On this date in 1922 the first edition of Reader’s Digest was published. The magazine was the brainchild of DeWitt Wallace, who was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1889. Recovering from wounds he suffered while serving in World War I, DeWitt began working on his idea of publishing a monthly periodical featuring condensed versions of articles from other magazines.
With the help of his wife Lila, Wallace published the first edition of the Reader’s Digest, producing 1,500 copies and selling each for 10 cents. By the end of the decade the circulation had reached more than 200,000, and in the 1930s, Wallace expanded his company to include condensed books. In addition to its smaller, condensed articles, the magazine itself is half the size of a typical magazine, just about small enough to put in your back pocket. The circulation for Reader’s Digest, however, is not small; it has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in the world (1).
Today’s Challenge: Read, Ruminate, and Digest
How can you paraphrase the main points of an article in 50 words? In order to write a summary, or to digest an article by breaking it down to its essential points, you must read carefully. The purpose of a summary is to capture the writer’s main point your own words. Select an article of at least 250 words, and write a 50-word summary. Use the following step to guide you:
Step 1: Read and annotate the text carefully, focusing on the main ideas and main details. Underline key ideas, and circle any unfamiliar vocabulary. Remember, the purpose of a summary is to sum-up the writer’s idea, not your reaction to the writer’s ideas. So, resist the temptation to inject your opinion.
Step 2: Draft a brief summary in your own words on a separate piece of paper that captures the writer’s main point or claim. Don’t include the author and title in your summary. Also, don’t waste words saying things like: “this article is about” or “the author argues that.” Instead, just state the main ideas. Don’t worry about the number of words until you have finished your draft.
Step 3: Revise and edit your summary. Count the number of words and revise as necessary to write the most clear, concise, and correct summary of exactly 50 words. Read your revised draft aloud to make sure that it is clear, that the sentences are complete, and that there are no wasted words.
Step 4: Write the final draft of your summary. On the line above the final draft of your summary, write the author’s last and first name, followed by the article’s title. Then, on the line below the author/title, legibly write your complete final draft of your 50-word summary.
Quotation of the Day: The dead carry with them to the grave in their clutched hands only that which they have given away. -Dewitt Wallace