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Strategies to Improve Summary Writing

Summary writing is a great skill to have as a reader, writer, and movie-goer. You want to be able to write all kinds of summaries – some short, condensed, and simple, some elaborate, long, and extremely detailed. Writing summaries is an easy skill to learn and an even easier skill to practice. Summaries are an important part of our everyday lives that help us to share information quickly.

How to Practice Writing a Great Summary

Remember that you are not writing a review: You are writing a summary.  Keep your own reflections out of your summary, and aim to share information instead of opinions.
You can practice writing summaries about almost anything.

  • Try taking your favorite books and movies and writing one paragraph summaries of them. If you want, you can log on to websites that sell books and movies, and submit a few summaries of your own for certain movies and books you like – this kind of practical work will help you improve quickly.
  • You can also boost your summary writing skills by practicing aloud: Next time that someone asks you what a certain movie was about, try to explain in words using two sentences or less. Only share the main details, such as the main theme, the main conflict, and the main characters. If they ask you to expand upon your ideas, only then can you extrapolate. Don’t be surprised if they don’t ask – you probably did a great job of sharing the critical details through your spoken summary.

Then, take those skills you have practiced and translate them to the page.

Formatting a Summary

In general, it is a good idea to consider having a summary outline format to keep your writing on point.

  • Have a topic sentence that gives information about the creators of the piece you are summarizing and the title of this information.
  • Include a few sentences about the people involved. These people may be the artists involved in the production, the characters of a book, or the actors in a movie.
  • Summarize the plot elements of the book: What are the critical things that happen, and how are they resolved?
  • Include a summary of the themes or morals of a book, story, production, or work of art.
  • Wrap up your summary with a sentence that pulls all of your ideas together about the piece. Your summary can be anywhere from a few sentences long to a few paragraphs, depending on the kind of summary you are writing.

Creativity in a summary is a good way to introduce new ideas and topics into a summary, but consider that it is more important to give accurate information than creative opinions and fillers.
It is far more effective to keep a summary short – people are always more eager to read something short than something long, and the longer something is, the greater a chance there is of including mistakes or misinformation within a piece of writing.

Tips and Tricks: Summary Writing Guidelines

When writing a summary, try creating two columns on a piece of paper: One for important information, and one for trivial information.
Organize your thoughts on this page, and try to only include important information in your summary. Trivial information will be organized in this list for your future reference, but you don’t have to worry about putting it in your written summary.
The best summaries are usually only a paragraph long. See if you can develop your own favorite format for organizing summary information in a paragraph. Remember that usually, readers of summaries will be skimming for information, and they won’t take time to read carefully. This means you will have to be clear and to the point.
teacher, professor or client can critique your summary writing work and give you specific tips for the type of writing you are doing and how you can improve on your specific issues.


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