Organize Your Thoughts With A Preliminary Plan And An Outline.

Good Organization Begins With A Preliminary Plan.

Well organized writing begins with well thought out preparation. Therefore, reaching your ultimate goal to write clearly begins with a thoroughly prepared preliminary plan, and an outline. The organization of any writing project should be viewed as a three step process: preliminary plan, outline, and writing your first draft.  These three steps form the foundation for your document.  If this foundation is weak, your final document will suffer.

First, prepare a preliminary plan.  Then, develop an outline from your preliminary plan.

A good outline is the outgrowth of your preliminary plan, which is akin to the blueprint of a building.  No self respecting architect would build anything without a blueprint; likewise, every successful sports coach prepares a game plan, every general a battle plan.  So, preparation of a preliminary plan comes first.

The preliminary plan should be a concise summary of what you intend to write.   This plan is essential to clear writing, which cannot be achieved unless you know what is in your own mind.

Begin by writing out the purpose of your document and its bottom line. This is for your use only in preparing the plan and does not necessarily belong in the final document.  The plan should be done in detail, carefully and thoughtfully, to reflect the essence of your writing.  It is your roadmap to a clear end product.  Thorough preparation is the key.

Next, Prepare An Outline.

Creation of a workable outline should begin with the big picture. First, organize your thoughts and mentally plan your approach.  Make a note of all the ideas you generate about what you want to write. Next, organize your ideas into a logical order. Finally, add appropriate detail. Much as in working a jigsaw puzzle, your reader will more easily absorb the details after seeing the big picture. Draft an outline that is logical, cohesive, and flows smoothly. You don’t want your reader reading a lot of pages before finally figuring out what you’re trying to say.

In the process of preparing the outline try to anticipate questions your reader may ask.  Organize your outline to respond to these questions.  Readers are often looking for answers either by reading documents or visiting websites.  They want to know how to do something or to get the answer to a problem, and they want the answer as quickly and easily as possible under the circumstances.  So, keep these concerns in mind when preparing your outline.

There are three workable approaches to use in preparing an outline:  traditional, the so-called “spinning wheel” method, and what I call the hands on approach.  The first one envisions use of Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numbers, and then small letters.  It works best for presentation of material in an organized, logical fashion.  It usually looks something like this:

I.

A.

1.

a.

In adopting the traditional method, the topic outline and sentence outline are commonly used.  Examples will be presented in the next blog.

Another approach to outlining, the “spinning wheel” concept, may be better suited for the development of ideas. This approach starts with the central idea of the writing as the “hub” of the wheel, with subsidiary ideas flowing out from the hub as the wheel’s “spokes.”

There is a third approach, what I call “hands on” for lack of a better description, which I’ve used from time to time.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, it just seems easier to start writing.  I start with the main idea for the writing. Then, as more ideas come to me as I am writing, I begin to create an outline and rearrange my material as I go along.  Feel free to use this approach as long as it works for you, i.e., the end result is well organized and clearly written.

Copyright 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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