Business Writing Tip #47—Writing a Summary

Sometimes at work you will need to write a summary. You may need to create an executive summary for a report, or to summarise a meeting. You may need to summarise some of your reading material to present to colleagues.summary

But how do you go about it? Here are some steps that you can use to create a summary.

  1. Create an outline. To produce an effective outline read the content that you are summarizing and divide it into sections using headings and subheadings. As you are reading your notes or source material highlight key points and statements. Take note of any sentences that themselves summarise the piece. Also mark any passages that have too much detail or are off-topic. This creates visual cues—it will remind you of what to include and what to leave out when you get down to the writing task.
  2. For each section you have identified write just once sentence that outlines the main point of that section (key sentence). Remember to look at any summary sentences that you identified. They can be very helpful. And remember to ignore the parts you marked as too detailed or off-topic.
  3. Use these sentences to write an introductory sentence which says what the summary is about.
  4. Using your introductory sentence, headings and key sentences as the bare bones of your skeleton, add some flesh. Start writing your summary using transitional words and sentences. Paraphrase the main ideas from the original material. If you include direct quotes, make sure it is clear that they are quotes and where they come from.
  5. Check your summary.
    1. Make sure your summary is shorter than the original material. If it’s not, it’s not a summary!
    2. Check that you have included the main ideas.
    3. Check your spelling and grammar.
    4. Ask someone else to read it as well to make sure the summary makes sense

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