An Executive Summary About Executive Summaries

WRITTEN May 23, 2017 Author: Rich Atkins

Why Write an Executive Summary?

Executives are busy. The Executive Summary will decide if your ideas get attention. It is your chance to tell the reader why they want to keep reading. Whether proposing to your boss or to a potential client, make sure they have the pertinent facts.

  1. Know you audience.
  2. Match your writing to their wants / needs.
  3. Approach with the appropriate tone (depends on audience).

The Executive Summary is the preface of your report. Similar to a cover letter on a resume, it is your chance to showcase the value you will provide. It should include only major details. The longer document will contain analysis, charts, numbers, reviews, and other minutiae.

The Executive Summary may be the only thing the reader will read.

In some cases, evaluators will read the summary to decide if they even want to read the rest of the report, or eventually take further action. This is your chance to gain an advantage and make the persuasive case, ultimately to promote the reason why they would want to select your ideas versus your competitors.

The GOAL is to grab the reader’s attention – inviting her/him to read further. Determine which pieces of information are the most important to that client. List them. These may become your paragraph headings.

  • Reduce the essence of your document, the critical points, down to a page. Don’t introduce any new ideas.
  • Decide what is important to the reader, and discard nonessential info.
  • Tell your story in as few words as possible.

Executive summaries should be 1-2 pages. Some companies include word or line limits for the summary. Adhere to those guidelines exactly. If you can’t tell your story in a page or two, then you’re not clear on it. It should be 5-10% of the length of the original document.

When it comes to submitting any proposal, it is up to you to get it noticed. You have one chance to make it stand out from the competition. A well-written Executive Summary will make that happen. 


This information is from the Business Writing and Sales and Negotiations classes. If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our public classes.

Other Resources:

How to write a compelling Executive Summary   Inc.com

How to write an effective Executive Summary Bplans.com

Writing the Project Summary and Project Description FSU.com

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