5 Hacks to Creating an Outline
Content marketing isn’t a new idea. Based on experience, we intuitively know how hard-selling repels people. If you want to funnel people towards your brand, you have to provide value for them. That’s why creating your own content matters. It allows you to connect with your readers, provide useful information and entertain them.
Writing as an art form can be expressed in many ways. Everyone has their own voice, and their own unique way of stringing words together. But that doesn’t mean there’s no structure. The way you organize your ideas matters just as much as how you articulate them. Before we dig-in, we need to strip it down to the bare bones.
Having a solid structure strengthens the ideas presented.
1. Serve them P.I.E.
Point Illustration Explanation (P.I.E.) is a simple technique.
Most people skim through the entire article without actually reading. Begin your introduction by cutting straight to the main point. Afterwards, each paragraph should illustrate and explain it further.
Each illustration doesn’t have to be a picture. The idea is to give a mental image of your topic. Your words must show clear examples. Afterwards, elaborate each idea. Doing this allows readers to consume the article in bite-sized pieces.
Then wrap everything up with the conclusion.
2. Use the inverted pyramid structure.
This is a classic traditionally used by newspaper journalists. Information is ordered from the most important to the least important. Now, this isn’t an excuse for shabby writing at the end. You still have to keep things interesting even if the level of importance is dwindling.
Imagine a meal at the dinner table. The main course has all of the essentials, but it doesn’t hurt to have some dessert. When people are famished for information, they just want to head straight to it.
The first paragraph starts with a bang. It delivers most of the hard facts and answers who, what, when, where, how and why. This is where the meat is. The next paragraphs follow-up with supporting facts and explanations.
Finally, the conclusion is where you add the final bits and the call to action. Because the heaviest parts of the topic have already been discussed, keep things interesting with a quote or two.
3. List down your ideas.
People gravitate towards lists. There’s something satisfying about knowing the top 10’s or top 20’s of anything. When an article’s length is vague, people tend to think it’s too long to read. Adding a number can make people think, “Oh, it’s just five steps. I can do that.”
Your introduction should answer the question, “Why is this relevant? Why do I need to know this now?” Then once you’ve shown its importance, you can move on to your bullet points.
Narrow it down to your best ideas. Remember, you don’t need to give a hundred things. In fact, a smaller list can seem more doable for your readers.
4. Use a Q&A format.
This is useful if your article is based off an interview or a podcast.
In the first paragraph, it’s important to introduce the topic as well as the guest speaker. If you can, mention some of the credentials this person has. The general flow of the main article reads more like a regular conversation. Compared to other structures, this may seem more candid and personable.
The body should have series of questions followed by the corresponding answers. In this case, you may have an audio clip followed by its transcription, or you may use pure text.
In the conclusion, recap the key points mentioned earlier and highlight its overarching message. Remember to have a call to action the readers can easily follow.
5. Mix and match it.
There’s no perfect outline for every situation. Sometimes you have to tailor it based on your need. You may create a list that also follows the P.I.E. format. At the end of the day, it’s all about how you organize the flow of your thought.
By understanding the basic framework, you can easily build an article from your ideas.