When I was in college, I majored in English. Ironically, I did so expecting to use it for communications in business, and here I am now as a writer. However, I find that many of the lessons I learned while getting my English degree have put me in good stead as a freelance writer. One of the abilities that a freelancer needs to have is writing articles, posts, and copy quickly and accurately. I still use a method that I learned in college, writing directly from an outline.
Taking Notes in Outline Form
Writing from an outline is a skill that can be learned. It takes practice and a rearranging of how you organize your thoughts. I find it amusing that with all of the advancements in technology, this basic technique works well. The first step is learning to take notes in outline form. As you research your article, instead of writing down copious notes, write down the main points in an outline, and copy carefully any quotes that you want to use. This format for note-taking sets your article up as well as keeping you from accidentally plagiarizing the source. If you take your notes on a computer, then it is easy to insert ideas into your outline as you go along.
Organizing Your Thoughts
Since your outline is already organized, organizing it for your article is just a matter of looking it over to see if you want to change anything. You don’t need to spend time organizing notes. Once the outline is in order, you are ready to write.
Whether you are a novelist or a blog writer, you can write your work directly from an outline. The outline is the framework, and now you will flesh out the details. As you write, you can add in any data, specifics or quotes that you assembled.
Start with the introduction. Use your main sentence or topic line as your thesis statement. Then build your introduction to lead into the thesis statement. At this point, don’t worry too much about spelling and grammar; you can revise after you get your thoughts down on the computer. Using each point in your outline as a guide, write until you get stuck, and then move on to the next point. As you learn to work with this method, you will find that it flows naturally.
You may find that as you write, your outline isn’t quite right. It is okay to tweak and revise your outline as you progress. This is more likely to happen in a longer work, such as a novel, than in a short article. The outline is not set in stone; you can make changes.
Once your first draft is complete, review it for grammatical and spelling errors. Remember that, while spell-check programs correct some errors, they don’t catch them all. Wrong words or some grammar problems need to be fixed by a real person. If you are writing for the Internet, the last step is to run the article through Copyscape to check for duplicate content.
Paula A is a freelance writer who works with a cup of coffee at her side to keep herself fueled. When she is not writing, editing, or drinking coffee, she is chauffeuring her family to activities, making jewelry, trying recipes, or making a quick run for a hazelnut latte.