Executive summaries are key business documents, allowing busy professionals to learn vital information at a glance. But what goes into a good executive summary? And how do you proofread one effectively? Check out our guide to executive summaries to find out.
What Is an Executive Summary?
Ideally, decision makers at a company will read reports and other documents in full before making a decision. But reading every document such people receive in full would take a long time. As such, busy professionals often rely on executive summaries.
A good executive summary will communicate the essence of the full document. It thus needs to present the key points, conclusions, and recommendations in an easily digestible format. Typically, this should be around 5–10% of the length of the document being summarized.
What Does an Executive Summary Include?
There is no set structure or content for an executive summary, but most will include:
- A short introduction stating the subject of the document and/or the problem it addresses.
- If applicable, brief details of the methods used for the research/analysis.
- A summary of the key findings or results from the full document.
- A short statement setting out key conclusions and recommendations.
For any executive summary, this will involve omitting certain details. But this is fine as long as it includes the essential information the reader needs to make a decision or take action.
Proofreading Executive Summaries
In most respects, proofreading an executive summary is like proofreading any other business document: i.e., it should be clear, concise, professional in tone, and error free.
However, there are some factors to consider that are more specific to executive summaries:
- Length – As noted above, a typical executive summary is 5–10% of the length of the full document. If your client’s summary is much longer than this, you may need to suggest edits for concision. Making cuts directly would be beyond a standard proofreading remit, but you can leave comments if any passages could be cut without losing anything essential (e.g., a common error is providing too much detail or background information).
- Inconsistencies with the main document – If you are proofreading both the summary and the full document, make sure the terminology and content match. You can usually correct inconsistent terms directly, but you should flag content issues for the client.
- Audience – Executive summaries need to be easy to understand, so they should be tailored to their audience. You may therefore need to make minor changes to ensure it is accessible for the intended reader (e.g., rephrasing technical jargon in everyday language).
- Missing information – Your client will typically have a good sense of the key details to include in an executive summary based on its intended reader. However, if you have the full document and you spot important information that seems to be missing from the summary, you may want to highlight this for your client in case they omitted it accidentally.
Keep these points in mind when proofreading executive summaries of business documents.
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