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9 Tips When Writing Abstracts for Business Documents

Abstracts are more important than ever. We have an ever-increasing need for quick access to information.

Think of those search engine results that you find on Internet sites!

If the first few lines were an abstract, you'd know whether you should go and read it.

Instead, you often have to wade through link after link until you find what you were after.

Business Plan Template - Download Now

Business Plan Template - Download Now

How do you write an abstract?

Once you've finished writing, stop and think about the document.

  • What is the main subject?
  • What is the main conclusion?
  • What is its primary purpose?

Collect this together and write a sentence - this is your topic sentence.

You need to write one topic sentence that covers the entire document, regardless of whether the document is a one-page letter or a thousand-page manual.

Getting Ideas

Look at the recommendations, conclusions, summaries, and results in the completed document. When abstracting a manual, look at the tutorial. These sections cover the essence of the document.

Don't Use the Document's Title

This can be misleading. It may not help you write the topic sentence. Chances are the title will be too vague. Parts of the title might serve as modifiers in your topic sentence, but you'll probably need to go beyond the title.

Be Specific

Make the topic sentence be specific. Avoid writing "This report describes [document title]." Instead, write something like "The results of this [subject] study show that [result]."

Use Supporting Sentences

After you identify your topic sentence, write supporting sentences. Make each of these supply specific details about the ideas in the topic sentence. Think of what supports the topic sentence. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? and How much?

Give statistics, results, conclusions, or recommendations that back up the topic sentence.

Only use two or three major supporting ideas. Include the less important evidence as subordinate clauses and modifiers.

Use Transitions

Arrange the supporting sentences in a logical sequence after the topic sentence. Add whatever transition is needed to connect the supporting sentences to the topic sentence and to connect ideas within the sentences to each other.

Re-write the sentences to improve the connections.

9 Writing Tricks

  1. Write the abstract only when the document is finished. Abstracts written before then are just previews.
  2. If you are forced to write an abstract before the document is completed, think about its purpose and write a topic sentence. Keep in mind that you'll need to rewrite the abstract when the document is finished because it will no longer accurately reflect the contents of the document.
  3. Before starting the abstract, list your thoughts on the document. Group related items together. Prioritize the list and put the most important group first. The first few groups form the core of the topic sentence. The rest lead to supporting sentences.
  4. If you can't create a topic sentence, write the supporting sentences first. The topic sentence may then become obvious.
  5. Write for an audience not necessarily up to speed in your subject area. This is important because you never know who will read your abstract.
  6. Define the scope of the project in the abstract.
  7. Re-read your abstract after several days have passed.
  8. Remove all superfluous information.

Your abstract is now of use to the reader. This technique works for documents of any length from a couple of pages to multi-volumes.

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It also works for letters, reports, articles, scripts, and anything else you have to write.



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