We all know the importance of a good summary: be it for school or for work, managing to summarize all the main points of a text in a condensed form that maintains all the relevant information opens the door to more effective work or study and helps you clarify your ideas and fix in mind the most important things.
How to make a good summary
In general (and this is valid for all types of texts and all types of summary) to make an effective summary you should:
- Identify the main topic or topics of the text and make it clear to the reader
- Split up information into logical parts
- Identify the audience of the text and of your summary
- Be concise (i.e. prune the text of any redundancy or useless and/or not informative or not on the point part). Your summary should not exceed in length 15% of the original text
- Recompose the parts you have identified in a well structured sequence, with an introduction, a main body and a conclusion
- Use the present tense
- Use plain language
- If the text you are summarizing has an author and a source, state them
Summarizing different types of text
But of course as there are many different types of text (narrative, descriptive, directive, expository and argumentative) also your summaries should adapt to the kind of the original text and be formulated as to fit it in the best possible way.
For example when summarizing a narrative text you probably will have to speak about the main characters and their motivations, something that would be obviously absent from a directive text summary.
But apart from this macroscopic categorization, there are many subtler kinds of texts that – especially nowadays, in business or for your career – are very important to distill. Think about product descriptions, blog posts, even resumes…they are all texts but of a very specific genre and they all need to be summarized.
On the contrary, think if instead of a simple textual summary we want to use visual language to give a glimpse of a text’s main contents (for example if we want to create an infographic). In this case we should elaborate a summary first, but always having in mind what is our final goal (i.e. obtain a text that can be used for an infographic).
Let’s have a look at how to summarize these very particular texts and goals.
Summarize for resume
A resume is in itself an outline: it’s your professional life condensed in one sheet or two. But at the top of your resume you should always place a profile or resume summary, i.e. a short text in which you help the recruiter to understand what your characteristics and your expertise are and if you are a good fit for that position.
To do a good job when you summarize for resume you should:
- Describe your present job and your professional experience
- Mention your character traits but without spending too many words on it
- State clearly what you can do for your employer and how you could help him in reaching his goals
- Explicit if possible with the aid of numbers your key achievements
- Make it short: limit it to 5 sentences maximum
- ALWAYS customize your resume summary for the position you’re applying for, using the same keywords and highlighting how your competencies and core results match the requirements
If that seems too difficult please note that thanks to natural language processing and artificial intelligence techniques (like the ones we use at DataLit and PaperLit) nowadays there are many tools that summarize for resume automatically.
Summarize product descriptions
The actual Ecommerce landscape is very competitive: having a good product description is what makes the difference between succeeding and failing. But products are hundreds of thousands. A good product description should extract (from a database or from a longer descriptive text) the main characteristics of a product and state them into a concise yet captivating and fully informative text that manages to state in the first line the value of your product. Obviously for big ecommerces it would simply be impossible to write all the product descriptions by hand, so automatic summary and writing tools are often used. At PaperLit we are able to offer the most advanced text summarization and text analysis solutions to allow you to display smashing product descriptions.
Summarize blog posts
On search engines results (and often also on your blog homepage) you do not see the entire post, you just see an excerpt. If you are not running your blog only for passion but you want to make a living out of it, you want your blog posts to convert. So it’s vital that these excerpts are captivating and give to the readers all the information they need. So again you should sum up your content in a very concise and clear way, be extremely short and use the appropriate keywords and sentences so that the reader (but also the search engine) is captivated. If you read the preceding paragraphs you won’t be surprised to know that also this task can be performed automatically, even by plugins offered by the main content management systems. Then, after the computers did the hard work, you can add your human touch to the machine work. Just to be sure that everything’s ok!