the same word. However, it seldom shortens the number of words so you should not use it exclusively.

  1. Rephrase by changing word form.

Example: Marina is confident of winning the tournament.

Rewritten: Marina has confidence in winning the tournament.

  1. Rephrase by changing sentence structure

Example: The ball kicked by James hit Shawn’s face forcefully.  

Rewritten: James kicked the ball forcefully into Shaw’s face. 

VI. Summary Writing: Completing the Summary

You are almost ready to write down the actual summary after you have substituted the words — there are only a few more steps to do.

a. Ensure word count there are only 80 words or less

Count the words in your draft. If there are more than 80 words, go through it again and cut down further using the strategies above. You should do so until there are 80 words or less.

b. Add conjunctions

Next, look at all the points and check if you can still add conjunctions to join the points together. If they are complementary points, do consider using ‘and’ to join them. You can also use ‘but’ or ‘however’ to join sentences that oppose each other.

c. Check for grammar

Finally, read through the summary one more time to check for grammar errors. Once you are confident that there are no more errors, copy the draft into your answer booklet or foolscap paper.

You are done with your summary! Hopefully, this guides helps your with your summary skills. To go back to the the first part, you can click here.

Summary Writing: Finding and Organising

In the previous post, we have discussed the requirements for the summary question and how to analyse a question. Now that you have analysed the summary question, the next step is to look for the relevant points. Let us see how it can be done.


I. Summary Writing: Finding Points

When you start looking at the relevant paragraphs, it is important that you keep the question in mind all the time. Let’s look at a simple strategy to help identifying a point and mark it down. 

First, look through each sentence and analyse if the sentence or part of the sentence answers the summary question. Remember that the student should have already analysed the question.

Once the first sentence (or phrase if the rest of the sentence is irrelevant) is found, underline or highlight it and label it with ‘1’. If this is a two-part question, then the student can label it ‘1A’ if it answers the first part or ‘1B’ if it answers the second part.

Continue with each sentence, carefully labeling each point you find in an ascending order. You need to look for 8-10 points. If there are less than eight points, you need to comb through the paragraphs again and if you have more than 10 points, what should you do? We will discuss 3 common errors so that students like you will know how to narrow down your choices.

a. Irrelevant Points

The first common error to eliminate is to cut away Irrelevant Points. It is a common mistake, especially when you are just a beginner at summary, to select points that are irrelevant to the question. So always look at each selected point again and check if it answers the summary question.

Let’s look at this summary question for example, “Summarise the ways tiger reserves benefit from tiger tourism.”

You have selected the following two phrases: “India arguably leads the way in its management of tiger reserves…” and “Fitting tiger-watching vehicles with GPS units and cameras could help enforcement of the rules…”

Both seem to say that tiger reserves have benefited from tiger tourism. If you analyse the two sentences deeper, you will realise that while the first sentence seems to hint that tiger reserves are better under the management of India, the way tiger reserves benefit is not clear. The second phrase also seems to hint that it is a benefit because rules are enforced, but it is unclear in what way the tiger reserves have benefited. Hence, both phrases should be struck off your list.

b. Repeated Points

The second strategy for narrowing down the points is to delete Repeated Points. Many writers actually repeat their points throughout their essay. They do this to emphasise the messages they want to convey. However, this might lead students to select the same point again. Thus, it is important to recognise if the same point had been stated previously.

Let’s use the summary question in the previous tip as an example. You have selected the following phrase as one of your points, “Revenues there fund anti-poaching patrols”. Somewhere further down the paragraph, the writer points out that “Revenues pay for villagers to patrol the tiger breeding areas.” Can you see that this is basically the same point, repeated twice?

To avoid this, look through all the points you have selected to check if there are repeated ideas. If there are, look through these repeated ideas and strike off the weaker one.

c. Examples

The final common error is to include Examples, thus deleting error is the final strategy. Examples are generally something that are never included in summaries. Many teachers actually do warn against adding examples, but many students still do.

How will you figure out if the point is an example? Actually, it is rather simple. Many examples are labelled “for example”, “for instance” or “as an illustration”. The important point is to understand the paragraph and if the phrase gives an example of the main idea instead of explaining it further, it is probably an example.

