TEFL teaching materials

teaching professional people english

Better business writing – the executive summary

Getting adult learners to write can be a bit of a challenge. Let’s face it, they have all kinds of hangups from school. Getting them to face those demons and commit their English to paper is an achievement worth pursuing. It’s good to get some sentences on paper where you can see them and correct them slowly. It’s also good to stop talking from time to time. Silence being golden ‘n’ all that.
I have stumbled upon a brilliant article about writing executive summaries. Executive sounds important, summary means it’s short. The fact that this business writing project is sales oriented in no way disqualifies non-sales students.  The article, if followed, will guide students to a one- or two-paragraph text in less than half an hour.
Click here

If your students find this really difficult, I would give them my one piece of advice about press articles – skip the introduction, at least until you are happy with the main points.  After that, it seems simple enough to follow, but in my experience that won’t be what happens unless you get involved.  Left to themselves many students will read the article and then completely disregard it when they put pen to paper.  Why?  They just do.  They panic, freeze, and revert to (bad) habit.  What you need is a trick to interrupt that process.

Comprehension questions

  • What is the main idea in an Executive Sales Summary?  (clue – it’s at the end of the article)
  • What information should never be in an E.S.S. unless specifically requested? (clue – $)
  • What are the 5 steps?  Do you agree with the order in which they are presented here?  (Bearing in mind that this article is written by an expert, not an English teacher)

Evaluation rubric

If you’ve never come across one of these before trust me, they really work.  Results guaranteed every time.  Give each student a copy.  Have them read it through and answer any questions about vocabulary.  Explain that the purpose of an evaluation rubric is that they be able to self- and peer-evaluate.  (And understand what you want them to do).

executive sales summary evaluation rubric

Obviously my rubric is designed to address the most common problems my students have with this kind of thing, and they’re french.  You might find that my offering is not quite the thing for your classroom – but it’s a place to start from.

Rôle writing

Like rôle playing, but more serious and less noisy….  You can probably think of tons more ideas which are much better than these.  Please share.  Here are some of my thoughts..

  • You’re offering a new service to help companies manage their online profiles – facebook, linkedin, smartpanda (France only), google+…
  • You are offering a laundry service to stressed-out professionals who don’t have time.  You know, executive ladies who must always look perfect, but who don’t have time to do the ironing.
  • Your travel company wants to offer special incentive packages to large companies to motivate their best employees.
  • You organize events for team building.
  • Your training company is offering a new concept in language teaching.
  • You offer professional massage and hypnotherapy services to burned-out executives.
  • You get the idea….

Of course, it might be more appropriate for your students to hawk an actual product in their technical field.  You can google suppliers.  For example, I found sales leaflets for dosimeters and decontamination portals for my students in nuclear maintenance ; )


Ultimately, your people need to be able to sell their own product.  Make sure that they have a crack at it in this context.  Perhaps they have an idea that they would like to suggest to management.  This might be a good time to think about it differently.. although perhaps not during a group lesson in their workplace.


About Catherine Kennedy

Second year undergrad (super-mature) at Sheffield Uni doing single honours Religion, Theology, and the Bible. (Formerly TEFL teacher in France)

4 comments on “Better business writing – the executive summary

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