I used to work with an entrepreneur who wrote the executive summaries for his business plans using the summarize function in MS Word. It was efficient, but it resulted in some pretty yucky summaries. To his credit, at least this tactic forced him to write the piece first. And he did secure some funding.

Then there's the other end. Lots of us like to do things in the order they'll appear. But that's not always effective either. Writing a summary before you write the piece doesn't work so well, either.

How to write a summary

1. Write the piece. Check to make sure you have clear ideas and the right supporting details.

2. Do a quick Idea-Details T-Chart© for each section if it's a long doc, or each graf if it's a short one:

The Idea-Details Strategy from Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc.

Click image for larger view. © TTMS, 1995-2012. Used by permission.

3. Draft up each T-chart. For longer pieces, each I-D could be a paragraph (IDEA for the first sentence, DETAILS for the rest). For shorter pieces, write one or two sentences that contain this information.

How to make a good slide

You can also use this strategy to make presentation slides. I like to make the IDEA the header and the DETAILS the bullet points, like this:

What do details do?

© 2012 TTMS/TWF.

So the next time you have to summarize something, whip out the handy Idea-Details Strategy and you'll get a better summary faster.