The report examines each of these in detail and then makes a recommendation

You can see that this version simply announces the topic; it doesn't give the recommendation (buy from wholesalers). Readers of executive summaries especially want the recommendation—that's often the main reason they're looking at the report.

A second problem with executive summaries is that they may use unfamiliar jargon. Often reports—especially technical ones—take care to define new terms before they use those terms later in the report. Poor executive summaries sometimes include those same terms—without defining them.

There's a great temptation to use the undefined terminology in the summary because defining it might take up valuable space. That's true, but the answer is not to use the unfamiliar terminology anyway. The answer is to find plain English equivalents so you can talk in general terms.

For example, suppose I'm writing a report on types of writing needs for people in business. I wouldn't use the term syntactic fluency in the executive summary, even though that term might be crucial in the report, itself. Instead, for the summary, I'd use a plain English paraphrase: "help people learn to vary their sentence structure." I'll wait to use the technical term until I've defined it in the report, itself.

And a third problem with executive summaries is that inexperienced writers sometimes create them by cutting and pasting sentences and paragraphs from the report. The resulting summaries tend to be fragmented and incoherent.

Now on to some ways to improve layout—which computers have made not only possible, but fun!

MORE ABOUT LAYOUT

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