Saturday, April 08, 2006

Summarizing Successfully, Part 6: Substance

When considering content for the executive summary, remember these tips:

Condense what you’ve already said in the lengthier document. Add nothing new. If your document has an informational flavor, do not use the executive summary to editorialize. Moreover, do not use this precious space to evaluate what you have written. Resist the urge to write, “Our Company stands at the threshold of a monumental decision which could explode profits and trigger a new era of unprecedented prosperity.” Leave that chatter for your upcoming interview with the reporter from The Wall Street Journal. In short, claim only what you have already claimed in the document.

Include only information relevant to the report or proposal. Cutting sections entirely is advisable if they do not advance the key sentence you established when beginning the executive summary.

Remember the 10 percent maximum rule.
Keep the executive summary to fewer than 100 words for a 1,000-word report, to fewer than 1,000 words for a 10,000-word proposal, and so on. While this may not be a hard-and-fast rule, it makes for a sound guideline. Most executive summaries that sparkle meet this criterion.

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