Writing the Perfect Summary Sentence

Posted: December 17th, 2013, 9:00 am   By: brittany.corners

Correctly formatting summary sentences for articles, e-commerce paragraphs and guides is an important part of writing. If you are a writer who struggles with this (maybe you have received feedback from an editor saying something in your format was incorrect), this blog is for you.

First, here is a review of the the summary sentence instructions: It must start with an action word. The primary keyword must appear within the first six words and it must stay between 20 – 25 words. Sounds easy, right?

Browsing…oops…adding “ing” to shop makes it not count as an action word. When a verb has “ing” added, it is a verb in its present participle form. You want the action verb in all its natural glory – minus the “ing.”

Try the summary sentence again with the correct action verb.

Browse for an learn about these [keyword]…oops…that places the keyword beyond the sixth word of the sentence. Try shorting the beginning of the sentence in this case.

Browse for [keyword], an absolutely must-have gadget that is sure to rock your world.

You are done now, right?

Nope. The sentence is only 19 words, if you were counting. Luckily, the hit screens on mechanical turk do that part for you! Try the sentence one more time.

Browse for [keyword], an absolutely must-have gadget that is sure to rock your world with its features that make using it a breeze.

Yeah! This sentence is 23 words long, has the primary keyword within the first six words AND is within 20-25 words.

Now that you know what an action word is, the correct keyword placement and the proper length, you can learn from a few suggestions for always maintaining this format.

First, always count the number of words that precede your keyword. For e-commerce paragraphs, a great way to develop the habit is to start every summary sentence with this: [Shop or browse] for [keyword]… – with this format, you already have two of three of the requirements nailed. For articles and guides, try using “learn about [subject]” or “read about [subject].”

Next, make sure the length is correct. If it is too short, add a little more information. Summary sentences can consist of two sentences, so add a very short sentence.

Example of original: Shop for paper napkins in a variety of colors and patterns to keep your table accessorized with colorful accents. – 19 words

With additional information: Shop for paper napkins in a variety of colors and patterns. Your guests are sure to appreciate these colorful accents when they sit down to dinner. – 26 words – oops – too long!

One more try: Shop for paper napkins in a variety of colors and patterns. Your guests are sure to appreciate these colorful accents. – Woohoo – 20 words.

As you can see, sometimes a little rewording is necessary to achieve the perfectly-formatted summary sentence, but with a very small amount of effort, you can make all of yours perfect as well.

Once you have the format down, start experimenting with more exciting action words if you like (though shop, browse, learn and read are 100% acceptable). For example, if you are writing about paintball equipment, use battle to start your summary sentence, or if you are writing about lighting fixtures, use light or illuminate as your action word. The possibilities are literally endless, so have fun and stay creative while you knock out one perfectly-formatted summary sentence after another!