There is one caveat – if the question asks for you to list down examples in the summary question, then please follow that instruction. Otherwise, ignore all examples. Did you notice that when you combine the first letter of these strategies, it spells is ‘ire’? (Yes, please do this to avoid the ire of the marker!)

II. Summary Writing: Organisation

Now that you have between 8-10 points, you need to draft your final answer. Notice that I used the word ‘draft’. You need to create a draft because you need to reduce the total number of words to 80 as the words in the points you have chosen tend to add up to more than 100 words. In addition, you need to use your own words to score well for the language section.

Many students we teach completely skip writing a draft, write down all the points and submit the paper. By doing this, your summary will look untidy and difficult to mark for the marker as you cancel or add words. Students have been known to strike out their own answer and recopying their work on a new sheet of paper because they themselves get bothered by their own messy work! Do yourself a favour, write a draft and save all the trouble.

Before you start your draft, do take a look to see if your points need to be re-organised; this is especially important for multi-part summaries. If you find that all the points relating to part A are clumped together, and likewise for part B, then you can start writing your draft. However, sometimes you find that some points for Part A are scattered among the points for part B. This means that you have to make an attempt to regroup them when you start to draft.

Now that you have learnt how to retrieve the points and organise them, let us move to the next post to understand how to change these points in your words. The post can be found here.



Good Essays Primary One 2017

Good Essay

Over 2017, the students of RG Channel have written many good essays during their weekly lessons. We have carefully curated a selection of the best essays our Primary One students have written in this post. We hope you enjoy their writing as much as we have enjoyed reading and grading them.

My Favourite Activity

by Mattan Ho (Tanjong Katong Primary, Pri 1)

Good Essay, Reading

My favourite activity is reading.

I like to read in the living room because it is so bright.

I read after I come back from school.

I continue reading the book during the weekend.

I read with my mother and father.

I read a new story book every month.

I like to read very much because books are so funny and interesting.

My Favourite Activity

by Jia Guo Dong (Tanjong Katong Primary, Pri 1)


Good Essay Swimming

My favourite activity is swimming.

I swim in the pool at Chinese Swimming Club.

I swim during the weekend.

When I was younger, my mum taught me to swim but now I swim by myself.

I wear swimming trunks to swim.

I like swimming because swimming is fun and the water is cool.

I hope that I can swim very well one day.

My Favourite Activity

by Christie Tan (Methodist Girls’ School, Pri 1)

My favourite activity is baking.

I started baking when I was five years old.

I usually bake during the school holidays.

Once, I baked a rainbow cake and my family loved it so much that they wanted me to bake some more.

I like baking because my mum inspires me with the delicious cakes that she bakes.

I hope I can become a great baker like my mum one day.

Good Essay Baking

Improve Creative Writing by Understanding Your Teacher’s Marking

Understand Your Teacher's Marking

Did you know that when an excellent teacher marks an essay, he will put in annotations to indicate the specific grammar error in order to help the child? Most of the time, the teacher will let the student know what these annotations mean. However, whether the student remembers what they mean is another matter. They will also probably not be able to explain them to their parents. How can students understand and remember the different annotations? I am sure most parents will agree that understanding the teacher’s marking is important – it allows students to understand the error and be more careful the next time! Let us give you a table of common annotations so that you can refer to it whenever you see an annotation by your child’s teacher.

Key to Marking:

P          punctuation

Sp        spelling

T           tenses

Stc         sentence structure

Gr          grammar

V            vocabulary

SVA        subject verb agreement

Exp         wrong expression

//             start new paragraph

^^^          elaborate / more details

?             unclear / does not make sense

This list is not complete and some teachers might have their own annotations, but many teachers do use the same ones.

This ends RG’s 12-part series on how to help improve your child’s creative writing. If you are interested to know more about our courses, do give us a call at 6344 3398 or leave behind your name and email on our contact form. To go back to the index page, click here.

