Writing Effectively at The World Health Organization

Executive summary

Executive summaries target a certain type of reader for your document. They are usually key decision-makers who don’t have time to get into the specifics of the report, yet at the same time they need to know the overall picture. They tend to focus their attention on the main findings and recommendations of your report or on the project goals of your proposal.

Steps in writing an executive summary

Following this process should help you create effective summaries regardless of the size of the task. You will notice that writing an executive summary more or less follows the process for writing an entire report or proposal.

  1. Read your completed document from beginning to end.
  2. Immediately write the main purpose of the document in a short paragraph if possible.
  3. Reread the document. As you find the main points, summarize them in a few words (identifying topic sentences in paragraphs should help). Do not copy chunks of text from the document.
  4. Note any conclusions and recommendations made.
  5. Write a first draft of your summary from your notes without referring to the main document.
  6. Reread the document and make changes to your draft summary if you discover omissions or faulty emphasis.
  7. As for any other document, revise for mechanics and flow. Then proofread.

© WHO 2011