(Photograph courtesy of Hal Gatewood via Unsplash)
Now that we’ve spent some time going over the basics, it’s time to see some examples in action! If you happened to miss last week’s post, click here to catch up on the previous info. As we will see, an outline can be quite simple for some projects/write-ups. The length and depth of any outline is going to depend entirely on the assignment itself, but this breakdown and methodology can be applied to virtually any writing assignment.
Our example is taken directly from Content with the Technical. This was created for Blog #2 Wait for it… Mind Mapping!
As we can see, outlines do not have to be overly complicated! This simple model will guide us through the entire project while keeping us on track and concise in our approach. The layout utilizes the short anchor tool we discussed in last week’s post, where each of the bullet points represents condensed information that can be expanded into complete sentences. This particular outline looks an awful lot like the traditional five-paragraph essays we were likely taught in grade school. But don’t worry, the same condensed anchor model works for complicated, high-level process documentation… and even creative writing projects!
A common pitfall with this model comes with the ordering of our anchor points. Outside of the open and close (intro and wrap-up), which I think we are all pretty familiar with, the real challenge comes with setting the order of our anchors. This will require a combination of experience and audience knowledge since these outline anchors act as major content components. The ordering will provide the substantive elements— essentially guiding the audience along while we expand and develop the anchors.
In a few weeks, we will go through some of the more intricate aspects of storyboarding and see how larger documents like style guides and annualized reports benefit from this high-level overview.
Once our order is set, the hardest part of outlining is already over. Good job! Now all that’s left is to build out our anchors. We can refer back to our original notes for additional information, but now we have the added benefit of seeing where our sentences need to take us… The next anchor point!
This model doesn’t excuse us from editing and revision! However, given the scope of our project, we will quickly see that the natural limitations of the anchors do a majority of the “heavy-lifting” to keep our content concise from the start!
Next week, we will begin our study on editing and revision… where we will discuss some of the best practices for streamlining the review process and submitting polished, ready-to-go deliverables.
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