Improve Creative Writing by Varying Sentences II

varying sentences

In the previous tip, we learnt two ways of varying sentences: using different sentence types and length of sentences. In this post, I will discuss a more difficult way to vary sentences. This method involves sentence synthesis skills: looks like all the hard work your child put in to practise sentence synthesis can also help in his writing as well!

Let us establish a common understanding first and talk about simple sentences. Simple sentences contain a subject (the focus of the sentence), a verb (what they are doing) and they also need to have a complete idea. Thus many simple sentences tend to be short. A simple sentences could be “Lucas (subject) threw (verb) the ball at Rui Feng (complete idea). Most children have no issue with this. However, an essay full of simple sentences is not will end of being boring and monotonous (remember the quote from the previous blog?)

Using the short sentence as a base, I am going discuss how you can get your child to form longer sentences.

Varying Sentences by Adding a Conjunction

By adding a conjunction between two or more simple sentences, we can create a compound or complex sentence. Let’s look at these two simple sentences, “They got to the stadium early. They had good seats.” By adding ‘and’, the sentence becomes “They got to the stadium early and had good seats.” Some conjunctions that help connect simple sentences are “and”, “but”, “yet”, “or” and “so”, etc. Please note that I am not going to expound on the difference between a compound and complex sentence. This needs another blog post.

Varying Sentences by Using a Semicolon

Your child can also add a semicolon between two simple sentences. While it does not change the meaning, doing so will show-off your child’s ability to use correct punctuation, it also creates some variety (rather than sentences separated by full stops).  Let’s look at another example. “Italy is my favourite country. In fact, I plan to spend two weeks there next year.” By adding a semicolon, it becomes, “Italy is my favourite country; in fact, I plan to spend two weeks there next year.” Do note that the semicolon indicates the two sentences are closely related to each other, as in the above example. Just a note of caution, DO NOT mistakenly use a comma to join two simple sentences together. Ensure your child understands the difference between a comma and a semicolon. For a irrelevant look at how to use a semicolon, read this rather funny illustration.

This ends the two parts, which shows four ways to vary a sentence. We now move on to the final part of how to improve Creative Writing.

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Improve Creative Writing by Varying Sentences I

varying sentences

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Gary Provost

This is the first part of a quote you might have seen popping up in various posts on English. Quite rightly, this is a monotonous and boring piece of writing. How can it be improved? The only way is by varying sentences. Let’s us explore this idea!

Varying sentence types

The simplest way to vary sentences is to add other types of sentences like an interrogative sentence (a question) or an exclamatory sentence (an exclamation that expresses a strong emotion) into your writing. To help you along, let us just do a quick revision on the Four types of sentences:

  • declarative sentence simply makes a statement or expresses an opinion. For example, James is good writer.
  • An imperative sentence gives a command or makes a request. For example, please sit down.
  • An interrogative sentence asks a question. For example, when are you going to complete your assignment?
  • An exclamatory sentence is a sentence that expresses great emotion such as excitement, surprise, happiness and anger, and ends with an exclamation point. For example, watch out!

Vary the length of your sentences

Short sentences show action and create a faster pace while longer sentences slow down the action and make the reader think more. In other words, when your child is trying to show lots of action, make him write short sentences. When the child is supposed to slow down (remember stretching the tension?) or describing thoughts and emotions, then ask your child to write longer sentences.

By using a variety of long and short, your child’s story will sound more interesting. This will help him score well for language. I know that some children may struggle with long sentences. In the next tip, I will cover synthesising sentences within an essay to achieve a better flow of sentence structures within a story.

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The Perfect Ending to Improve Creative Writing


Having a memorable ending or conclusion helps your child’s essay stand out. How can we do this? Let’s turn to time tested solutions in Classical Greek theatre. Greek plays are generally divided into comedies and tragedies. This is basically what we call a happy and sad ending. In addition, they also have what is called a tragicomedy. While this concept is complex, we have distilled it to a simpler form to help your child create a memorable story that stands out from among those of his peers.


My definition of a tragicomedy is one in which the hero succeeds but meets with a minor failure (usually personal) or when the hero fails but succeeds in his task due to external circumstances. Let’s look at the following examples:

Ending Type 1

The first is based on the theme of “a close escape”. The main character has forgotten to bring something to school. Despite his best attempts to borrow the item or buy it from the bookshop, he fails. He is ‘saved’ when the teacher who requires that item is called away on some emergency. This is an unusual storyline that will make his essay stand out.

