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)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Hi

    I always do an outline. For press releases, I let the questions I ask my clients in order to compile the press release act as an outline. For feature articles, I write a one-word outline for the theme of each paragraph. For all my pieces, I also write the angle and the format. I can’t begin without an angle. If I don’t have one, I struggle to write a coherent article.


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