On a regular basis, you will often be confronted with requests for a quick summary of some lengthy meeting or series of documents. You will have to provide the key ideas in simple easy-to-read English with no jargon. Seemingly an intractable task...

Dear Colleagues

On a regular basis, you will often be confronted with requests for a quick summary of some lengthy meeting or series of documents. You will have to provide the key ideas in simple easy-to-read English with no jargon. Seemingly an intractable task. Often the executive summary is all that is read these days. The detailed documents are left for the odd dedicated person who plods through it hopefully looking for a more detailed understanding.

Here with a few tips on achieving this task:

  • Identify what you want to achieve with the summary
  • Consider who your audience is, what they already know and what they want from your summary?
  • Initially do a brain dump on everything you can think of relating to the topic. Don’t worry about the clutter of detail. Just write everything down in a roughly logical sequence.
  • Choose the key facts – eliminate all irrelevant detail by considering what your audience want from it (For every detail ask the question: Does my audience absolutely need to know this?)
  • Avoid technical jargon. Stick to simple understandable English. Avoid any diversions. Use active case with verbs rather than roundabout language.
  • Order the sequence of information so that it is logical and easy to understand.
  • Ensure that your write-up is objective and unbiased (by your experiences for example).
  • Come back after a few hours (or even a day) and re-read what you have written and ensure that it is easy to understand.
  • If you are presenting this; practise and practise until you are perfect and able to handle any awkward questions.

I really love this comment by Edwin Schlossberg:  The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.

Yours in engineering learning

Steve

Mackay’s Musings – 6th Sept’16 #616
780, 293 readers – www.idc-online.com/blogs/stevemackay