If you never outline your writing because you hate Roman numerals, I’ve got an everyday writing outline for you! And best of all, unlike your English teacher, I won’t be grading your final product.
I always hated when teachers wanted us to outline our papers in a very specific way, and then they’d grade the outlines. Ultimately, what matters with an outline is that you get your ideas out there. THE FORMAT IS IMMATERIAL. But you try telling that to a middle school English teacher with a chip on her shoulder.
Today, as a teacher, I always encourage my students to outline. You need that road map that an outline provides if you want to get where you’re going. And it’s the best way for you to get your ideas organized. But most people aren’t aware of all the outlining methods available to them. Or, worse — they feel they don’t need an outline since they aren’t doing an academic paper or writing a book.
Well, here’s the thing with my everyday writing outline. There’s no format and anyone can use it.
::the sky opens up, angels sing::
That’s right. If you’ve been avoiding putting your ideas on paper just because you got burned by outlining once, I’ve come to your rescue.
And let’s be real. The sort of writing you do daily doesn’t really necessitate a beast of an outline. Really, you just want to make sure your emails are clear, or that you’ve said everything you need to say in your Facebook event invitation.Check out this fool-proof everyday writing outline! Click To Tweet
Check out my fool-proof everyday writing outline below, and scroll to the bottom for a free download to help you outline your everyday writing.
The Everyday Writing Outline
Think about what you hope to gain overall with the thing you’re writing. Are you trying to persuade or inform? What reaction do you want to get out of your audience? Write all these things down, and let them guide what you have to say.
Specifically name your main audience. If you’re writing to your boss, you’re going to approach it differently than you would if you were writing for your coworkers or friends. For example, when I write to my boss, I use a fairly simple email greeting that includes a salutation of some kind, and her name. However, when I write to my fellow instructors, it’s not uncommon for me to start the email with “Greetings, Earthlings.” Because we approach different audiences differently, make sure you’ve clarified who you’re writing this for so you approach it with the correct tone.
(Also, yes. I’m ridiculous, and I’m sure my fellow instructors mostly hate me.)
Make a quick list of the things you need to cover. I’m notorious for leaving stuff out of emails, which causes me to have to send multiple replies to the same damn email. (Don’t be like Marisa. Be a functional person.) If you’re sending out an email, just make a quick list of things to include. If you’re replying to an email, make a list of all the things you need to reply to. And, to make it easy on your reader, feel free to separate those items into a bulleted list. No one wants to read a big, boxy paragraph. Those are gross.
Usually, your everyday writing won’t include much research like you did in school. However, you may have to ask questions of others before you’re able to respond. So, think of that as your facts that will back up what you have to say. And, as with a research paper, cite your sources to make it clear to your audience. You don’t have to a do a full-on APA Style citation. It could be as simple as saying “Bob says that we can’t hold the conference in room B on Thursday, but that it’s fine for Friday.” Now you’re recipient knows where the information came from, and is more likely to be satisfied with your answer.
Questions the Audience Will Have
Remember when we talked about writing for an audience? Well, almost all everyday writing has an audience. Because you’re trying to communicate with another person, you want to make sure you’re clear. So, in order to do that, you need to anticipate questions your audience will have. And then see where you can answer those questions within your writing.