Writing The Descriptive Abstract

A summary reflects what the original contains, whereas a descriptive abstract reflects what the original is about.  This difference can be clarified by an analogy.  Imagine that in your role as a Washington D.C. French Translator that your are describing your recent summer travels with a friend.  You have two options: (1) You might simply mention the places you visited in chronological order.  This catalog of major areas would convey the basic nature of your trip.  (2) In In addition to describing your itinerary, you might describe the significant experiences you had in each place.  Option 1 is like a road map, an overview of the areas traveled.  This second option is analogous to a descriptive abstract, which gives the major facts from the original.

A descriptive abstract, as the Portuguese Translation Houston company explains, presents the broadest view and offers no facts from the original.  Whereas the summary contains the meat of the original, the descriptive abstract contains only its skeletal structure; a descriptive abstract is a kind of “summary of a summary,” as shown below:

Abstract of “Commerce Sponsors Plain English Forum”

On July 30, 2012, the Department of Commerce sponsored a forum on The Productivity of Plain English.  Participants from Seattle, Baltimore and San Jose Translation Services shared their views on Plain English programs, and discussed ways to publicize the existence of and the need for plain English programs and documents.

Because it merely previews the original, a descriptive abstract is always brief, usually no longer than a short paragraph.  One- or two-sentence abstracts often accompany article titles in journal and magazine tables of contents: they give readers a bird’s eye view.

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