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Eleven Reasons to Outline Your Next Complex Project
The question outline. You can also use a series of questions to help you identify
the important sections of your outline. Basic questions might include the following:
What is this document about? (This would be your “Overview” or “Introduction”
section.) Who is this document for? What is the mission of our company? Who are our
department managers? Where is our facility? What types of services and products
do we offer? Who are our customers? How have we improved since last year? What’s
new and exciting about us? What will we focus on next year?
Each of these questions gives you a different vantage point from which to consider
the content for your document. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. What do they
want to see? What do they want to know about you? Questions can help you make
sure that you are providing the information that will best connect with the readers of
your document.
The big-to-small outline. Another way to approach a writing task is to move from
the big picture to the individual point of view. This works well in documents that
you hope will influence others—for example, sales documents, annual reports, grant
proposals, or fundraising materials. Your document starts with the big picture—the
statement of a problem, concern, or desire that is common to most of us—and then
moves toward the specific (how your company or organization uniquely meets the
need you established in the big picture). For example, suppose that you are writing
an annual report for Coral Reef Divers. Using the big perspective, you would talk
about the environmental threats to the coral reef and the important role that the
coral reef serves in balancing the ecosystem. You could then zoom in to talk about
the specific factors that your organization identifies as most important and, finally,
fully explore the services and options that your organization provides as a response.
Eleven Reasons to Outline Your Next Complex Project
Even if you’re a stream-of-consciousness writer, you’ll find some benefit in outlining your
long or complex documents. Once you create an outline in Word, you’ve got something to
start with—something you can use to build your document, edit it, and organize (or
reorganize) and share it. With that outline, you can also move seamlessly to and from a table of
contents that’s linked to the work in progress.
If you do not typically use outlining (and you’re not alone), consider these reasons for
outlining long documents in Word:
You’re more likely to meet your goals. If your job involves writing grant
proposals, producing product evaluations, writing annual reports, or composing print
publications, you know that your document must reach a particular goal. You need to
know where you’re going, why you’re going there, and who you’re trying to take with
you. When you first type document headings in Word, you’re defining the steps that
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