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What Is an Executive Summary & How To Write One

Formal business writing must be efficient and to the point. As a result, many corporate documents have an executive summary at the very beginning. If writing reports is part of your job, here's everything you need to know about this vital document section.

What is an Executive Summary?

It's a short section at the top of a report, usually one or a few pages long. Also called a summary, synopsis, or abstract, this section is common in the following documents:

It should summarize the report's main points, allowing readers to gauge their interest at a glance. Therefore, every word counts.

Investors and stakeholders may read a synopsis to determine whether a project is worth putting money into. Managers and C-suite executives read them to determine if they should read a report immediately or if the information doesn't require swift action.

Benefits of Executive Summary

First of all, your audience likely expects a summary. Higher-ups and stakeholders have a lot on their plates; if they had to read every report in its entirety, it's all they'd ever do. A concise explanation provides enough data for these individuals to prioritize related tasks.

Second, a well-written abstract acts as a hook. A summary is the best way to grab investors' interest, increasing the likelihood of funding your project.

Third, this section provides an overview to keep readers on track. Depending on the topic, your report may be hundreds of pages long. It's easy to get lost in the weeds, particularly if the subject is technical. Readers can always return to the summary to remind themselves of the big picture, helping them digest details and understand how they fit into the organization and its operations.

Writing a Great Executive Summary

Learning how to write an executive summary is essential for anyone involved with project management. Your superiors will likely use abstracts to determine whether to green-light a project or provide more funding, meaning your entire team relies on your ability to craft a compelling synopsis.

What should you include in your summary? The following are commonly included points:

  • Recommendations, conclusions, or results

  • The problem or need

  • Your proposed solution

  • Implementation plan

  • Evidence supporting your solution, including market, financial, and other analysis

You may incorporate more details as long as they support the main idea of the summary. Remember, it's better to deviate from the formula and create a strong abstract rather than adhere to it and write a confusing, weak one.

Examples of an Executive Summary

While all summaries share certain traits, each one you write should look different depending on the purpose:

  • To convince an investor to fund your project

  • To explain the progress of your project to a higher-up

  • To break down the issues facing a department

Everything in your abstract should relate to this purpose.

The following is a template describing each section of an effective summary. Feel free to use it as an outline for your own work:

  • Mission Statement/Introduction: Introduce your company or project. Explain the problem you aim to fix or need you plan to fill. Include data to support your assertions.

  • Products and Services: Explain how your company fixes the problem. Detail what makes your approach different and why the reader should choose it.

  • Financial Considerations: Ask for funding. Be specific with your amounts and clear how you plan to use the funds.

  • Conclusions: Briefly reiterate your most important points. Emphasize how the reader will benefit.

Now that you have an executive summary example to reference, it's time to tackle your own. By practicing this skill and reading more samples, you can streamline the writing process and deliver top-notch abstracts every time.

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