Why Outlines Make Me (and you) a Better Writer [Tips]

Believe it or not: Outlines improve writing

For the past few weeks, Arketi has been all about the importance of outline development. It may seem elementary, but I know that I often jump straight into writing without taking enough time to look at the bigger picture of the work, whether it’s a blog post, press release or other marketing piece.

I’m not sure whether I have an aversion to outlining because I was forced to do it in middle school, or because it feels like it takes extra time, but I’ve found that it actually saves time in the long run. I can get my outline approved to make sure I’m on the right track before I start writing. After some research on outlining and some reminiscing on my time in the sixth grade, I’ve put together some tips for crafting a useful outline. 

Do the write thing - Outlines improve writing

What’s the Point?

Decide on the main topics that you want to cover. Then, figure out which points are most important, and position those closer to the top. Make sure your topics are in a logical order.

Next, expand upon your main topics by creating sub-points. The middle school rules for outlining demand several sub-topics with numerous bullets below. They also require letters, numbers and Roman numerals, which I find confusing and pointless. Use indentation and bullets under your main points to organize your thoughts and guide your writing.

Do the Write Thing.

Once your outline is complete and on target, it’s time to actually write. Start a new document, but keep the outline in front of you while you work.

If you find yourself straying from the outline a little bit or adding and deleting ideas, this is normal. If you decide to reorganize the whole piece, edit your outline first.

Outline Again.

Once you’re done writing, outline the work again. Compare this outline to the one that you originally created. If they’re different, that’s fine, but try to figure out why they differ and whether the new structure does a better job of accomplishing your point.

If you find it difficult to outline what you’ve written, this may be a bad sign. See if you can reorganize the work to better match the original architecture of your outline, or if need be make a new outline and rearrange the writing. My outline for this blog post follows.

 

Introduction

  • Importance of outlining
    • Save time
    • Decide on the bigger picture

Order your Main Points

  • Most important at top
    • Logical order
  • Create Sub-Points
    • Expand upon your main ideas
    • Roman numerals, etc. are unnecessary

Write

  • Follow the structure of your outline
    • Start with a fresh document
  • Don’t be afraid to add ideas
    • Make a new outline if you wander too much

Retro-outline

  • Finish writing, then re-outline
    • Compare to the first outline
  • Edit if it does not make sense
    • If structure is hard to see, writing may be hard to understand

 

I hope you found these tips and my outline example helpful. If you have other thoughts on how outlines can help improve writing projects, leave us a comment below.

By Erin Sikorski – July 16, 2015

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