Definition of "Executive Summary"

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When compiling a lengthy report for work, it is often necessary to include an executive summary at the beginning. The executive summary is basically a one-page overview of the report that executives can read to understand the purpose of the entire report. An executive summary should follow a specific format.

Purpose

According to Colorado State University, the executive summary is typically written for an executive who does not have time to read the original report. Because the original report may not be read by everyone, it is important that all details in the summary be correct. The summary should include the recommendation or call to action that appears in the report as well. In some cases, an executive summary may summarize more than one report.

Format

The executive summary should begin with an introduction that explains the problem addressed by the report and how you propose to solve that problem. The body should include a summary of everything in the report, including test results and materials or personnel needed, and end with a conclusion and recommendations as to what steps the reader should take next.

Process

Condensing an entire report onto one page is a daunting task. Begin by writing a summary of each section of your report. Take those summaries and highlight the most important information that must be included in the summary. In the case of statistics and facts, it may be appropriate to reference them rather than state them explicitly so as to give the reader the main idea.

Expert Insight

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, "the executive summary should be the last section you write." For longer plans or reports, create a table of contents to follow your summary. The SBA recommends avoiding detailed descriptions in the table of contents, striving for broad content titles instead that will make it easier for the reader to find referenced information.

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