How to Write Abstracts and Short Descriptions

Abstracts and short descriptions explain what the reader wants to accomplish, the purpose of using it, or the benefits it offers them.

Do not simply repeat the title of the page or document. Avoid stating the obvious, such as “You can use the Paste option to paste text”.

Try to add more information about why the task is beneficial. Include information that helps the reader understand when to perform this task and in what circumstances it is necessary to do so.

Example of an ineffective description:

Creating a proposal template: You can create a proposal template with the proposal wizard. This short description does not tell why using the wizard is important or beneficial. It simply states the obvious and generates no interest in the reader. Will they try it? Not likely.

Example of an effective description:

Creating an RFP Proposal template: By using the proposal template, you can speed up the documentation process, use the pre-defined styles and formatting to ensure that your proposal gets submitted on time.

This description outlines some of the benefits the proposal wizard offers the reader. It is more likely to stimulate their interest.

Example of an ineffective description:

Pasting Text: You can use the Paste option to paste text into your document. This description does not tell users the benefit or purpose of pasting text.

Example of an effective description:

Pasting Text: Use the Paste option to paste text, objects, or images into your document. Use the Paste Special option to retain formatting, for example, if you want to copy content from a website and bring over both the text and images.

The effective description is better because it describes the different types of pasting and the reasons you’d use Paste Special instead of the standard paste option. After reading this, the reader feels more informed and better placed to make a decision.

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