Summly, summaries and blurbs


If anyone needed proof of the value of summarising, Yahoo’s purchase of Summly for millions of pounds is surely it.

Summly is an app, created by 17-year-old Nick D’Aloisio, that uses an algorithm to provide automatic summaries of news stories found on the web. Announcing the deal with Yahoo on Summly’s website, Nick D’Aloisio said

“As we move towards a more refined, liberated and intelligent mobile web, summaries will continue to help navigate through our ever expanding information universe.”

He developed the app to save time, having found searching the web on his mobile laborious. He was getting far more information than he needed as he revised for his history exam.

We all need summaries. Busy executives want a single page that gives them the main thrust of a long report. Web users want an idea of what’s in a site, a section or an article before plunging in. They don’t want to waste time reading things that aren’t relevant. Summaries or blurbs guide them through a site to what they want.

In our Clarity training courses, we cover summary writing and give people tips on how to do it. For example, select a single strong message and back it up with one or two telling facts. If you include too much detail, the reader won’t be able to take it all in.

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3 Responses to Summly, summaries and blurbs

  1. Will April 2, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    Thanks, Susannah. I use RSS a lot, so having good summaries of news stories with a good headline usually determines which things I choose to click on. More people should learn how to do it – perhaps you could summarise how to write summaries? 🙂

  2. Susannah April 2, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    Here goes: always write a summary from scratch, off the top of your head. Give readers the main message with one or two specifics to illustrate it. So, not so general as to be bland and not so specific as to be indigestible.

  3. Will April 15, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    Very succinct. Thanks, Susannah.

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