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Writing Outline

Some people think it is busywork to create a writing outline. They think that they can wing their actual writing. Watch the video on creating a good writing outline to learn more, then scroll below the video to read the transcript.

 

For short documents, such as informal reports, they may be right. However, for other documents, such as formal research or analytical reports, a good writing outline is essential for creating a professional document. Creating a great outline ensures you are moving in the right direction, and it ensures that when you do actually sit down to write, you will have something worthwhile to say.

Some of the tips and strategies I gave for organizing a talk in “Structuring a Presentation, Part 1” can apply to structuring writing too, especially in the kind of formal documents I’ve mentioned. These involve setting up a main idea and then working through either phrases or sentences to make sure you truly understand the idea.

For one thing, an outline helps you organize your ideas in a logical and orderly way. It gives a detailed overview of what you are writing about. And it shows readers how your ideas are related.

As I mentioned in the linked article, an outline is usually divided into major and minor points. You can create an outline using either phrases or sentences. Some experts recommend the “sentence” format because it is clearer. It also helps you the writer clarify your thinking. It enables you to build a solid structure for your ideas.

Sample Writing Outline

Subject: Planning for an older population
Research shows that the proportion of older people to younger people in North American society is increasing. This demographic shift will require new planning for the future.

Outline 1: Phrases Outline 2: Sentences
I. Evidence of the shift I. Evidence of the shift in the ratio of older people is clear in the latest statistics.
A. The declining birthrate A. The birth rate is declining. The average woman is having fewer children.
B. The changing death rate B. The death rate is decreasing. Older people are living longer.

 

Adapted from The Vest-Pocket Writer’s Guide.

Remember that an outline is not a static tool. I find myself often revising an outline on the fly during the writing phase. I may see a new relationship among ideas or a new way to present information. Whenever you attempt to write your outline, you need to do your due diligence, and create an excellent outline.

What outline problems do you have? What else would you like us to do to help you with your business writing outline issues?

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