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How to Write an Executive Summary in APA Format

Updated July 20, 2017

The American Psychological Association (APA) standards for writing are applied to most written pieces. Form and style go hand in hand, and a well-written paper could be overlooked if not completed in proper form. When writing for executive summaries, this can be particularly important. Because the executive summary is written to articulate the main points of the work as a whole, it is considered the most important portion of its paper or report. While not always required, the executive summary is mostly required in lengthy research dissertations or in government and private sector reports and requests.

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  1. Format your summary to fit general APA writing standards. This will mean 10 to 12 point Times New Roman (or similar) font double-spaced on standard (8.5"x11") paper with 1" margins. Type "Executive Summary" centred at the top of the page with no boldface or italicising (and no quotes). Type the body of your summary directly below.

  2. Write a brief summary, not exceeding one page, which gives an overview of your report's contents as well as its conclusion or recommendations. Include all your most important points for those who may read only the summary and not the report in its entirety.

  3. Insert your summary just after the report's title page and just before the body of the paper.

  4. Proof your executive summary. Remove extraneous words, slicing the summary down to the most powerful points of the report and the concluding recommendations. Butler University suggests an executive summary no longer than 120 words, but business standards allow for one full page of text. If you can write short without sacrificing content, do it.

  5. Tip

    When writing for a grant proposal, highlight the big three: who you serve, how you serve them, and why it matters. Don't forget to include the amount of the request and what it will do for the program. When writing for business, highlight cost savings, profit maximisation, and other potentialities without getting bogged down in complexities like methodology and justification. When writing academically, ask yourself if an executive summary is even necessary. Executive summaries make recommendations, and with most short academic papers (1 to 40 pages), the abstract is sufficient to describe the report.


    Be careful not to load your executive summary with technical jargon. Your executive summary should read easily and pique the interest of the reader.

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About the Author

Justin Buck

Justin Buck began his writing career in 2011. While studying political science at Henderson State University, he wrote academically on political attitudes of student populations, drug enforcement policy and access to justice.

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