Writing an Executive Summary

What is an executive summary? In business, some executives are simply too busy to read all the important articles that are published about their industry. So, they have an employee who reads the article for them and writes a summary of the important highlights. Then the executive just reads this short summary and gets the basic idea of what was said in the article.

In order for the summary to be effective, it needs to meet certain criteria:
• It needs to be accurate. It has to include all the major highlights. And it cannot mislead the executive about what the true messages in the article were. The writer of the summary, therefore, needs to have read the entire article carefully — and sometimes several times –- to make sure that he or she truly does understand the article. The executive is expecting the summary writer to have excellent reading skills!
• The summary has to be short, or the executive may as well have read the entire article! Make sure the summary is no more than a page. Never go on to a second page.
• The summary also needs to be a quick read. Keep the paragraphs short.
• Do not include any in-text citations in the summary, even when direct quoting from the article. There are three reasons for this rule: 1) the in-text citations slow down the reading. 2) The executive isn’t reading the summary for that kind of accountability. The executive just wants to know what the article is about. 3) Obviously all facts and direct quotes came from the article, so there’s no need to cite anyway.

How to Write the Assignment #17 Executive Summary:
Step 1: Read the article that’s posted on the Project 3 link. It’s called “College Tracking Students.” If you need to read it more than once to understand it, then do so.

Step 2: Divide the article into four to six chunks. Seriously “divide” it — pretend you have a hard copy and draw lines that separate the article into four, five, or six sections.

Step 3: Write a paragraph summarizing each of the sections. So you will have four, five, or six paragraphs. And keep the content in the same order as the original article. Things that were talked about at the beginning of the article should be in the beginning of your summary. Things that were talked about at the end of the article should be at the end of your summary.

Important Reminder: This is a summary of the article, not a review. The executive doesn’t want to know what you think about the article, so don’t tell us it’s “interesting” or “incomplete” or “boring” or “shocking” or whatever. Just tell us what the article says. We don’t care what you think about it.

Layout:
• Put the title on the first line of the file. Here’s the title of your document:

Executive Summary of “Colleges are Turning Students’ Phones into Surveillance Machines,” by Drew Harwell. Washington Post, Dec. 24, 2019.

• Then type the paragraphs summarizing the article. Use full block typing format. (You might want to review the “Notes on Full Block Typing” handout on the Writing Handouts link.)
• If for some reason, the summary morphs over to a second page, go back and delete some of the wordiness. Make sure it fits on one sheet of paper.

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