What to Include in an Executive Summary

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In Brief...

An executive summary is found at the beginning of longer, more detailed business proposals and other documents. It is generally not more than 10 percent of the original document. The following guidelines will help you write an executive summary.

Instructions

  1. Do not write the executive summary until AFTER the body of the proposal is written.
  2. Start with a concise statement that contains the conclusion and then follow the same organization in the summary that is in the proposal. In longer summaries, you might want to include sub-headings. If you do, make sure they match the sub-headings found in the proposal.
  3. Avoid the use of unnecessary technical language or jargon in the executive summary. This part of the document should be able to be read and understood by anyone, not just the primary audience.
  4. An executive summary should be based on the proposal; therefore, all the facts mentioned must match the detail in the proposal and be accurate.
  5. Do not mention any of the process or analysis that leads to conclusions made in the proposal. Those details are for the proposal, not the executive summary.
  6. Include recommendations or calls to action that match those of the proposal near the end of the executive summary.
  7. There should be a justification for the recommendation included in the executive summary. This might be a simple statement about increased profit or productivity, or it can be more complex, providing some, but not much, discussion of why the writer reached this conclusion.

Keep in mind that the executive summary's purpose is to sell the ideas presented in the proposal, not to describe them. You need to grab the reader's attention and compel him or her to read the entire proposal, not just the summary. Show the reader through the summary that there is a big problem either existing or coming that your proposal will resolve.

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Author: Margaux Judge

Margaux Judge has worked as an e-learning editor and instructional designer for over ten years, writing and editing a wide variety of courses, from technical topics to soft skills. She has a Bachelor's degree in English and Textual Studies from Syracuse University and a Master's degree in Television Writing from Boston University.

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