In addition to meeting minutes which may depend on their length and documents of less than two pages, any text in professional form requirements expressions, specifications, functional specifications, user manuals, quality assurance plans, etc. should contain an executive summary. So, in this article, you’ll find 7 keys I use every day and their effectiveness makes me enthusiastically recommend them to you!
Key n°1: Regularly update summaries
we recommend to: -Always add a page dedicated to summaries in your documentation,
-Generate summaries even if the document doesn’t have a title: this is a reminder that I won’t forget,
-Update the summary as regularly as possible, at least always before closing the file, rather than waiting until you’re done.
Above the space dedicated to the table of contents, you should write CONTENT in bold capital letters, centered text, and a larger font than body text.
It’s important when choosing a presentation that it’s as clear as possible so I think it’s important to prefer summaries with subsections indented relative to chapters rather than a presentation that’s “flat”, once summaries are broad it quickly becomes impossible to read.
Finally, to refresh the Summary, you have at least two simple options:
-go to summary, right click or press F9 => update field => update entire table,
-From the Word Reference menu, click the Update Table feature, and then click Update Entire Table.
key n°2: do not have empty chapters
A professional looking document, whatever it is, should never contain empty chapters/subchapters at any time. In other words, there is no point in creating a chapter unless you have something to write about.
The summary must represent the current state of the document, not the target state. This makes it possible for documents to always be in a “deliverable” state. However, if you need to project yourself into the document’s target structure in order to move forward, I recommend creating a summary in a separate file that you reference.
Key n°3: work with navigation pane open
Use the Navigation Pane (CTRL + F) to open to the Titles section to:
-Always have a plan for your documentation in front of you, so you can quickly see if what you’ve written is in place, which greatly limits the risk of topic fragmentation and redundancy,
-Quickly navigate from one chapter to another by clicking on an entry,
-To ensure that summaries are homogeneous, coherent, and progressive over time.
key n°4: homogenize: verbs, articles, etc.
Homogeneous summaries are chapter titles that have the same form within the same chapter unit. For example: they all start with articles, they all have oral or nominal form, etc.
key n°5: self-check visually
The following controls are purely visual and can very easily be applied to a summary:
-a title should fit on a single line (see chapter 3.5 in the figure below),
-a title is not a question, it must express its content clearly and simply (no journalistic style or literary essay) and therefore not end with a “?” »,
-the chapters should all be numbered,
-chapter numbers should not mix numbers and letters (preferring numbers), nor Roman and Arabic numerals (and Arabic numbers are preferred because they are easier to read),
-there shouldn’t be too many pages of text without (sub)chapters (no big jump in number of pages in the table of contents). For me, beyond three pages without chapter / subchapter, I consider that I have not yet structured my document well enough.
key n°6 (structure): Do not leave a lonely chapter or sub-chapter
A summary should present at least 2 first level chapters and no chapter should contain a subchapter that is a single child of its chapter, it is lonely
key n°7 (structure): Do not build more than 7 chapters
When you write a document, force yourself not to have more than:
-7 first level chapters,
-7 sub-chapters within the same level.
This limit promotes immediate memory, therefore comprehension, and is known as “Miller’s law”.
This point is probably the most complex to apply because it requires, if one wishes to comply with it, to review throughout the drafting the structure of the document that one produces.