How to Write a Summary: Mastering the Art of Nonfiction Summarization

by Harry Wallett

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve found yourself in situations where you’ve wanted to share the fascinating insights you’ve gained from a book or article, only to realize that you struggle to condense all that information into a clear, concise summary.

In this post, we’re going to solve this problem for you by taking a deep dive into the art of writing a nonfiction summary.

We’ll explore the essential steps and techniques you’ll need to effectively summarize a piece of nonfiction writing. Plus, we’ll discuss why it’s so important to develop this skill — both for personal growth and for connecting with others in meaningful conversations.

Let’s get started!

The Basics of Writing a Nonfiction Summary

Have you ever finished reading a phenomenal nonfiction book or article and felt an overwhelming desire to share its insights with others?

If so, you know how important it is to be able to condense all that information into a clear, concise summary.

In this section, we’ll dive deeper into the basics of writing a nonfiction summary by exploring a straightforward three-step process that’ll set you on the path to success:

Step 1. Identify the main ideas and supporting details

First and foremost, you need to pinpoint the main ideas and supporting details that serve as the backbone of your summary.

To do this, start by skimming through the work and taking note of the key points the author is trying to make.

Keep an eye out for any recurring themes, arguments, or concepts that stand out. As you go through this process, it’s crucial to stay objective — focus on what the author says, not what you think or feel about the subject matter.

By remaining impartial, you’ll ensure that your summary accurately reflects the author’s intent and ideas.

Step 2. Condense the information

Once you’ve identified the main ideas and supporting details, it’s time to distill the information down to its most critical elements. This is where you’ll need to employ your skills of concision and clarity.

To help with this, try imagining that you only have a minute to explain the work to someone. What would you say? What are the essential points that your listener must understand?

This thought exercise can guide you in trimming away any unnecessary information and zeroing in on what truly matters.

Step 3. Use your own words

Finally, it’s time to rephrase the main ideas and supporting details in your own words. Doing so not only demonstrates that you’ve truly grasped the material but also keeps things fresh and engaging for your readers.

Additionally, using your own words allows you to put your personal touch on the summary and flex those writing muscles.

When rephrasing, be mindful of maintaining the author’s original intent while adding your own flair to the summary. You want to strike a balance between accurately conveying the author’s ideas and creating an enjoyable, unique reading experience for your audience.

Tips for Crafting an Effective Summary

Now that you’ve got a solid grasp of the basics, let’s focus on making your summary truly useful.

To craft a summary that’s both engaging and informative, follow these tips and watch your writing shine:

Start with an engaging hook

First impressions matter. Begin your summary with a compelling hook that grabs your readers’ attention and piques their curiosity.

This can be a thought-provoking question, an interesting fact, or a powerful statement related to the work you’re summarizing. By starting strong, you’ll encourage your readers to stick around and delve into your summary.

Be concise and avoid repetition

Nobody enjoys reading a summary that seems never-ending or repetitive. Keep your writing tight and to the point, making sure you’re not rehashing the same ideas multiple times.

Remember, when it comes to summaries, less is often more. Strive to convey the essential points while keeping your word count in check.

Use transitional phrases to connect ideas

Transitional phrases, such as “in addition,” “on the other hand,” or “moreover,” are incredibly useful in guiding your readers through your summary and creating a coherent flow between your ideas.

Use these phrases strategically to ensure your summary is easy to follow and keeps your readers engaged from start to finish.

Maintain a conversational and personable tone

A summary that sounds robotic or overly formal can be off-putting to readers. Instead, aim for a conversational and personable tone to create a more engaging and enjoyable reading experience.

By writing in a way that feels natural and relatable, you’ll draw your readers in and make the content more accessible.

Avoid jargon, cliches, and passive voice

Clarity is essential when writing a summary, so make sure your readers can easily understand your main points. To achieve this, steer clear of jargon, cliches, and passive voice.

Instead, opt for straightforward language, active voice, and concrete examples to illustrate your points. This will ensure your summary is clear, concise, and reader-friendly.

The Importance of Developing Summarization Skills

So, now you know how to master the art of writing a nonfiction summary, but why is this skill so important?

There are several compelling reasons to develop and refine your summarization abilities. Let’s dive into some of the key benefits:

Enhancing comprehension and retention

When you summarize a work, you’re required to actively engage with the material, which deepens your understanding and helps you retain the information better.

As you process the author’s ideas and arguments, you’ll internalize them more effectively, making it easier to recall and apply that knowledge in the future. Summarizing is a powerful tool for learning and personal growth.

Improving communication and collaboration


Whether you find yourself in a professional setting or simply having a conversation with friends, being able to convey complex ideas in a clear, concise manner is invaluable.

Summarization skills help you distill information down to its essential elements, making it easier for others to grasp your points.

In turn, this makes you a more effective communicator and collaborator, as you’ll be able to share your insights and knowledge with others in a way that’s both engaging and easy to understand.

This skill can enhance your personal relationships, boost your career, and foster productive teamwork in various contexts.

Developing critical thinking and analysis

Writing a summary requires you to analyze and evaluate the author’s ideas, arguments, and evidence. This practice hones your critical thinking skills, enabling you to dissect complex concepts and form well-reasoned opinions.

As you become more adept at summarizing, you’ll develop a keen eye for spotting assumptions, biases, and logical inconsistencies.

This sharpened analytical ability can be applied to all aspects of your life, from making informed decisions to engaging in thought-provoking discussions on a wide range of topics.

Examples of High-Quality Nonfiction Summaries

Need some inspiration? Here are a couple of examples of websites that offer top-notch nonfiction summaries:

Book summaries

These platforms provide concise summaries of popular nonfiction books, allowing you to quickly digest the key points and ideas.

Article summaries

These websites offer brief, digestible summaries of news articles and other nonfiction content, making it easier for you to stay informed and up-to-date.

In Conclusion

In today’s fast-paced world, the ability to distill and communicate essential information is a highly sought-after skill in many industries.

The process of summarizing requires you to carefully evaluate an author’s ideas and arguments, leading to a deeper understanding of the subject matter and fostering your ability to think critically about various topics.

Honing your summarization abilities will make you a more critical and analytical thinker, qualities that are transferable to countless aspects of your life.

All the best!

Harry Wallett is the Managing Director of Cascadia Author Services. He has a decade of experience as the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing, which has sold over 3 million copies of books in all genres for its authors, and looks after a team of 50+ industry professionals working across the world.

Harry is inspired by the process of book creation and is passionate about the stories and characters behind the prose. He loves working with the writers and has shepherded 1000s of titles to publication over the years. He knows first-hand what it takes to not only create an unputdownable book, but also how to get it into the hands of the right readers for success.

Books are still one of the most powerful mediums to communicate ideas and establish indisputable authority in a field, boosting your reach and stature. But publishing isn’t a quick and easy process—nor should it be, or everyone would do it!

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