[Tutorial] How to Create an Outline for a Business Document

You wouldn’t go to Paris without a map, would you?

Ok, you might find the Eiffel Tower but could you find your way to Notre Dame? A map would help right?

It’s the same in writing. Why do we need an outline?

An outline is a map of your document. It help you, as a writer, understand the landscape, obstacles, and path.

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Use this template to:

  • Identify the content, format, page count, size etc for each document in your next publication cycle
  • Prepare cost estimates for project duration and schedule resources to meet the documentation requirements
  • Have greater control over your budget and ensure that risks and issues are addressed before starting the writing phase
  • Identify the necessary tools/licenses/PC configuration and ensure documents are scoped correctly with the appropriate level of detail

When do you need an outline?

Any document longer than a page can benefit from a quick outline.

Why do I need an outline? It gives you confidence.

Once you know where you’re pen should go, it’s easy to start.

Another reason?

You’ll never have writer’s block if you do the outline first.

With that in mind, let’s start.

There’s three parts. Start, middle, end. Nothing fancy.

Start.

Write a topic sentence. This summarizes the purpose of your email, report, or essay.

It orients the reader. After reading this, they know what’s coming next.

Middle.

Create a numbered list to identify the main points.

These are the big hitters.

The ‘must see’ sites on your journey.

If it’s a long document, use bullets to highlight the sub-points. But don’t get bogged down in detail. It’s large brush strokes we’re after.

End.

What do you want the reader to do next?

Don’t leave them hanging about.

As a good tour guide, you’ll recommend where they should go next for dinner, catch a movie, or do something tomorrow.

Your email, policy, or white paper is no different. Always encourage them to take some action. Otherwise, they’ll think, ‘That was nice, now what?’

In Glengarry Glen Ross, Alex Baldwin says, ‘ABC. Always Be Closing.’

For you as a writer, ABC means Always Be Considerate. Considerate to yourself and to your readers.

In the same way you can’t eat an elephant in one go, starting a report, plan, or essay without an outline is overwhelming.

Creating a short outline will give you the confidence to start any piece of writing.

From now on, do yourself a favor. Create an outline. You’ll see the difference straightaway.

That help? Gmail me when you get a moment.

PS – if you’re under so much pressure that you don’t have time to write down the outline, at least think about it. Always give yourself a fighting chance.

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