Executive summaries are written for an executive or decision-maker who most likely does not have the time or inclination to read the original document but will be reviewing your findings and looking at your recommendations.

It is a “quick preview” of a report’s contents and is often the only source of information used by decision-makers to reach significant decisions. It’s essential that your executive summary includes only relevant and important information.

To write a successful executive summary, think about what an executive would need to know to make a decision about changing a policy, undertaking an action or spending money. Then write a summary to provide that information as specifically and concisely as you can.

 

  • Provide a brief overview of the whole document so that executives or managers could read the executive summary alone without the accompanying document itself

  • Allow the reader to understand the information contained in the document quickly

  • Help readers draw conclusions and make decisions based on the data

  • Persuade the reader that the material is worthy of being read

 

  • Give readers the essential contents of your document in a small number of pages (typically 5-10% of the total document). Check with your instructor concerning the word length.

  • The summary should be original. Don’t copy and paste sentences from the full report.

  • Use bullet points, subtitles or selective bolding to improve clarity and to make it easier for the reader to skim

  • Use active verbs such as “we will do it” not “it will be done by us”

  • Be concise

    • Remove all unnecessary words

    • Omit lengthy transitions and examples

  • The summary should not have reference citations

  • The language should be for the general, educated reader, not for the technical expert

  • Avoid highly technical language and briefly define any technical terms you must use

  • Spell out any uncommon symbols, abbreviations or acronyms

  • Avoid jargon, legalistic words and bureaucratic language

  • The summary should communicate independently of the report. Ask someone not familiar with it to read your executive summary to see if it makes sense.

 

Executive Summaries are provided on a separate page at the beginning of the report before the Table of Contents. They should cover in brief statements the aim, methods used, significant findings and conclusions/recommendations.

1. State the purpose/aim of the report. Make sure you present the central message of the document. For example:

      The primary purpose of this report is to…
      The main objectives of this report are …
      It is the purpose of this document to …

2. Describe the procedure that you used. Outline the methods you used to analyze the situation.

3. Provide the results of the study. The significant findings may include many sentences.  What did you observe, discover or understand?

4. Conclusions and recommendations should also be provided. This is the most critical part of your Executive Summary. Provide a concise statement of the outcome you reached after conducting your analysis and/or research. Provide a specific recommendation for action geared toward your audience.

 

Executive Writing (UBC)

Executive Summaries (Texas A&M University)

Good and Poor Examples of Executive Summaries (UniLearning, University of Wollongong)

Writing Guide: Executive Summaries (Colorado State University)