Summarizing – An Important Writing Skill

Practice SummarizingWoman-Writing-In-Notepad-200x300

In Write Now: Business Writing That Gets Results (p. 42), I point out that summarizing or stating the general ideas of the text in your own words is an important skill in business writing.

Here is part of an article by Christopher McCormick entitled “Countries with better English have better economies” that appeared in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network.

Read each of the five paragraphs below and practice summarizing. Write down your own summary for each paragraph.  Then choose the best summary for each paragraph from the list below.  Finally, compare your summary writing with our suggested answers. How is your skill in summarizing?

Paragraph 1:  New Opportunities

Billions of people around the globe are desperately trying to learn English—not simply for self-improvement, but as an economic necessity. It’s easy to take for granted being born in a country where people speak the lingua franca of global business, but for people in emerging economies such as China, Russia, and Brazil, where English is not the official language, good English is a critical tool, which people rightly believe will help them tap into new opportunities at home and abroad.

Paragraph 2: Economic Performance

Research shows a direct correlation between the English skills of a population and the economic performance of the country. Indicators like gross national income (GNI) and GDP go up. In our latest edition of the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), the largest ranking of English skills by country, we found that in almost every one of the 60 countries and territories surveyed, a rise in English proficiency was connected with a rise in per capita income. And on an individual level, recruiters and HR managers around the world report that job seekers with exceptional English compared to their country’s level earned 30-50% percent higher salaries.

Paragraph 3: Higher Salaries

The interaction between English proficiency and gross national income per capita is a virtuous cycle, with improving English skills driving up salaries, which in turn give governments and individuals more money to invest in language training. On a micro level, improved English skills allow individuals to apply for better jobs and raise their standards of living.

Paragraph 4: Sweden Tops

This is one explanation for why Northern European countries are always out front in the EF EPI, with Sweden taking the top spot for the last two years. Given their small size and export-driven economies, the leaders of these nations understand that good English is a critical component of their continued economic success.

Paragraph 5: Improved Standard of Living

It’s not just income that improves either. So does the quality of life. We also found a correlation between English proficiency and the Human Development Index, a measure of education, life expectancacy, and standards of living.

Suggested summarizing answers:

A. A good knowledge of English allows individuals to get better jobs, make more money  and take more language courses.

B. A good knowledge of English also leads to a better quality of life.

C. A country like Sweden has one of the highest performing economies because the government realizes the importance of English.

D. People around the world, especially in countries with  growing economies,  such as Brazil,  realize that  learning English will improve their chances of success.

E. Studies show a clear link between knowledge of English and higher salaries in most of the 60 places studied.



1.  D,  2.  E, 3.  A, 4. C a,  5. B

How did you do? Would you like more practice in summarizing? Let us know.



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