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3 Different types of summaries and when to use them

August 3, 2023
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Hai Ta
3 Different types of summaries and when to use them
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As professionals in knowledge-intensive fields, our work environment is flooded with a staggering amount of data, from which we must extract value.

For efficient communication and comprehension, this data needs to be summarized.

But how detailed should a summary be? The answer is determined by the specific context and use case. Let’s delve into the particulars.

A good summary condenses information

At its most fundamental level, a summary is a condensed version of an original text, focusing primarily on the main points and discarding most of the minor or tangential details.

It is a distilled essence that gives readers a snapshot view of the more complex, lengthier original content. It's an essential tool to navigate the information-dense world we live in.

But a summary is much more than a simple reduction of word count. It is a tool of efficiency and comprehension, acting as a lighthouse in the sea of information.

By simplifying and condensing, summaries reduce cognitive load, making it easier for readers to process and understand the core message. This simplification is crucial in our fast-paced world, where every second count and information overload is a constant battle.

A good summary informs stakeholders

Summaries also play a key role in facilitating efficient information sharing. They provide a quick, easy way to disseminate key points of complex information, making them particularly useful in professional settings.

By tailoring the length and depth of summaries, we can address the unique needs and constraints of various scenarios and audiences.

In business, summaries are essential in various forms, from executive summaries in reports to meeting recaps.

They enable swift decision-making, ensuring that stakeholders are aware of the key information and insights, even if they don't have the time to read through the entire document or attend every meeting.

But a good summary is no longer enough

What I'm about to propose might seem radical, a shift in the paradigm if you will. Brace yourself for it: the days of the one-size-fits-all summary are done and dusted.

You might be wondering, 'What on earth does that mean?' It's almost ingrained in our psyche: one paper, one abstract. One meeting, one summary. Singular. But that's an antiquated notion. A relic of a bygone era, as outdated as a floppy disk.

We're living in a time where customization is king. With people bringing unique perspectives and experiences to the table, the 'one summary fits all' model is as outdated as a floppy disk. What managers need, technical leads don't. And vice versa.

So we must tailor summaries to suit different needs, boosting comprehension and empowering decision-making. It's the era of personalized knowledge.

A great summary is customized for the right audience

A well-crafted summary does not follow a one-size-fits-all approach but is tailored to the needs and expectations of the target audience.

In essence, a great summary takes into account not just what is being summarized but also who will be reading it. This approach ensures that the information is not only concise but also relevant and engaging to its intended audience.

A tech startup just launched an innovative product. Here's how the story could be retold in different lengths and details, tailored for three distinct audiences:

  • An Investor Pitch:

In this context, your audience consists of potential investors. They're interested in the high-level view and how this product stands to benefit them financially. Your summary might be moderately detailed, focusing on the most important points.

  • A Product Demonstration for Tech Experts:

Here, your audience is a team of tech experts interested in the intricate details of the product. They would appreciate a long, detailed summary that delves into the technical specifications and unique selling propositions of the product.

  • Press Release for General Public:

For a broader audience with varying levels of tech knowledge, the summary would need to be brief, relaying the significance of the product in layman's terms. The technical jargon will be minimized, and the focus will be more on the problem-solving aspects of the product.

Different lengths of summary and when to use them

Understanding the nuances of summary lengths is key to effective communication. These can range from short and succinct to moderate and comprehensive, each serving different purposes based on the audience and context. Let's dissect these different summary lengths and their appropriate use cases to fully harness their potential in various professional settings.

Short summaries (tl;dr)

Short summaries, also known as TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read), typically consist of 2-3 sentences (~50 words) that encapsulate the core points of a piece of information or an event.

When does a tl;dr shine?

TL;DR summaries excel in situations where quick, high-level updates are required. Let's delve deeper into the scenario of a weekly management meeting. Your team has just finished a long, detailed discussion, with several points of agreement, tasks assigned, and decisions made.

Post-meeting, you need to update your CEO, who couldn't attend due to a scheduling conflict. The executive has multiple departments to oversee and can't afford to sift through lengthy minutes to get the main points.

"Discussed Q4 targets, agreed on a 15% growth plan, and assigned tasks for implementation. Urgent: Requires your approval on budget allocation."

- Example of a tl;dr

A short summary or a TL;DR version becomes invaluable in this context, providing the executive with a concise yet comprehensive update without overwhelming with nonessential details.

This brief but effective communication allows the executive to stay informed, make decisions, and provide necessary approvals without getting bogged down by minute details.

Normal summaries

Medium summaries offer a more detailed overview than short summaries, usually consisting of 3-4 paragraphs (~200 words). They encapsulate the critical points while also addressing some relevant sub-points.

When to write normal summaries?

One typical situation where a medium summary is required is post-client meeting recaps. Let's imagine you've had an extensive discussion with a client about project progress, areas of improvement, solutions proposed, and the roadmap ahead. After the meeting, you need to provide an email recap to the client and other stakeholders to ensure everyone is aligned.

A typical email recap with a normal length summary

In this scenario, a medium summary strikes the right balance between detail and brevity. It encapsulates the core points, delves into certain necessary specifics, but avoids overloading the recipient with minute details.

Digital platforms often use medium summaries as well. Think of blog post introductions or abstracts in research papers – they give the reader a substantial understanding of the topic while encouraging further reading.

Long summaries

Long summaries are more detailed and extensive, often reaching up to 1000 words. They capture all the important points, sub-points, and even some of the peripheral information, preserving most of the context and content of the original information.

When all the nitty-gritty details matter

In the realm of complex business scenarios, such as brainstorming sessions or intricate project meetings involving cross-functional teams, long summaries come into play.

Consider yourself in the role of a consultant in one of these meetings. You are expected to grasp all the details and contexts discussed to provide informed insights, make decisions, and propose actionable strategies. If you were unable to attend the meeting, a long summary becomes your lifeline.

A long summary of such a meeting not only documents the critical points but also encapsulates the reasoning behind decisions, the varying perspectives offered, and the nuances of the discussion.

This detailed summary gives you the entirety of the meeting discourse, allowing you to understand the progression of the discussion, the reasoning behind decisions, and the context of plans. It's as if you were there in the meeting yourself.

In the context of formal meetings, long summaries often take the form of meeting minutes, detailing everything from attendees, points of discussion, decisions made, to action items. They serve as an official record of the meeting and a source of reference for attendees and non-attendees alike.

But who has time for different summaries for the same meeting?

You may be wondering, "Creating multiple summaries sounds excellent in theory, but who has the time or resources to create different summaries for each participant?”

No secretary has been asked to summarize a meeting in three different formats and varying lengths. It was not feasible in terms of resourcing.

This is true for human. But not for AI. Not for Wudpecker.

An Introduction to Wudpecker

Wudpecker is an innovative AI meeting tool that specializes in creating high-quality summaries tailored to users' specific needs, irrespective of their complexity or length.

Wudpecker steps in as a game-changer, capable of creating summaries of any length. Be it a short brief for your manager, a medium recap for your clients, or a detailed summary for internal team members, Wudpecker ensures you have the right information in the right format at your fingertips.


Summaries are vital for effective information management in our data-driven professional world. The length of a summary—be it short, medium, or long—depends on the specific requirements and contexts. Wudpecker stands out as an invaluable tool in this aspect, ensuring that the right level of detail reaches the right people at the right time.

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