How to Write an Outline Effectively – [Expert Tips, Examples]

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How to Write an Outline Effectively – [Expert Tips, Examples] December 21, 2023

Many people consider writing an easy task, as they confuse it with normal communication in day-to-day life. However, not everyone communicating better can write down outstanding writing pieces. If you want to make a difference with writing in your academic or professional career, you’ll need to take care of several aspects.

Like several other writers, you may also struggle to start writing. The reason behind not being able to start doesn’t account for a lack of writing skills. It’s mainly because you haven’t been following the right way to get started on this journey.

Have you ever been told to brainstorm your ideas before presenting them? That’s the same thing you must start while working on writing projects. For this reason, it’s essential to create an outline so that you know what needs to be discussed in the writing from top to bottom.

If you don’t know how to create an outline for your written work, we have got you covered. In this blog, you’ll learn everything about writing an outline effectively.

So, let’s get started with some basics first!

What is an Outline?

An outline is a tool to organize the scattered thoughts of a writer or student related to a certain topic. If you have a topic and there are multiple ideas in your mind related to it, then it’s best to write them down in an outline. 

While writing an outline, you need to create main paragraphs from your ideas and add the points that you find related to them in the research phase. You can perceive an outline as a structure of main ideas that need to be translated into sentences.

Importance of Creating an Outline

Creating an outline benefits writers as it takes away a major proportion of the workload. If you start writing without making an outline, several ideas related to the topic might get skipped from your mind. When you have written an outline, it means that everything you need to discuss in a paper is in front of you, and you won’t be required to keep digging for multiple sources. As a result, you’ll keep your focus on the quality of work and curate an outstanding piece of writing.

Another benefit of creating an outline for your writing work is that it will strengthen your command of the research you have conducted. It will save you an ample amount of time and effort required in the writing process. You might be amazed to know that you can bring down the chances of plagiarism by creating an outline. As you write all the main points that need to be discussed in the outline, you won’t be required to revisit the sources, which often becomes a main cause of unintentional plagiarism.

Structure of an Outline

Before we discuss the tips for writing an outline, let’s first clear your thoughts about its structure. In an outline, you need to split the main aspects of a topic into distinct subheadings. By writing the headings to cover in an outline, you can easily weigh their importance with respect to the central idea and arrange them accordingly. In addition, the supportive evidence and ideas related to subheadings can be written down in bullet points.

There are no hard and fast rules for structuring an outline. However, for your convenience, you can follow the principles listed below: 

  • For paragraphs, you can use capital letters. (A, B, C) 
  • Listed the points you discussed in paragraphs through numbering. (1, 2, 3)
  • Represent the specific details with small letters. (a, b, c, d)

Expert Tips on How to Write an Outline Effectively

Whether you’re working on a creative writing project or an academic assignment, the following tips will help you write an outline effectively!

Conduct Research and Gather Data

When you are asked to write on a certain topic, you’ll first need to clear your thoughts and collect information about it. To collect information, it’s essential to conduct in-depth research. Conducting adequate research is an initial stage before starting to write on any topic. 

Some writers even say that actual writing is just 20-30% of the entire job, as a major proportion needs to be secured by doing research extensively. However, you shouldn’t just search for something in chunks and start writing on them simultaneously. You need to do extensive research to collect valuable data for creating an outline before starting to write your first draft. 

Narrow Down the Main Points to Discuss

After completing research, you will have gotten an idea of what main points need to be covered in a certain piece of writing. These main points can be perceived as paragraphs, and you need to ensure that each paragraph discusses a single idea. This strategy will enable you to make your creative work easy to understand for the audience. As a result, you will save a considerable amount of time. 

Add Supporting Points

Writing down the main points in an outline isn’t enough. To explain the idea behind each point, you’ll need some supporting points. You cannot simply leave the audience thinking about what your main point means. In order to provide them with a better understanding of them, you need statistical data and other sorts of relevant content. You might think that this step is going to be tiresome, but it will save you from all the hassle that arises when you actually begin writing. 

Organize the Details

Once you have written down the main and supporting points in your outline, it’s time to organize these details. In this process, you need to go through the main points you have written and figure out if they make sense in the listed order. If you think that a specific section should be written before the other, you can keep changing the order until the overall outline comes in the perfect shape. You might think that this step can be taken after the competition of writing. It is recommended you not leave it for last, as when writing the paragraphs, you need to interconnect their details to keep vagueness out of the work.

Examples of Well-Written Outlines

After going through the tips for writing an outline effectively, you might still wonder what actually an outline looks like. Here are two examples of well-written outlines.

Example # 1

Title: How Digital Marketing Helps to Grow Your Business?

A.      Introduction

1)      Briefly explain digital marketing.

2)      Explain the importance for businesses to adopt different digital marketing strategies.

a.      Discuss some types of digital marketing, such as SEO, SMM, PPC, etc.

3)      Give a teaser and hook people to continue reading and figure out how digital marketing helps to grow their businesses.

B.      What’s Involved in Digital Marketing?

1)      Let the readers know that digital marketing isn’t limited, as it covers the entire web world.

2)      Discuss the areas where it’s used popularly, including social media platforms, websites, and blogs.

3)      Discuss its types briefly

a. Search Engine Optimization

b.      Pay-Per-Click

c.       Affiliate Marketing

d.      Social Media Marketing

e.      Content Marketing

C.      5 Ways Digital Marketing Helps Businesses

1)      Elaborate its role in improving brand awareness.

2)      Discuss how it helps you earn customer loyalty.

3)      Explain its cost-effectiveness in comparison to other ways.

4)      Jot down how easy it is to measure the results and improve strategies.

5)      Bring more leads.

D.     Conclusion

1)      Provide a recap of the entire blog.

2)      Briefly discuss that ignoring digital marketing is no longer an option.

3)      Add a CTA if you are selling a digital marketing service. (optional).

Example # 2

Title: The Pros and Cons of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

A.      Introduction

1)      Briefly describe the fuss of AI around the world to create a hook.

2)      Discuss the advancements of AI in recent times

3)      Explain the importance of understanding the pros and cons of AI to shift readers to the main topic and start the body.

B.      What is Artificial Intelligence?

1)      Defining AI

2)      Elaborating on the history and development of AI

3)      Discussing the key breakthroughs in this arena.

C.      Pros of Using Artificial Intelligence

1)      Improved Efficiency

2)      Automation

3)      Increased Accuracy

4)      Unbiased Results

5)      Improvement in Customer Care

D.     Cons of Using Artificial Intelligence

1)      Job Displacement

2)      Lack of Creativity

3)      Humans Become Lazy

4)      Social Inequality

5)      Deepfakes

E.      Conclusion

1)      Summarizing the pros and cons of artificial intelligence

2)      Discussing if the benefits of AI outweigh its drawbacks.

Final Words:

Creating an outline is an important component of the writing process, as it possesses the power to provide you with the right direction. By following the actionable tips shared in this post, writing an outline for any type of written work has become quite easy. You can also go through the outline examples to get a better idea about this process and use them in your own academic or creative assignments.