Prewriting Techniques: Outlining

Prewriting is a stage to get ready before writing. It involves the development and recording of ideas using short phrases or words. In preparing to write, a writer must decide on a topic, know the purpose for his writing and his audience as well, determine the form or genre for the piece, and gather and organise the ideas. To make gathering and organising of ideas easier, outlining can be used.

An outline is a type of format that shows the relationship of the minor and major ideas of a given piece of writing. An outline can be a formal or informal way to organise ideas in the planning stages before writing. A formal outline, achieved by consolidating organised lists, is an extremely analytical technique which assumes that the writer already knows the who, why, when, where, what, and how aspects of a topic. For effective outlining, the writer should also have ideas about the writing techniques he intends to use for the specific assignment.

Making an outline differs depending on the writer. There are writers who combine their free writing and brainstorming results to come up with an informal or tentative outline of the topics. There are writers who start with lists of information, and then organise them into related topics, thus creating an informal outline of their subject matters.

If these techniques are used for generating ideas before getting started, the writer will have pages of information for the next step in the writing process. He should have at least a major idea for his piece, an articulated sense of what is interesting about the topic, an accounting of what he already knows, and several ideas for finding more information. Just add awareness of the audience to these analyses and the writer is ready to start his first draft.