Superstitions – Precis Writing

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Wren and Martin Chapter 38: Precis Writing, Exercise 148, Sample 2 | Precis Title: Superstitions


There are hundreds of superstitions which survive in various parts of the country, and the study of them is rather amusing. We are told, for example, that it is unlucky to point to the new moon or to look at it through glass, but if we bow nine times to it we shall have a lucky month.

Now suppose you tell a scientist that you believe in a certain superstition – let us say, that the howling of a dog is a sign of death. The scientist will immediately require evidence before he can accept your belief. He will want figures to prove it. It will be useless to quote two or three cases; he will want  hundreds. He will want also to know (a) if it ever happens that the howling of dogs is not followed by a death, (b) if ever a person’s death is predicted by the howling of dogs. The answer to the former question is in the affirmative, and to the latter in the negative. Your superstition will not bear investigation. It may impress an ignorant person; but it cannot face the light of facts. Your case would not carry conviction in a court of law.

Apart from this process of testing by results, any intelligent man will want to know the “reason why”. What connection can there be between a howling dog and an approaching death? Can it be cause and effect? Can it be that the dog has a gift of foreseeing such events? Or is the dog the instrument employed by some uncanny power that moves
invisibly in our midst?


Superstitions survive in various parts of the country. And, the study of them amuses people. For example, we are told that if one points to a new moon or looks at it through glass, that person will have a bad night or day. However, if he bows to it nine times, he shall have a lucky month.

Now, suppose you attempt to convince a scientist that you believe dogs howl when they predict death. The scientist would not believe you unless he gets some evidence, a lot of cases and the answer to the question – is it really true that dogs howl when they predict death? If the answer is in the affirmative, he will proceed investigating. But, if it is not, your superstition will not invite investigation. Apart from this process, an intelligent man will think of questions like “Is there any relation between a dog’s howling and a person’s death.” Are dogs gifted with a power of foreseeing such events?