Summaries for Online Article Writing
By Joan Whetzel
When writing articles for websites, blogs, and other journalistic endeavors, most sites require a summary - sometimes called a teaser - for each article a writer publishes online. Some News organizations simply use the first paragraph as the summary. If no summary is provided for an article, the search engines are forced to use the first paragraph of the article as the summary/teaser. Using the first paragraph as a teaser may not be the best choice for attracting readers, though. The ability to write a good summary could mean the difference between creating a following and loss of earnings over time.
What Is a Summary for Articles Published Online?
In essence, a summary provides an abridged or concentrated version of the article. It is not meant to be an essay, but more of a brief introduction to readers about the article's content. It is not the same overview that is provided by the first paragraph, though. Using the first paragraph as the summary, in fact, may turn off many readers because it forces them to re-read that paragraph after clicking on the article link. It may also indicate to readers that neither the writer nor the site where the article is published takes the website seriously enough to generate original content. In other words, the writer and the site owners could not be bothered to create a summary that is unique and different enough from the article itself to draw-in potential readers. Make the readers re-read enough first paragraphs, and pretty soon they quit stopping by. Summaries for online articles and blogs are usually uploaded in a separate window, which means they will not appear as part of the article but only as part of keyword searches on that topic.
The Purpose of Providing a Summary when Publishing Articles Online
There are several reasons for writing a summary for inclusion with online articles.
1. It gives the reader a broad overview of the article's content - a taste of what the article promises.
2. It sets your article apart from the tens, or hundreds, or thousands of other articles on the same topic.
3. It makes your article sound more interesting than all those other articles and offers potential readers a reason to stop by and read yours first.
4. It is a quick and efficient way to let readers know what the article is about.
5. It helps readers decide whether this article is something they have time to read now or whether to they should bookmark it for a later time.
6. It simplifies complex information, giving readers a quick snapshot of the article promises, without bogging them down in the details.
7. In today's world, most people don't have the time to read entire articles. Scanning the summary may be all the time they are able to devote to any article that doesn't interest them. If the summary is well written, it will intrigue those readers enough to entice them stop by and read the whole article.
8. Some readers remember more from the summary than from what they have read in the entire article.
9. It's the writer's sales pitch.
Types of Summaries
There are three basic types of summaries - informational, analytical and provocative.
Informational Summaries provide an overview in about 2 to 3 sentences, which is concise enough to grab the readers' attention but does not provide as much of an overview as the article's first paragraph. It also doesn't highlight the most important points in the article, which is the function of the first paragraph. The function of this type of summary is to provide a more general overview, or a layer of information between the article title and the article itself.
Analytical Summaries interpret the information provided in the article, emphasizing the how and why of the information it provides. Readers will discover the who, what, when, or where by diving into the article. The writer using this type of summary tells readers just enough to make them want to read further in order to find out the rest of the story. This type of summary is a teaser. The writer can include his or her own point of view for this as long as the information, rather than the writer's attitude, does the talking (to the reader).
Provocative Summaries is aimed at piquing readers' interest, not only by providing information about the article, but by expressing an opinion or allowing the writer's attitude to become a part of the summary. This can be accomplished through the use of humor, sarcasm, irony, alliteration, or any other literary device that will cause the reader to ponder the article's topic, to entertain readers, and to persuade them to read the article.
Elements of a Good Summary
The elements that go into creating a good summary include the following:
· It should be concise and complete.
· It should be objective.
· It demonstrates an understanding of the topic on the part of the writer.
· It gives readers a reason to click on the link and read the article.
· It uses about 4 to 7 keywords that are correlated with the article's topic.
· It may ask a questions that helps readers identify what they are trying to do or a dilemma that they are trying to solve.
· It may briefly identify a solution to a problem.
· It may inform readers about what they need to do and why.
A good summary does not do the following:
· It does not repeat the articles title or use the author's name.
· It does not promote the author, the author's business, or the author's other articles.
· It does not include the writer's contact information or the URL from his or her personal website(s).
· It does include blatant self-promotion on the part of the author.
Summaries are the same the same thing as a synopsis. They should be precise and brief, not a rewrite of the original essay or article. Summaries for online articles and blogs should be no longer than 2 to 7 sentences in length.
Writing a Good Summary That Is Concise, Complete, and Objective
A summary is concise and complete when the author captures the main ideas of the article with some well chosen words and a general characterization of the article's content, making sure to leave out the supporting details. An objective summary, in most cases, omits the writer's opinions, with the exception of the provocative summaries where those opinions are aimed at sparking the readers' interest. Consider these tips for writing a good summary.
1. Don't begin with phrases like "I'm going to tell you how to do (topic)" or "This article is about…" Instead, include some provocative hooks to entice readers with the benefits to be gleaned from reading the article.
2. The summary is a teaser, so don't give away the whole story.
3. Sell the reader with the why and how of the article's topic.
4. Do not include tips or strategies in the summary; leave them for the body of the article.
5. Include the use of buzz words and keywords without going overboard.
Make it unique, using your own original writing style. Never copy another writer's words or writing style.
Santa Rosa Junior College, Online Writing Lab. Writing Summaries.
JProf. Writing Summaries.
Santa Monica College. Writing a Summary.
Articles Base. Write Summaries that Get More Article Views.
Knight, Christopher. Strategy Guideline. Creating the Perfect Article Summary - 7 Tips.