Saturday, April 01, 2006

Summarizing Successfully, Part 5: Structure

When organizing the content of an executive summary, follow these guidelines:

Design the structure of the executive summary based on your argument. Doing so provides a virtual table of contents for those readers interested in a more detailed examination of the document.

Limit the executive summary to a few paragraphs, each of which can stand alone as a coherent, unified idea. You’ll know that your paragraphs are rock solid if you can give each a one- or two-word title (e.g., recommendation, background, principles, observations, conclusions)—with each sentence in the paragraph relating to that title.

Place the executive summary at the front of the document on its own page or pages. Occasionally, writers place the executive summary at the end of the document. This practice defeats the point of its function—to summarize quickly and easily for the intended reader. Placing it in the front as a separate document enables the reader to separate and catalogue it for easy reference.

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