All great works start with good foundations and articles are no different. An outline is a great tool to give your article solid support and using one has many benefits:
Many writers think taking the time to write an outline adds one more time consuming step to the writing process. The truth is, having an outline speeds up the writing process by giving writers a road map to their article. It is much harder to write a clear, focused and coherent article off the cuff. If you tend to write your articles straight from your head, how many times do you stop to think about what direction to take? How much time do you spend editing things on the back end? An outline cuts time off of both processes dramatically.
An outline gets your brain thinking about the order in which to present your information, which information is key to the piece and which information may not be as significant or may need to be presented in a different way i.e. bullet points or pull-out box. It also helps you identify your lead and conclusion, arugably the hardest parts of the article to produce.
Outlines are essentially organization tools. They are your thoughts, research and interview information gathered and structured – they are the bones of your piece. When writing off the cuff, writers often have to stop to go over notes, scroll through interview transcriptions, etc. An outline forces you to go over the information before writing the piece. You can even make an outline detailed to note pages and transcription time or notations, if you choose.
An outline doesn’t have to be the tightly structured, rigid writing technique you learned in middle school. It can adapt to your writing style and needs, remember, it’s to help you get organized, you won’t have to turn it end with your finished project at the end of class! Tomorrow we’ll look at some outline techniques and formats in an effort to find a few that the FWJ community can adopt for your own use.
Do you use an outline before writing an article? What about blogs? Tell us how it works for you!