How Long Should An Executive Summary Be?


Do you know the length of your executive summary that can make or mar your business proposal plan, report, etc.? Or have you ever wondered how long it should be? We all know that an executive summary entails summarizing the key point of a report. It involves capturing the essence of a proposal or report in a concise and clear term that will elicit the reader’s interest, allowing him/her to delve deeper to get the details.

So, how long should the executive summary be? Many articles, seminars, and books have attributed 5-10% of the report’s length. However, just as the name implies, keep it short and simple. It should be captured in 1-2 pages. Most importantly, it should identify the problem and the required solution to address the problem. The simpler way to go about it would be to condense the important facts or details of your business plan or proposal by taking a summary sentence from each section of the business plan. 

The Goal Of A Good Executive Summary

The executive summary can make or break your proposal or report. It is the first section of a proposal and should be written in a captivating manner to capture the reader’s interest. The most crucial part is that it must capture the needs of the client concisely.

First impression matters, and writing an executive summary to impress the reader is not an exception. This is the place to wow and make the reader think. Here, you provide a positive first impression that will allow the reader to read the entire report. Before putting words down, think of it as a selling effort where you give your best pitch. It is more like a tease to whet the reader’s appetite and land you that project.  It is the most important part of your plan that should have a compelling and comprehensive insight because it’s the first thing people read in your plan. Writing an executive summary needs to effectively capture the reader’s interest and the entire business plan or report.  It needs to identify the problem, analyze it and offer possible solutions to it. 

While presenting all these in the executive summary, ensure to put it in a way that will grab the reader’s attention. It should be written in short paragraphs, using clear and coherent language apt for the target audience. To avoid the reader not going through the entire business plan. The executive summary must be captivating and elicit an engagement. Also, to make it easier for the reader, subheadings should be employed. Under these subheadings, the sections in the body of the business plan are to be aptly summarized. For example, If the entire business plan has 6 or 10 sections, all should be captured using subheadings in the executive summary. 

Guidelines In Writing A Good Executive Summary

To ensure that your client read through your report, the following guidelines must be adhered to while writing an executive summary:

  • Language: Dependent on the target audience, the language must be clear, simple, and concise. Also, the tone of the language must be with absolute confidence and positive. That is, it should compel your readers to see you as an authority in proffering solution to their problems when writing the executive summary. This shows you are an authority for that particular service or your product is the best in resolving that problem. Avoid acronyms that won’t mean anything to your readers. Keep the writing clean and clear, using action words.
  • Keep it Simple and Short: Don’t bore them with so many details. Remember, the job here is to entice the reader to read the rest of the plan. So, give a brief sketch of your plans and goals as well as an outline of your strategy, etc.  This will help to stay within the framework of the work and not stray from it. Use simple sentences that your reader will understand very well. To keep it simple and short, say exactly what you intend to say and in a way that is clear to the reader. Also, avoid words, phrases that do not have any significance to the plan.
  • It should grab the reader’s attention: Remember, an executive summary’s goal is to aptly capture the soul of the business plan and engage the reader.  It should whet readers appetites with questions requiring detailed information to the full-length sections of the plan. Going through an executive summary helps the reader to make sense of the entire document.

Components Of A Good Executive Summary

  A typical outline for executive summary normally includes:

  • The introduction: The first paragraph of the executive summary must pack a punch. In other words, when writing the first sentence, ensure to make it count. It needs to pull readers into the executive summary and later into the full report or plan. Using engaging language and tone and making it clear and succinct is a good way to start. 
  • Company description: In this section, the details of the company come to bear.  Describe your products and services, the owners, and key employees that will handle such a project if awarded. Also, give your company a financial background as this helps build trust and provide the reader a clear-cut view of your financials.
  • Mission and Vision: This enlightens your reader or client what your company stands for, what guides it etc. This describes in a visual image what your company is and where it wants to be in the future, as well as what sets them apart from its competitors. Your company’s purpose and core values it hinges on, and how it serves your customers should be highlighted and elucidated to help your reader understand how your company will help their problem. It should be clear and concise too.
  • Problem and solution: Be clear and firm in establishing the problem and what steps would be needed to resolve such an issue. Or how your product or service will address the problem of the reader. In this segment, establish your value proposition, which can expand your digital reach, convert leads to sales, eliminate inefficiency, etc. Once the solution has been recommended, you must show the reader what value such service or product will offer. Highlight the problem you solve or the need you fulfill, why your product or service is relevant to their needs, and address it with your solution.

In writing an executive summary, one needs to think through what points are important and capitalize on them. As the initial face, a potential client or reader sees before the entire document. You have to convey the report’s essence and soul. It should be direct and specific to keep the reader entranced to read through the entire document. The executive summary should be specific and compelling. If not, it might not even get to be read by your readers. Also, the executive summary should sell your company and not just describe it. 

In conclusion, an executive summary entails the summary of a proposal, that is, a bird’s eye view of the important facts in your report or proposal. Summarily, it is an overview of the information and objectives of the business plan or proposal. It is the most important section of the business plan or proposal as it pinpoints the most important information without going into much detail about the business plan.  More importantly, it should be interesting to capture the reader’s attention and keep them interested in reading through the document.

The executive summary language must also be concise, clear, and succinct for the reader to understand and drive home the message. Use positive language that shows your authority on the solution you are providing. The tone should be professional, formal, and optimistic to convey curiosity to the reader. A good tip to keep in mind is that the language’s tone should match the reader’s culture you want to market your products and services. To make it clearer for the reader, subheadings and paragraphs should be used.  When written well, it helps prioritize the reader’s time and keep the reader engaged. If the introduction of the executive summary is not engaging enough, this will turn off the reader.

As to how long an executive summary should be, it should not be more than 1-2 pages. However, ensure that all the most important detail is captured to pique the reader’s curiosity and encourage them to further into the business plan or be empowered to take action. 

In a succinct manner, make it simple and catchy to capture your reader’s attention.

How Long Should An Executive Summary Be?

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