Executive summary writing tips
To create an executive summary that will help you to achieve your goals, here are some writing tips and some common mistakes to avoid:
- Write your business plan first before you start creating the executive summary
- Prioritize clarity to avoid confusion and maintain reader interest
- Pick out the critical points in your business plan and make sure you include them in your executive summary
- Write concisely using simple, accessible language
- Avoid jargon, sweeping statements, generalizations and clichés
- Make sure your summary is engaging and compelling
- Remember that your audience has limited time to read the summary
- Proofread before sending to check for spelling and grammar mistakes
- Check the format and flow to enhance readability
- Make sure your executive summary can stand on its own: the summary is often the first or only thing an individual or panel will read so it has to sell your business or project effectively
- Make sure the tone of the document is relevant to the business and the target reader
- Include accurate, up-to-date information: your executive summary should be well-researched
- Use your executive summary to give a brief snapshot of what your business is all about
- Use engaging language from the outset: you want to convince the reader to keep going
Always remember that your business plan executive summary should be unique and relevant to your company. You can use samples, templates and examples to get ideas related to format, structure and content, but your executive summary should be tailored to your business plan or project proposal. It is critical to include data and information about your company and the specific objective or proposal. It is also helpful to consider the reader when creating your executive summary. This can help to ensure that you get the tone and the type of language right. If you’re looking for investors for a financial or legal firm, for example, using informal language or a relaxed, casual tone won’t fit with the business plan.
Mistakes to avoid
- Writing too much: the people reading your executive summary are likely to be very busy and they won’t have hours to read through pages and pages of text. Keep the summary to a maximum of 1-2 pages.
- Using complex language and jargon: your executive summary should be easy to read.
- Writing errors: poor grammar, spelling and punctuation can make it difficult to read passages of text and it will also impact the reader’s impression of the business and the individuals behind it. Always check the summary before sending or presenting it.
- Style without substance: your executive summary should contain relevant data, information and facts and figures, rather than claims and statements that are not backed up by evidence.
- Using unrealistic or unreliable data: when adding financial projections and information about the market and competitors, use reliable, accurate data. Avoid including unrealistic or unreliable figures and projections.
Before you send a business plan to an individual, or you meet with a panel to discuss your proposal, take the time to read the summary several times and check the content, format and grammar. Get to grips with the data and statistics you have used and ensure that you’re ready to answer questions or provide additional information. Try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Is your executive summary interesting and convincing? Do you want to read the whole thing and the rest of the business plan? Do you trust that the information is accurate and reliable? Do you want to find out more about the company or brand? Is there something special that makes this business or the project unique or compelling?
An executive summary is a crucial part of a business plan or project proposal. If you are looking for investors, or you’re hoping to get new partners on board, for example, it’s incredibly beneficial to ensure that you have an effective, impactful executive summary ready to impress them. Your summary should be concise, punchy, compelling and persuasive and it should provide a detailed overview of the essential elements and main points of your business plan. A statement-making executive summary can help you to attract potential investors and stakeholders and increase your chances of achieving key business objectives.