In a previous post I talked about the steps required to writing an essay. One of those steps was “Create an Outline.” On the surface, this is a simple step–but skipping it can cause you a lot of problems. Today, I delve more deeply into outline creation.
An outline for your essay is one of the first steps you MUST take right after you determine what the instructor is asking you to do. The outline should be your constant companion as you research, organize and create the first draft of your essay. Treat it as the frame of your paper. Without an outline your paper runs a high risk of being disorganized and incoherent.
One of the most common issues I see when helping edit essays is stunted, awkward prose–that is, it feels, at times, painfully obvious that someone is trying to write an essay, rather than simply communicate. And that’s all, at the end of the day, an essay is: a way of communicating ideas via writing.
Now, that’s not to say you should write exactly how you speak–there’s a certain level of formality present in writing that there isn’t when, say, you’re talking with your friends. But it’s still a good rule of thumb to keep in mind: you want your writing to sound like a conversation with your reader–albeit one where you’ve had time to consider your words beforehand. A prepared conversation, of sorts.