how to write a formal executive summary and how to make a summary of an article example
How to Write
Read the selection carefully paying attention to the key words,
phrases, and concepts.
Look for all the main ideas and supporting information included in the
As you read, mark up the text underlining or notating as little as
possible for the purpose of remembering as much as possible.
Make sure you understand what the overall purpose/meaning of the
text is before you begin to write.
Organize the important information in a pre-writing format before
writing the summary.
Your summary must not include information or have judgments that
are not in the text.
Do not interpret or add details not found in the original text.
When you write your summary, make sure you condense the text
(about 1/3 to 1/4 the length of the original text).
This must be written in third person only
Write a summary using only the facts and details from the original
o The topic sentence should be a clear statement of the main idea
of the original selection.
o Add essential facts and details such as names, explanations,
descriptions, dates, or places.
o State each key point in ONE clear sentence.
o Arrange ideas in the most logical order following the order of
the original text.
o End your summary with a concluding sentence that ties the
Granite Oaks Middle School Page 1 7/31/2012 Condensing
(Shortening the text)
Eliminate information judged to be trivial
(Combining ideas from different sentences
or paragraphs in a passage) Abstract and
generalize information across a passage
(Maintains ideas while restating them in the
summary writer's own words) Identify important
information Translate ideas into own words.
Sacramento County Office of Education
Capital Region Professional Development Center
Granite Oaks Middle School Page 2 7/31/2012 Zeke called on Monday. He called on
Tuesday. He called again on Wednesday.
He called on Thursday. And he called on
Friday. And each time his call went
Zeke's daily calls went unanswered for five
The disease had spread to the point that
people were using the word epidemic. There
were 5 reported cases in New York, 4 cases in
Chicago, 3 cases in San Francisco, 6 cases in
Boston, 8 cases in Los Angeles, and 6 cases in
People were calling it an epidemic. There were
multiple cases in each of six large cities.
Sacramento County Office of Education Capita Region Professional Development Center
Granite Oaks Middle School Page 3 7/31/2012 Handout for Selecting and Rewriting Information
Name: Date: Period:
One way to say this: Another way is:
Today, people celebrate a day for
foolishness in India. People in Scotland
celebrate foolishness with jokes. In
France, they celebrate the day too. And
in the United States, jokes and tricks
are popular on April Fool's Day.
Sometimes biting winds blow during winter
storms. Sometimes there are ice storms.
Sometimes it is bitterly cold.
Birds move their wings forward and down.
They also move them up and back. This is
how they fly.
In 1850, thousands of people were rushing to
California in search of gold. They came by
ship. They came on horseback. They came
on foot. And some came by wagon.
Molly's mind drifted to the pen. She
remembered how it felt in her hand. She
remembered how the smooth gold point
glided across the paper. She remembered how
words just seemed to fall into place when she
wrote with mat pen.
At the rock shop, Mr. Bums showed
Desmond lots of rocks and fossils. Some of
the rocks were different colors. Some of the
rocks were different sizes. Some were
Some species seem to be covered with bark.
Others have lumps that look like buds. When
they play dead, they look like twigs. And they
can change colors with the seasons, like
A friend came to help clean up. Terry came
over to help hang paintings. Andre came to
help hang paintings too. Chris and Marcia
came to help set up chairs.
Granite Oaks Middle School Page 4 7/31/2012
Criteria for Formal Summaries
A good summary should condense the original text (i.e., it should be shorter). How short is short enough? It
should be long enough to include the most important information (see below). A rough rule of thumb
for passages of 1 - 3 pages is that a summary should be about 1/3 to 1/4 the length of the original
text. For some texts, the appropriate length of a summary depends on why it is being written (i.e.,
what it will be used for), as well as on the length of the original text.
A good summary should include only the most important information. But what information is the most
important? In any passage, some information is going to be more important than other information.
When trying to determine which information to include, the summary writer might ask "Is this piece of
information necessary for the summary reader to know what the original passage was about?"
A good summary should reflect only what is in the passage. A summary comes directly from the text; it
reflects only the point of view and information from the text and does not go beyond the text. For
example, what you write in your summary should not include other information you know about the
topic nor should it include your opinions about the information in the passage.
A good summary should be written in your own words. This means that the summary is not copied directly/
from the text. The same ideas are conveyed, but you have translated these into your own way of
saying them. This often results in the text being condensed, as well.
A good summary should be well written. This means, very simply, that the summary follows the rules of
good writing (e.g., spelling, word usage, punctuation, sentence construction, and organization).
Summary Writing Conventions
Avoid questions. Most of the time using questions in a summary will be less direct and less efficient
then some other way of presenting the information. Questions tend to make an idea longer, rather
than shorter, and they often mean the summary reader has to figure out what was in the original text.
There will be exceptions, but you have to ask yourself how well questions communicate the
information from the passage.
