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Streamline Your Writing Using Outline Tools

Use outlining tools to give large reports and books crystal-clear logic.

By
Stever Robbins,
Episode #070

Reviews at Different Detail Levels Keep Everything Flowing

Once your major headings flow, expand your outline to see the next level of subheadings. Make sure the subheadings below each major heading tell a story or make an argument that supports the heading they are under. Again, even though the subheadings may just be a few short sentences, if they flow logically, then your final report will also flow.

Keep reviewing each level of detail until you get all the way to the paragraphs and text. By this time, you know all the higher-level logic fits together nicely, so you can put your attention just on writing the text that goes beneath each heading.

Every Platform Has Outlining Tools 

My favorite tool for reviewing my writing at successive levels of details is the Mind Manager mind mapping software. It also lets me export my finished mind map as a prose Word document. I have written my entire book in Mind Manager and this episode’s transcripts links to my initial mind map for this episode. You can expand and collapse it to see the logic at different levels of detail.

Microsoft Word supports outline mode. Look at the View menu or tab and show outline mode. Once you’re in outline mode, you can adjust how many levels of outline show at a time. If you prefer free software or live on Linux, the free Open Office software suite duplicates the functionality of Microsoft Office and its word processor also has an outline mode.

And if you’re on the Mac (I love my Mac), the latest version of Pages, Pages ’09, comes with an outline mode as well.

To recap, when writing a long piece that needs to hang together (or it will surely hang separately), use an outlining tool. Show your outline at different depth levels to make sure that each level of logic is coherent and flows.

This is Stever Robbins. You can find this episode's transcript, and find a PDF of a collapsable and expandable mind map sample, and a Microsoft Word outline sample at getitdone.quickanddirtytips.com. If you have an iPhone, have the Get-it-Done Guy and other great shows from Quick and Dirty Tips streamed to your phone by Stitcher, free today at Stitcher.com

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