A Guide To Outlining

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” (Alan Lakein).

We should all already know the best way to prepare for writing is an outline.

Through an outline, we are not only able to organize our thoughts, but we can come up with all topics and points that we want to hit.

An outline is similar to writing an entire piece, reading it over, and writing it again. The second is always better. The outline is doing just that in a more time efficient manor.


Why An Outline Is Important

An outline not only gives you organization for ideas, but allows you to make sure you have everything you want to talk about and in the proper place.

Most people see an outline as necessary if you are doing a research paper or other professional type of writing. However, for any form of writing, an outline can be beneficial for all types.

Outlining acts as a good space for brainstorming if you haven’t thought of all the things you want to talk about. Write what you have and go from there adding more and more information and commentary.

I’ve said in a previous post, good writing can almost sound like a rant that someone conveys with passion about whether they really like or really dislike something. I believe this is still true, but an outline, if it’s formatted well, will give way to have points be covered in an order that makes sense and makes it more effective for the reader.

The outline is the organizational plan and the actual writing is explaining your thoughts further in detail and why those bullet points are there.


Making An Outline

For actually making an outline, this is where you can do whatever you believe will be the most effective for you.

Make and follow your own template whether it be bullet points, numbers, letters, and whatever else you need to get good, attractive organization.

Remember that the outline is for you. Other people may see it and have no idea how it makes sense to you, but that absolutely doesn’t matter. What works best for you is the best way to do it.

An example of a standard typical outline would look like this.

  • Making an outline
    1. First point
      • Information
      • Information #2
    2. Second point
      • Information
        • Sub information
    3. Conclusion
      • Final thoughts

If this is not fitting with you, you can look up other outlines or even other types of note taking methods and see what looks interesting.

Another type is the Cornell notes which is having a small left column for the topics and recalling main points, and a big right column for notes and any information you want to write down having it line up with the appropriate topic.

Even things like a list of bullet points of ideas can still be helpful. Organization in an outline is only half of what makes it good, the other half is preparing everything you want to say.

Utilizing An Outline

When you finally have your finished outline, there should be enough information on it to make sure when you start writing, you can keep writing. More is better and extra is good.

If you want to increase the length, it may not be necessary if you cover everything you want to talk about. But if you do, you don’t always need to add more points to cover your topic, but you can add more information to back up the other points.

All things you want to talk about can be made in the outline first, then subsequent information follows.

You can also copy and paste if your information written in the outline is the way you want it to appear in the piece.

In any other case, use a second monitor or another tab and use it to frequently make sure you are following the outline and everything is falling into place as previously planned.

One last point for utilization, you can use the outline as necessary or any way that is helpful to you. Even if writing down all the points gave you a better idea of what you want to do, you might not even need the outline anymore.

Outlining is preparing to write and in doing so, you are taking the time to make your writing better.

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