Outlining Your Way to Success

It’s astonishing how people resist developing an outline before writing a white paper! “I just want the ideas to flow,” they may say. Or, “I want it to sound natural!”

Trust me, as someone who has written white papers on a multitude of topics: your ideas will flow and sound natural if you plan for them to flow and sound natural. In other words, if you develop an outline. Here’s why:

  1. An outline lets you shine. You never do your best work “off the cuff.” Even if you’re very familiar with a topic, you can forget an important point if you just sit down and start writing. (I have an outline for this blog post to be sure I hit each point I want to discuss!)
  2. An outline creates structure. How many times have you started explaining something, only to realize three steps in that you forgot a key point? An outline charts the course so your readers don’t get lost.
  3. An outline makes you memorable. You know how authors often start all their points with the same letter, end them with the same sound, or (as in this blog post) format them the same way? That is called “parallel structure.” It helps readers follow the points easily and remember them. An outline puts all your key points in front of you at once so you can consider whether to use parallel structure in your paper.
  4. An outline show you gaps. When you make an outline, you can see at a glance where you may need to add examples, exercises, or explanations.
  5. An outline streamlines writing. If I tell you to write 2500 words on a topic (a fairly standard word count for a white paper), you might feel overwhelmed. But if I tell you to write just 500 words on each of the four main points in an outline, plus a short introduction and a conclusion, that makes the work a whole lot more manageable. (And if your outline includes sub-points, it becomes easier yet!)
  6. An outline gets you to your goal. Ever read a white paper and wondered afterward what the point was? You don’t want your readers to feel that way! By outlining your white paper first, you can guarantee that you accomplish your purpose for the white paper.

So the next time you want to write a white paper … outline your way to success!

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