Whenever you write an in-depth business document, you should include an executive summary. This, as the name suggests, is a brief summary of the report itself. But how exactly do you write one? Check out our tips on writing an executive summary below to find out.
1. What to Include in an Executive Summary
The exact format of an executive summary will depend on what you are summarizing. However, as a general guideline, try to include:
A brief explanation of the subject matter and why it is important
The results or findings of the report (plus methods used if applicable)
Any conclusions that can be drawn from the findings
Any recommendations or proposals for what to do next
Keep in mind that the executive summary needs to make sense by itself, as you cannot assume that the reader will find time to read the full report.
2. Know Who You’re Writing For
Given the space available in an executive summary, it can help to tailor your writing to the person who will be reading it. Before you begin, then, ask yourself a few questions:
Who will be reading this? What do they already know about the issue?
Are you simply summarizing an issue or are you recommending an action?
How did you gather the information? Were your methods limited at all?
What are the key details you need people to take away from the summary?
These questions will help you narrow down what to include in the summary. If you are writing a report that many people will read, or you do not know who will read the summary yet, think about what the average person in your industry would need to know.
3. Keep It Short!
The key word in “executive summary” is “summary.” As such, try to make yours as clear and concise as possible. Think about it as being like the written version of an elevator pitch. The idea is to communicate the vital details and, ideally, to convince the reader to read the full report. As such, make sure that your summary is no more than 10% as long as the overall report.
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4. Format for Skim Reading
If possible, include charts, graphs, or bullet points in the summary. These can highlight key details so that skim readers do not miss anything important. It also helps to break up the summary into sections with clear headings, which will help readers find information at a glance.
5. Avoid Unnecessary Jargon
When you’re trying to make your point clearly and concisely, industry jargon will get in the way. This isn’t to say that you can’t use technical language when necessary. But, whenever possible, try to express your ideas in simple terms (the complicated stuff can go in the full report).
Summary: 5 Tips for Writing an Executive Summary
If you are writing an executive summary for a business report, keep the following in mind:
Make sure your executive summary makes sense by itself, and that it includes all of the key details you need your reader to take away.
Think about who will read the summary and tailor it accordingly.
Make sure it is no more than 10% as long as the overall report.
Use formatting, bullet points, and section headings to boost readability.
Keep the language used simple and avoid jargon wherever possible.
Finally, make sure to get it proofread before you finish. That way, you can be 100% sure it is typo free and ready to use!