4 Benefits of Outlines

Outline? What outline? I am not going to do an outline. I do not need to write an outline. I am just going to write this short blog post.

That would be a huge mistake. Many writers, not just technical writers, skip this all important step. Why is outling so important?

Here are four benefits to taking the time to outline all your documents.

1. Focus

An outline helps you focus your attention. It helps you determine what to write. It gives you a roadmap from start, through the middle, and to the end.

Outlining actually helps you write more quickly, more effectively. Yes, I even wrote an outline for this blog post.

2. Flow

It is far easier to review the flow of your information over a page or two than over hundreds of pages. Even for shorter documents, like a blog post or e-mail message of substance, it is a good idea to at least jot down an information outline.

What do you need to tell your audience? Is it in the right order? Are the transitions logical? What are the relationships between topics and subtopics? Is the hierarchy transparent?

3. Balance

Reviewing an outline makes it easy to determine if the right amount of emphasis is placed on each topic. Simple enough. You might find that you need to move things around to get the right balance, or perhaps you will decide to remove information.

4. Completeness

An outline is much easier to review for any gaping holes. You will not have to go through the whole document looking for those holes. You can look at the topics and subtopics to ensure you have covered everything you must tell your audience.

A Quick Explanation

Your outline might just a list of topics, or it might be a formal document itself. It depends on what you are writing and how much roadmapping you need. For example, for this post, I simply wrote down the benefits of outlines.

  • Introduction
  • Focus
  • Flow
  • Balance
  • Completeness
  • Short explanation
  • Ending

That was fairly simple. Some outlines can become rather detailed. My post next week will cover how to start your outline after determining what kind of outline you want to create.

Published in: on March 12, 2009 at 8:36 PM  Comments (1)  

Spellcheck Does Not Find Everything

If you depend on your word processing’s spellcheck feature to find all your spelling errors, you are not finding all those errors. In English, there are many words that sound the same, are spelled differently, and have different meanings.

I recently received a message from a local radio station. It contained this sentence:

As a member of 91.3 The Summit, your invited to join usĀ for this intimate session with Joe Bonamassa.

The word your is spelled correctly. Unfortunately, it is the wrong word for the meaning of the sentence. It should be you are or the contraction you’re. Contractions in technical writing are discouraged. The above example shows why.

So, how can you be sure you used the right word and the right spelling? Read your writing out loud – even your short messages. You will be amazed at how many spelling errors your system does not catch.

Published in: on March 2, 2009 at 12:30 PM  Leave a Comment