Business Communications: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Being able to distill information quickly and accurately is an important study skill. Academic, peer-reviewed articles provide you with an abstract, but an abstract just gives you a general idea whether the article is worth skimming or reading. An executive summary of a business report, however, is a document that—while concise—should pro-vide enough information to allow executives to act on it without necessarily having to read every word of the report. If you are asked to summarize a news article, for example, you need to provide the gist of it to the reader who then ought to be able to clearly understand the original without having to read it. As a rule of thumb, executive summaries tend to be nutshell versions, boiled down to approximately 10 per-cent, of the original. A 100-page report might result in an executive summary of up to ten pages. If the report has five sections, the executive summary needs to address each of these sections, too. Think of the executive summary as a miniature version of the original document, following the structure but leaving out details, examples, and other supporting information. Another benefit of being able to summarize skillfully is that you verify your understanding of the concepts in your reading. If you can’t summarize the original accurately from memory, in your own words, you probably need to reread it to understand it better.
- Select a substantial news analysis or feature article in a reputable business publication, i.e., The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Bloomberg Business week, Money, Forbes, The Financial Times, or the business sections of big U.S. dailies (e.g., The New York Times, The Washing-ton Post, or U.S. News & World Report).
- Choose an article of length and substance, at least 2,000 words long. Tip: If you access the article in a research database, a word count will be provided for you.
- Write an executive summary, retaining the basic structure of the original, choosing precise, specific words for conciseness, while omitting details and examples that only serve as supporting evidence or explanation. Do not distort the meaning or inject your own opinion. Your summary can be up to 200 words long, i.e., two short paragraphs.
- Provide the source and other citation information for your assignment.
Read Our Guide To Help You Get Started
Step 1: Get the Lay of the Land
Before anything else, make sure you really understand what your assignment is asking for. You’re going to write an executive summary of a meaty article from a well-known business publication. This summary should boil down the article to its essentials, without any frills or extras, but also without distorting the article’s main message.
Step 2: Hunt for the Perfect Article
Now, it’s time to pick the article you’ll summarize. Look for something engaging and substantial in a top-tier business publication. It should be a long read, at least 2,000 words. This way, you’ll have plenty to dig into.
Step 3: Dive Into the Article
With your article chosen, take your time to really understand it. What are the key points? How is it structured? What’s the main theme of each section? Get cozy with it.
Step 4: Blueprint Your Summary
Before you start writing, sketch an outline of your summary. Stick to the original article’s structure and condense each section down to its key points. This will be your guide as you write.
Step 5: Put Pen to Paper
Now, it’s time to write your summary. Keep it short and sweet, within a 200-word limit. Remember, your job isn’t to give your opinion—it’s to distill the article down to its essence.
Step 6: Take a Fresh Look
Done with the first draft? Awesome! Now, put on your editor’s hat and review what you’ve written. Make sure it flows well, makes sense, and doesn’t stray from the article’s key points. Check for any sneaky spelling or grammar mistakes too.
Step 7: Give Credit Where It’s Due
At the end of your summary, make sure to give the original article a proper shout-out with a citation. Include all the necessary details—article title, author(s), where it was published, and when.
Step 8: The Final Touches
Last but not least, give your summary one last read-through. This is your chance to catch any last-minute errors and make sure you’ve nailed the assignment’s requirements.
Remember, the goal of an executive summary is to be a bite-sized version of the article that still provides a hearty understanding of the main points. Have fun with it and happy writing!