Writing for different purposes

1. Summary Writing

We summarise things all of the time, often without knowing it. A typical example is a film review. Imagine you have just watched the latest movie and you are telling a friend what it was about. By explaining the plot, setting, characters, main events and any additional information that was important to the story, you are basically giving them a summary of the movie, without them having to actually watch it. If your summary was detailed enough, your friend should have developed a fairly clear idea of what the film is about.

Summarising is the process of recording (generally writing down) the essence of a text. It is written as a continuous passage and not as a series of notes. It should be about a quarter to a third as long as the original piece.

A summary must contain all the key points from the original material clearly and concisely. It should give the reader a complete overview of the material without having to refer to the original text.

Summarising is the next step after note taking, as it brings together all the important points in a logical sequence.

Below are some points to remember for effectie summary writing:

  • Include only the important points
  • Use your own words and phrases
  • Convert all direct speech into indirect speech
  • Do not include new facts
  • Writing should be objective, do not include your own opinion
  • Keep to the word limit (if there is one).

The best way to check that your summary is effective is to get a fellow student who has not seen or read the original material to read it. If it doesn’t make sense to them and they can not get the main idea from your summary, you may need to add more detail. On the other hand if it takes them an hour to read it, you have written far too much. It takes time and practise to find that happy medium.