Twc Chapter 6 Abstracts And Executive Summaries


Chapter 6 focuses on preliminary material, an extremely important yet overlooked part of technical pieces. At a glance, the chapter is fairly linear; the entire process of creating two different genres(abstracts and executive summaries) of preliminary material is laid out and unfolds as the chapter progresses.

The chapter is broken up into several important sections in the process (denoted by the large gray text). Within the majority of each section, the descriptions are further subdivided into a section explaining executive summaries and a section explaining abstracts. From there, the sections are further broken up into different methods or styles of each piece. Following the description of the two types of preliminary material, the chapter goes into common mistakes that are made when writing in such genres. The chapter provides a myriad of examples to describe each section. For example, a section describes writing in a way that fits the needs of non expert readers (pg 147). At the end of the section, an actual example is given. The fact that the chapter is on abstracts and executive summaries, fairly short pieces of writing, allows the authors of the book to provide such a plethora of models. As a cherry on top, at the very end of the chapter, more examples are given but with callouts and comments on the side to show the reader what is done correctly.

According to the chapter, abstracts are brief paragraphs at the beginning of technical reports. Abstracts can be broken up into two types: descriptive abstracts and informative abstracts. Descriptive abstracts can be seen as “a prose table of contents”(pg 142)while informative abstracts are a miniature version of the document itself. When formatting and editing abstracts, they should be concise and be less than one page long. They should be at the center of the document as per convention. The chapter constantly reminds the reader that abstracts should not be wordy and should leave a good first impression.

The chapter describes executive summaries as “primarily a persuasive component of the report or proposal.”(pg 143) The main point is to persuade whoever is reading it of the importance of the document. When it comes to writing an executive summary, the chapter suggests that no matter how you do it, it should “be able to stand alone for readers who do not intend to read the full report immediately (or ever)”(pg.145). Think of an executive summary as something similar to this annotated bibliography. With increasingly advanced technical communicators, executive summaries are now usually written in three columns. Some of this space is denoted to callouts of important points or diagrams.

One of the major points the chapter emphasises is the idea of tailoring the writing towards the audience. As the abstract and executive summary is usually seen first in a piece of writing, it is the piece responsible with leaving the first impression on whoever is reading it. It doesn’t matter if you have an amazing report on how you cured cancer and world hunger simultaneously, if your abstract or executive summary (especially the executive summary) does not capture the importance or soul of your written piece, your piece may not even be read! The chapter emphasises that the visual appeal of the abstract or executive summary is almost just as important as the content itself.

Notable Quotes

“Even though it’s tempting to think you’re finished with your work when you only need to add an abstract or an executive summary, the document is not finished until all parts are carefully considered and completed.” (pg 141)

“Keep in mind, too, that in this concise front matter you have to decide which details are absolutely necessary and which can be omitted, and you need to make sure the order of the material sets in high relief the basic knowledge you want to convey.” (pg 145)

“The design of the front matter in any document has a major effect on readers’ perceptions of the whole text.” (pg 148)

“Planning the front matter requires you to think about the readers’ needs and your goals” (pg 145)

“Once again, it’s important to realize that this material creates the first impression your audience has of your document, and negative first impressions often are hard to shake” (pg 148)

Analysis and Response

This chapter includes a lot of information about abstracts and executive summaries. Content-wise, the chapter was very convincing with its multitude of examples. However, when it came to presenting all this information, we(Zeyad and Medwin) were not satisfied. The chapter has a lot of helpful information that can help out when writing a lab report or paper, but the chapter could have been written in an alternative way to make it more appealing. The chapter also has some pretty helpful information about writing abstracts and executive summaries, but a lot of it was information we already knew.

The chapter was organized in a pretty poor way. The main purpose of this chapter is to explain what abstracts and executive summaries are and to tell us how to write these in the best way possible. However, it is organized poorly, to the extent that I (Zeyad) , without reading the introduction of the chapter, thought it was comparing and contrasting abstracts and executive summaries instead of explaining the two. What the author does is separate the chapter into different aspects of abstracts and executive summaries and then explains how to go about writing each of the two genres. Each category is split into explaining the aspect with respect to an abstract and then with respect to an executive summary. This puts the first impression that the author was comparing abstracts and executive summaries instead of explaining how to write each. One major example of how confusing this layout can be is seen on page 146. In a gray box, the guidelines for writing an abstract is placed smack in the middle of an explanation on how to write executive orders. It would have been better if the chapter was split up into two sections: Abstracts and Executive Summaries. Then the aspects explained can be subcategories to the two sections. Thinking of the textbook as a whole, I (Medwin) thought that if this chapter was organized in a way similar to that of Chapter 7, which is broken up by type of genre, the chapter would be a lot easier to understand.

Another thought that came up in this chapter was that most of things that is brought up is basic. Many of us have a history of writing papers and know how to write an abstract. For example, the author keeps bringing up the fact that we need to know the audience reading the work, so that we can write our abstract towards that audience. Knowing the audience is common sense when writing technical reports. He also brings up the fact that the abstract is where the reader gets his first impression about the paper. That is also common sense and implied because we already know that the abstract is the first thing the reader reads, therefore making a first impression. When you think about it metaphysically, I (Medwin) felt that the authors were telling his audience about tailoring your writing to an audience without tailoring their thoughts to us! I (Zeyad) think that the author was writing this chapter to an audience who had no experience in writing papers or abstracts prior to reading this chapter. Most people in our class have had experiences in this. Nonetheless, all the information that was presented is valid and still extremely important. However, if we were the authors, the chapter would have been written using the way I (Zeyad) stated earlier, to maximize understanding how to successfully write an abstract or an executive summary.

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