Effective Executive Summary Format: Useful Tips

July 6, 2017

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You definitely need the skills of writing executive summaries if you have to work with long documents. It is essential to make every summary relevant and effective notwithstanding the sphere of your work. You can be engaged in real estate, education, banking, law, insurance or any other type of activity; in any case, you will benefit from learning more about writing great summaries.

Summary Writing: Clues and Solutions

How can one define an executive summary? Being different from the introduction, it is a brief paragraph at the beginning of a long proposal, article, report or recommendation that contains summarization of content. What should it include? It is a short variant of the long paper that contains answers to the main readers’ questions and can be read during approximately one minute.
The main questions that the readers typically ask are the following:

What is the article about?
– What makes it special?
– What are the key outputs and main findings?
– What should be the further action?
– How can the obtained findings be used?

The questions related to a recommendation or a proposal are the following:
– What is it about?
– What is recommended or offered?
– What is the reason for a proposal?
– What can be the following action?

Business writing is always a challenging task. However, it is important to be able to summarize, for example, an internal audit report in about 100 words to provide the main idea to the executives.

How to start writing an executive summary?

The main secret is that the executive summary is placed at the beginning of the document; however, actually, it is written last. Only when the content of the main document is finalized, it is possible to summarize everything effectively. Typical mistakes made in executive summaries are:

1. Repetitions
Please note that you should not bore your readers with the same things said again and again. Business writing implies the clarity and comprehensiveness of the text.

2. Excessive details
Do not provide too many background details in the executive summary. You can do that either in the introduction, a special section for background, or somewhere in the body.

3. Difference in terms
Make sure that the terms in the report coincide with those in the executive summary.

4. Divergence in content
A summary cannot cover anything that is not included in the main report. Simultaneously, all the main aspects of the report should be highlighted in the summary.

5. Wrong length
A good executive summary should be from one paragraph to one page long. It should cover only the key results, findings, recommendations, and outputs.

6. Summary equals conclusion
A conclusion should be a wrap-up to conclude the main points of the report.

Thus, the main task of the executive summary is to enable any readers to understand the main idea of the document at once, as notwithstanding the number of pages in it, it presents a core of the paper.


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