Write a summary

A Summary to write is basically no problem, but often it is difficult to focus on the Essentials of a text Focus on the most important features in the later summary. However, this is what matters when writing a table of contents, which is why we would like to explain the main aspects of this approach to you.

What is a summary??

The purpose of a summary is to describe the most important things about a text or a movie in a concise form and not to omit any essential information, even if unimportant details should be omitted. The stated goal, then, is to give the reader a Overview of the work to provide a summary that includes all relevant action steps and levels.

Unlike a conclusion, resume, or even a review, synopses are never judgmental or interpretative of what is happening. There is no attempt to imitate the original in terms of language. In contrast to the retelling, the content summary also generally does without suspense arcs and other means of narration and embellishment.

Features of the summary

In addition to summarizing the content, this will include most important persons of the text, as well as the place and the Time the plot introduced. When we write a summary, we choose a narrative form of text, where we use the term "summary" Present tense (present tense) and expressions of the protagonists in indirect speech reproduce.
When writing a content summary, we focus on the essentials.

Features of the summary

However, not all summaries are the same, and in principle we enjoy a great deal of freedom in writing them. If you are writing the blurb for a book or updating the program for a current movie, you can of course use exciting phrases or quotes that have no place in a school synopsis.

However, if we look at the characteristics soberly and focus on the essentials so that our table of contents is also suitable for school or university, we have to keep in mind some basic things when writing and formulating them.

  • The language is factual, precise and concise
  • Introduction, main part and conclusion form the structure
  • The chosen tense is the present (present tense!)
  • Verbatim speech is avoided. Use indirect speech!
  • It is written in his own words. No quotations!
  • The content summary is told chronologically
  • The first person form is changed into the he/she form

Language of the summary

We should do not embellish anything when writing the synopsis or get lost in unnecessary details and facts. This means that only the most important information should find a place in our summary. For our purpose, we can roughly stick to the following guidelines.

Have we limited ourselves to the essential information of the text or do we tend to include a lot of additional information?

Are our formulations shortened to the essentials?? Ideally, we should use a clear and simple structure for the summary.

Which persons and places are important for the plot? So who are the main characters in our story?

What are the connections between the individual elements?? Both temporal and causal, and which of these are important to the story?

Hint: The purpose of a synopsis is neither to capture the mood of the original nor to retell it skillfully. We therefore use sober and factual language throughout.

Structure of the summary

A summary always consists of the following parts Introduction, main part and conclusion. We already know this rough outline from other papers in the field of academic writing.


The introduction contains essential brief information for the reader. In the introduction of our summary, we should include the following elements:

  • Which text type is the text about? (ballad, short story, fable, etc.).)?
  • Title of the story, the movie or even the book
  • The time of origin of the text
  • The name of the author of the story
  • Place and time of the action
  • The main character (or the main protagonists)
  • The most important of the plot in a concise outlook

Example for the introduction of a summary

Emilia Galotti, a drama written by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in 1772, is about Prince Hettore Gonzaga, his fanatical love for Emilia Galotti and his plan to conquer the girl. The bourgeois tragedy is in the 18. Is the story set in the sixteenth century and takes place in an Italian principality?.

This sample introduction consists of only two concise sentences, giving all the essential information about Lessing’s Emilia Galotti include. So you see, the most important information about the text is dealt with in the introduction, and we do not have to use any unnecessary constructions.

Main body

In the main part, we will focus on the main steps of the original text, trying to reproduce them chronologically and without useless details. In a way, the main part is the heart of a good summary, and we should keep the following things in mind for the structure.

  • Describe the initial situation: what are the conditions?? In what time and place does the story take place and begin??
  • Present the content in paragraphs (factual, sober and without embellishments)
  • Keep in mind to tell the plot chonologically. Time jumps in the actual text should be sorted and written in the correct order (no flashbacks or anticipations).
  • Explain why the protagonists act the way they do. What is their motivation or drive and what goals are they pursuing?
  • It is also important that the end of the story is revealed. The table of contents should not arouse curiosity, but should depict the plot in its entirety!


The conclusion is not always necessary when we write a synopsis. However, it rounds up a great summary and gives the reader more impetus.

In the conclusion, we can discuss the author’s intentions or emphasize linguistic peculiarities of the text. However, if we decide to use it, we must also consider the effect of these peculiarities. In addition, we can briefly and concisely discuss the effect of the work in the conclusion. However, this is not necessary.

Observe the tense of the table of contents

Content statements are always formulated in the present tense, which we have to pay attention to, especially in the case of time jumps, so that we don’t unintentionally change the tense.

Example of the correct tense for the summary of contents

Wrong: The Prince Hettore Gonzaga was obsessed with Emilia.
Correct: The Prince Hettore Gonzaga is obsessed with Emilia.

Hint: However, if there are references to previous events in the plot, we can of course reproduce them in the perfect tense in our synopsis. Otherwise, we should always stay in the present.

Indirect speech and no quotations

When writing, we must pay attention to indirect speech and should not serve quotations of the text. Only if a quotation is indispensable for the course of the plot.

Example of indirect and direct speech

Direct speech: Emilia asked the prince: "Did you receive my message??".
Indirect speech: Emilia asks him if he has received the message.

Hint: When transforming direct speech into indirect speech, there are a few things to keep in mind. For example, there is no colon or quotation marks and the verb is in subjunctive 1. Decision questions are introduced by "whether" in indirect speech.

Write chronologically and follow the order

All elements of the summary are always told chronologically. This means that we reproduce the individual action steps in the correct chronological order. We do not use flashbacks or time jumps when writing the summary.

Change perspective from I to he and she

Texts are often described from the first person perspective, but we do not include this in our table of contents. We change the perspective into a he or she form.

The length of the table of contents

Since we are dealing with a summary of the original text, a table of contents is naturally shorter than the corresponding original. Of course, the length of the synopsis depends largely on the confusion, flashbacks, and time spent in the underlying text. Consequently, poetry synopses are usually shorter than those of long novels.

However, we can roughly adhere to the guideline of with scarcely one DIN A4 – page should get along, which is also often the default in German schools. However, this cannot always be generalized.

  • Have we really included all the important information??
  • Can we still remove descriptive, embellishing adjectives?
  • Has the direct speech been converted correctly?
  • Are place, time, title and author included in the introduction?
  • Have we written the summary chronologically?
  • Correct spelling, punctuation and grammar?
  • If the summary is written in the present tense?

We hope that you have found all the essential information in this article and can now write your own synopsis. If there are still questions, we are of course happy to receive a short message from you or feedback.

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