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Everything You Need To Know About Writing a Summary

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Wondering why summary writing is important? Knowing how to compose one is an essential skill not just for students but for anyone who wants to understand and communicate complex ideas clearly. In this post, we’ll provide five easy steps and more to teach you how to write a summary.

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Knowing how to write a summary will make you a better learner.

Mastering the art of summary writing is crucial, but do you know why? Well, you might be surprised to learn that knowing how to craft one can help you become a better learner and communicator. If you have yet to sharpen this skill set, don’t worry. Below, we’ll go through five easy steps to write a good summary, complete with examples and tips.

Let’s begin!

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Knowing how to write a summary can help you in various areas of your life.

What Is a Summary?

A summary is a concise distillation of a larger body of work that briefly but thoroughly encapsulates its main ideas and essential points. It is designed to give the reader a clear understanding of the original project without needing to read it in full.  

Being able to restate in your own words what you’ve just read is a sign that you’ve truly absorbed and understood the information. In contrast, merely memorizing facts is not a good indication of comprehension. In other words, if you can’t concisely summarize something, you haven’t fully grasped the concept.


The word summary is a noun that refers to the “concise but comprehensive rewriting of an original body of work.”

  • I had to write a summary of one of Mark Twain’s stories.

The verb form of this word is to summarize, which means “to provide a summary of something.”

  • She missed the presentation, so I summarized it for her.

Now that we’ve reviewed what a summary entails, let’s get to the fun part: writing one!

How To Write a Summary in Five Easy Steps

Keep in mind that summaries can encompass a wide range of subjects, including books, articles, movies, meetings, and more. Also, a summarization isn’t necessarily always confined to writing; you can verbally summarize something, too. However, the steps below are designed to help you compose a written summary.

1. Read and take notes. 

First things first: Read or watch the original work you’ll be summarizing. While you do, take brief pauses and explain to yourself what you just read or watched. As the main ideas start becoming clear to you, take notes. This will make the writing process easier.

2. Start with an introductory sentence.

In academic and formal contexts, summaries typically begin with an introductory sentence that states the work’s title and author. This sets the stage for the reader by immediately identifying what is being discussed. However, if the work has already been identified, it may not be necessary to start with the title and author. For example, if you’re in a class that is currently discussing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, then you may not need to include that information in the introduction.

3. Explain the main points.

Identify and elaborate on the main arguments or messages, and seek supporting evidence, topic sentences, or thesis statements.

It’s also a good idea to focus on the what, how, and why:

  • What are the key ideas or events?
  • How do they develop throughout the work?
  • Why are they important to the work’s overall message?

Remember, be selective in what you include. Summaries are about the bigger picture, not the small details. 

4. Organize your summary to ensure a smooth flow.

Your summary should be coherent and easy to read. Therefore, you should use transition words to ensure logical progression from one idea to the next. It’s best to structure your summary similarly to the original work. Despite being a condensed version, it should still stand on its own as a cohesive piece of writing. In other words, ensure that there is a clear beginning, middle, and end.

5. Conclude by restating the author’s thesis. 

Finish your summary with a clear statement that effectively captures the author’s main argument or purpose. Keep in mind that the conclusion of a summary should not introduce new information but instead provide a sense of closure. This will leave the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the original text.

Illustration shows summary of the steps to writing a summary.
Follow these five steps if you want to write a clear and comprehensive summary.

Example of a Summary

Imagine you’re taking a class on Shakespeare, and you’re assigned to write a one-paragraph summary of Romeo and Juliet. It should be similar to the following example:

“Romeo and Juliet” is a tragic play that tells the story of two young, star-crossed lovers. It begins with a street brawl between servants from the wealthy Montague and Capulet families and ends with two shocking deaths that ultimately reconcile a long-time feud. Romeo, a Montague, falls in love with Juliet, a Capulet, at a masquerade ball. Despite their families’ conflict, they marry in secret. After Romeo is banished for avenging the death of his friend, Juliet fakes her death to be with him. The plan goes awry, leading to Romeo and Juliet’s actual deaths. When the families learn of the tragic sequence of events, they decide to end their bitter feud once and for all.

It’s important to note that the length of the summary depends on the assignment’s instructions. It is possible to write a longer summary of Romeo and Juliet, if needed, by providing some more details and elaborating on the play’s themes.

How Long Should a Summary Be?

Some guidelines suggest that summaries should be 10%-30% of the original work, so it often depends on the complexity of the text and the intended purpose. If you’re writing a summary for school and are unsure how long it should be, ask your instructor for clarification.

Tips on Writing a Good Summary

As you work on your summary, keep the following tips in mind:

Take notes as you read.

We already mentioned this, but it’s worth reiterating. Taking notes as you read the original work is an easy way to simplify the summary writing process. The notes don’t have to be extensive; they just have to help you remember the important points.

Use your own words.

Don’t just copy and paste from the original work. Instead, analyze it and restate it. Imagine you and a friend just read an article. You understand it, but your friend doesn’t. You wouldn’t just reread it, hoping that a second reading would miraculously become clearer, right? No, you’d reword it. That’s precisely what you have to do when writing a summary.

Do not include opinions or interpretations.

A summary’s purpose is to restate the original text concisely. Avoid writing about your opinions or judgments about the work, and do not include elaborate interpretations.

Ensure proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

You can follow all the steps above and even ensure you abide by these tips. But if your summary is riddled with errors, it won’t be as effective. A simple way to ensure flawless spelling, grammar, and punctuation is to use LanguageTool as your personal writing assistant. Not only will it correct any mistakes, but it will also enhance your style. Plus, it supports more than thirty languages and dialects, so whether you’re writing in your native tongue or your second language, your instructors will be utterly impressed with your prose.

Go ahead and give it a try today!

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