Using Executive Summaries and Keeping Reports Short - Fast Forward MBA in Business communication

Most business reports are strengthened when they include an executive summary. Executive summaries save you and your reader’s time and money by focusing your readers' attention and making your arguments more persuasive in the long run.

What Constitutes a Useful Executive Summary?

There are as many definitions of executive summaries as there are problems to be solved. We find that the ideas of Charles Brusaw, et al., on executive summaries in The Business Writer's Handbook are a good starting point. Brusaw suggests that your executive summary should:


The actual development of an argument is beyond the scope of this chapter. There are, however, many good sources of information on developing logical arguments in reports and other materials. Rottenberg, Annette. 1994. Elements of Argument, 4th edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martins Press. Part : The Structure of Argument; Part : Writing and Researching Arguments. Eckhouse, Barry. 1994.

Competitive Writing: Argument & Persuasion in Modern Business. New York: McGraw-Hill. Good specific, short examples. Hollihan, Thomas, and Kevin Baaske. 1994. Arguments and Arguing. New York: St. Martins Press.Argumentation and Critical Thinking. Ramage, John, and John Bean. 1995. Writing Arguments, 3rd edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon (Simon and Schuster). Writing Arguments.

Wood, Nancy. 1995. Perspectives on Argument. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall (Simon and Schuster). Chapter: A Process for Writing Argument. Toulmin, Stephen. 1958. The Uses of Argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Theory, The layout of arguments. In addition to applying the basic principles of a good argument as outlined in Tolman and others, remember that in a business setting, the best argument presents information that will enable a decision maker to make the best decision. Presenting biased data doesn't facilitate good decision making.

  1. Consolidate the primary points
  2. Contain adequate detail to show significance
  3. Be used to make decisions
  4. Be written after completing report
  5. Contain little technical terminology
  6. Be concise, but use transitions
  7. Contain no new information (information not in full report)
  8. Include figures/tables from full report, but does not reference full report's figures/tables
  9. Contain definitions of all symbols/abbreviations/acronyms
  10. Inform the reader as to the report's:
  • Purpose
  • Conclusions
  • Scope
  • Methods
  • Recommendations
  • Findings/Results

The content in an executive summary should be developed to meet the requirements of those reading the report, so they can best understand the issues and make effective decisions.

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