Organize Your Thinking

Posted on: February 18, 2009

As you begin to consider ways of writing about a subject, your knowledge of your subject and the needs of your audience will help shape how you organize your thoughts. The result will be an outline.

An outline explicitly lays out how you intend to “tell the story” from beginning to end. It shows the structure of your thinking. The outline will guide your approach to all subsequent stages of writing and evaluating the document.

As you begin to organize your thinking, ask yourself such questions as these:

  • Do I know enough about the subject to successfully write this document? If not, how do I intend to handle that?
  • Do I thoroughly understand how the product (or process, or service) works? How can I find out more?
  • What exactly do I need to know for the level of detail required for this document?
  • What is the purpose of the product (or process, or service) I am writing about?
  • What is the purpose of the document?
  • Who is the audience?
  • How will the audience use this document?
  • Does the structure or intended usage of the product (or process, or service) suggest a way of organizing the document?

Your objective in asking yourself these and similar questions is to establish the foundation of the writing process: the outline. The outline serves as the overarching design that lets you build each part and create a successful whole out of all the parts. The outline makes the document structurally coherent.

Organize your thinking before you attempt to gather information or write a first draft.

The outline is the first step to a successful document.


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