Ending Type 2

In another example, let’s imagine the theme is “a challenging problem”. The main character solves the problem after some difficulty. However, the praises make him so swell-headed that he trips and falls in a ‘live’ interview. He has succeeded but suffers a small personal failure.

Both examples are story lines that are a little different from the general stories other students will write. This will help your child’s essay to stand out a bit more.

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Stretching the Tension for Creative Writing in Primary School

Stretch Tension

In our previous posts, we discussed how to help your child to express emotions in their stories using the IDEA method. Another way your child can improve his essay is by improving the way the climax of his story is presented. We calling this ‘stretching the tension’. Let’s start by looking at how one of the masters of storytelling uses this method:

“Suddenly, she froze. There was something coming up the street on the opposite side. It was something black … Something tall and black … Something very tall and very black and very thin.”

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl could have simply revealed what ‘she’ in the story saw straight away, but he chose to reveal only bits and pieces of information to the readers in order to keep them in suspense before the final revelation.

This is an important tip to help your child achieve a climax in his story – by stretching the tension.

A moment of tension can be stretched out in 4 steps:

  1. Action / Non-action
  2. Bits of Dialogue
  3. Character’s thoughts/ feelings/ inner sensations
  4. 5 senses (what the character saw/ heard/ touched etc.)

Bad example:

Amy fell off the ladder.

Good example:

Amy felt the ladder wobble. “Aargh!” she screamed, throwing out her arms. The room became a sudden blur. Fear gripped her. She tried to grab something but her fingers closed on thin air.

As you can see from the good example, instead of just saying that Amy fell off the ladder, her emotions, what she saw, what she tried to do and so on, expressed. This makes the reader wonder what was going to happen to Amy and feel compelled to read further. This is what contributes to a good story.

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Emotions through Actions for Creative Writing in Primary School


Now that we have gone through the first three letters of the IDEA technique, we are now moving to the final letter of the IDEA technique. “A”, the last letter, stands for Action. How can your child use this technique? Remember the simple rule of “show, not tell”? By using the character’s actions, your child can show how his character responds to the development of the plot and paint a great picture of emotions in a story.

Bad example:

James was upset that the bully had ruined his project.

Good example:

James sank down on the concrete steps and sat motionless for minutes. He stared at his broken project with sad, empty eyes.

To summarise, the IDEA technique comprises of Inner Sensations, Dialogue, Emotions and Action. Your child can choose to use these four different parts together or separately. By using this method, your child will be able to write well-developed stories that will score well not only for content but also for language.

With this post, I have completed the IDEA technique. Now, we will move on to writing a good climax for a story. A good climax is essential for any good story, but it is a skill not easily mastered. Please watch out for it in my next blog. To go back to the index to access the earlier materials, please click here

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Emotions through Inner Thoughts for Creative Writing in Primary School

In my previous blog post, I touched on creating dialogue as a way to help characters express emotions. For this post, I am going touch on using inner thoughts to display emotions. This is the third part of the IDEA method and ‘E’ stands for emotional expressions.  The key to this is the simple rule of “show, not tell”. Do not write phrases like “he was angry” or “she was sad”. Use his thoughts to show his emotions.

Bad example:

James was upset that the bully had ruined his project.

Good example:

The memory of Shawn stepping on his project kept replaying in his mind. Disappointment, and a sense of being useless, overcame him. How could someone be so nasty?

Just like the previous methods, your child needs to know how to develop these inner thoughts through practice. You can ask your child to develop inner thoughts for important emotions like anger, happiness, sadness, fear and excitement so that he can use can use them in his essay.

Ultimately, for a story to be well developed, it is important for the main characters to display emotions. At the same time, it is also important for your child to include these emotions as they can help with showcasing your child’s strong language skills. The IDEA method is a great way to include emotions into your child’s writing.

In the next blog, I will move on to the next technique. To go back to the index to access the earlier materials, please click here

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