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Article Writing Tips: How to Write an Outline

If you’re a writer, you need to know how to write an outline for articles and posts.

Writing an outline with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

Yes, you have an article idea.  You’ve gathered plenty of information: facts, anecdotes, concepts, sources. You’ve studied and chosen some keywords.

But even if you know where to begin, how can you know that your article idea is a good one?

Begin with an outline.

An outline is simply a plan. It’s a plan you follow as you write so that you make your point.

No plan, no point.

Here's a Sample Outline

You decide what kind of outline works for you for a particular project. Yours can be a detailed, beautifully formatted document with multiple points, sub-points, and sub-points to sub-points. Or it can be 3 words scribbled on the back of a napkin.  Style matters less than simply having a plan.

For instance, in order to write this article, I am working from a 3-point outline, like this: 

Title: How to Write an Outline

  1. Introduction: Plan What You Want to Say
  2. Main Points: Plan How to Say It
  3. Conclusion: Plan a Takeaway

1. Introduction: Plan What You Want to Say

Your introduction answers this question: What do you want your reader to know? In other words, what is the purpose of your article - your main point? I figured that out and now my outline looks like this:

Title: How to Write an Outline

  1. Introduction: give readers a simple, practical structure to use to write an outline for a quality article or blog post.
  2. Main Points: Plan How to Say It
  3. Conclusion: Plan a Takeaway

Writing tip: if you can’t write this part of your outline right out the gate, start with step 2. I’ve found writing down the main points first can help me clarify the purpose of my article. 

2. Main Points: Plan How to Say It 

Make a plan to communicate your point. I did – and now my outline looks like this:

Title: How to Write an Outline

1. Introduction: give readers a simple, practical structure to use to write an outline for a quality article or blog post.

2. Main Points: 

  • Organize your material. What points do you have that support your main idea? List them and how you will make each point with a fact or statistic, a testimonial, an anecdote or example.
  • Choose the points you want to make. Which points are strongest for your audience? What are your word count restrictions? You may need to discard some content and keep it for another piece.
  • Arrange your points in order. You may choose the inverted pyramid approach, placing the strongest point at the beginning. In other scenarios, your points build upon each other in a cumulative effect. And in other cases, your points are modular, meaning each can stand alone.  
  • Flesh out each point with its supporting content: a story, fact, statistic, quote, example, or narrative.

3. Conclusion: Plan a Takeaway

3. Conclusion: Plan a Takeaway

Now that you think you’ve done the hard work to get ready to write, you may be tempted to rehash your main idea and simply summarize your content. But by simply regurgitating your content and disguising it as a conclusion, you miss an opportunity. Instead, give your reader something that makes her think – a twist or a surprise. Now my outline looks like this:

Title: How to Write an Outline

1. Introduction: give readers a simple, practical structure to use to write an outline for a quality article or blog post.

2. Main Points: 

  • Organize your material. What points do you have that support your main idea? List them and how you will make each point with a fact or statistic, a testimonial, an anecdote or example.
  • Choose the points you want to make. Which points are strongest for your audience? What are your word count restrictions? You may need to discard some content and keep it for another piece.
  • Arrange your points in order. You may choose the inverted pyramid approach, placing the strongest point at the beginning. In other scenarios, your points build upon each other in a cumulative effect. And in other cases, your points are modular, meaning each can stand alone.  (Read more about 6 outline formats.)
  • Flesh out each point with its supporting content: a story, fact, statistic, quote, example, or narrative.

3. Conclusion: Surprise your reader with a twist that makes her think differently about your main point. (See tips for writing powerful endings.)

After all, that’s the goal in writing your piece, isn’t it? To make a point.

No plan, no point.

Make a plan. Write an outline.

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