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School of Business

Executive Summary


Executive Summary Guidelines

Purpose of an Executive Summary

The executive summary is used for the following purposes:

  • To condense the main points of a long article or report so that the reader does not need to read the article
  • To provide an overview of a report for readers who will read the full report at a later date

Executive summaries are commonly used in business to provide busy executives with a quick overview of lengthy written pieces. Lower level employees are often called upon to deliver these summaries, so the skill will be important for early career success.

Format of an Executive Summary

Summaries are usually one page, but not more than two pages in length, double-spaced. A summary can be written as a narrative. In the narrative form, the writer summarizes the main points of the article using complete sentences. In this style, the writer uses few, if any, direct quotes. An executive summary may also be written in a memo-style format, utilizing bullet points made up of phrases rather than complete sentences.

Content of an Executive Summary

An executive summary is a strictly factual report of the contents of another written piece. An executive summary is not a review. As such, it does not contain an evaluation or critique of the article unless the reader has specifically requested it.

The writer must keep the audience in mind when writing the summary. Who is the primary reader? What are his/her informational needs? How much knowledge does the reader have of the topic? Keeping this information in mind will help the writer use the appropriate voice when composing the summary.

Executive Summary Rubric