Avoid the first person (e.g., the word I) in your summary. Narrative prose (a story) is best summarized
when the summary is written in the third person. Even if a narrative is written in the first person, the
summary should be written in the third person. The experiences of the characters in the story are not
your experiences and should not be presented as though they were.
Avoid dialogue. Dialogue is usually not an effective way to summarize a narrative. There may be times
when you cannot avoid using dialogue or when it is the best way to convey the contents of the
passage. But, in general, it should be avoided.
Begin with information from the passage, not with an introductory statement such as "This passage is
about" or "What I read in the passage was."
Sacramento County Office of Education Capital Region Professional Development Center
Granite Oaks Middle School Page 5 7/31/2012
Quick Check for the writer
____ Read carefully to understand the main ideas of the passage?
_____ Include all the main points or story elements from the original text?
_____ Select the most important details to support the main idea?
_____ Combine ideas that belong together and collapse lists into larger categories
_____ Paraphrase or write the ideas that you included?
____ Make sure you are telling what happened in the story and not writing from
your own point of view or as it you were one of the characters?
_____ Avoid inserting any information that was not in the original passage?
_____ Avoid asking questions, using the first person “I”, or using dialogue?
_____ Arrange your ideas in the most logical order?
_____ Use a concluding or ending sentence that ties your points together?
_____ Make your summary about the right length for summary purposes?
_____ Edit for correct punctuation, capitalization and spelling?
Granite Oaks Middle School Page 6 7/31/2012
A blanket of fresh snow can brighten a winter landscape. But snow is
more than just beautiful. It is helpful, too. Snow benefits plants,
animals, and people in many ways.
Snow helps plants that stay in the ground all winter. It does not kill
plants. It acts as a shield. Snow traps air beneath it. This air is warmer
than the air above the snow. The warm air surrounds and protects
plants. Biting winter winds cannot reach them. Ice storms and bitter
cold cannot harm them. Plants stay alive through the worst weather.
Snow helps animals, too. Some animals nest below ground. They
spend the whole winter there. A blanket of snow serves to keep the
nests warm. Other animals do not nest below ground. They tunnel into
the snow itself. They make nests there. Compared with the cold air
above, snow nests are cozy.
Snow also benefits people. It helps many people earn a living. Some
communities are centers for winter sports. Many visitors go there to ski.
People who live and work in these communities need snow. Without
it, they would have no business.
Snow is useful even when it melts. Melting snow runs into wells. It
flows into rivers and streams. These supply water to towns and cities.
Farms benefit from melting snow as well. Some areas are dry in
summer. They get little rain. Nearly all their water comes from melted
snow. The water is stored in dammed-up lakes and ponds. It is used
during the growing season to water fields and orchards. Without this
water supply, there could be no crops. In this way, the summer harvest
depends on winter snow.
Granite Oaks Middle School Page 7 7/31/2012 Passage Breakdown
Main Points: Details/Support:
Granite Oaks Middle School Page 8 7/31/2012 Passage Breakdown
Topic: The Benefits of Snow
Snow helps plants
Snow helps animals
Snow helps people
Snow is useful
Main Points: Details/Support:
1. Snow helps keep plants alive. a. Acts as a shield, traps warm air
b. Biting winds can’t kill plants
2. Snow helps animals nest in the a. Stay in nest through the winter, snow
ground. blankets and keeps them warm
b. Some animals tunnel in the snow.
3. Snow helps people with jobs. a. People earn a living in the snow.
b. Winter sports attract people.
4. Snow is useful to farms and a. Supplies water to towns
Communities. b. Water is stored in dammed-up ponds
(CS) Therefore, snow is useful to vegetation, wildlife, humans, and
Granite Oaks Middle School Page 9 7/31/2012 Summary Example
(TS) A blanket of snow brightens a landscape, makes it beautiful, and is more
because it helps plants, animals, and people. (l pt.) Plants that stay in the ground do not die.
(ex.) The snow traps air and is a shield, and the air is warmer under the snow. It surrounds
the plant so ice storms cannot reach them. Since the biting winds of winter cannot get at
them, they stay alive. (2 pt.) In addition, snow helps animals when they nest in the ground,
(ex.) Because the animals stay in their nests through the winter, the snow blanket keeps them
warm in their snow nests. Plus, animals tunnel in the snow in the protection and warmth of
the snow. (3 pt.) Lastly, snow helps people, (ex.) It is there for people who like to ski, gives
jobs to those who need to work in it, and makes other sports like hockey and ice skating
possible. When the snow melts, it also helps to bring water to towns and tons being stored in
dammed-up ponds. (CS) So, snow is more than just pretty to look at, it helps people and the
Note: This is not a perfect example as there are several things wrong with it.
Your job is to find those errors and fix them in a rewriting of this paragraph.
Good luck and make sure you pay attention to the three parts, transitions,
and use your “Summary Writing Checklist” to guide your rewrite.
Granite Oaks Middle School Page 10 7/31/2012