So, you are writing a long paragraph or maybe an essay, and your instructor says that you need to write an outline. You say: “But I don’t need to write an outline. I have all the ideas in my head, and I know exactly what I want to say.”
Okay, then let me ask you this: if you decided to take a trip to a place you’d never been before, would you just start driving and hope that you'd be able to find the place you are looking for? No. You would most likely look at a map (or use a GPS), right?
Well, think of an outline as a map. It helps you make sure that you arrive at your destination, which, in this case, is a well-written (well-organized) paper. Also, it helps you know where you are in the process so that you can make good decisions on what to do next.
For example, let's say that you have written an outline, but after reviewing it you realize that you don’t have enough support for one of your main points. Well, now you have a decision to make. You can come up with a different main point, you can brainstorm for more ideas (things like examples or facts) to support that point, or you can start all over again.
Say what? Start all over again. Why would I do that?
Exactly! You don't have to.
However, if you had begun your paper and then realized that you needed to come up with another main point, then you might have to toss your paper and start again. By outlining first, or planning ahead, you have saved yourself some time and energy. All you have to do is identify a different main point or come up with additional support. Neither of which are likely to add too much time to your writing.
To read a real-life example of someone who discovered the value of outlining, click here.
For more on outlining, click here.
My name is Craig, and I've been teaching English for many years. I initially created this site for my students, but all English learners are welcome. I hope you find something helpful to you. Feel free to leave suggestions or ideas in the Comments section under any entry.