Wednesday, March 5, 2008

an alternative approach to the outline

In "Writing with Precision:  How to Write So That You Cannot Possibly Be Misunderstood," Jefferson Bates discusses "the easy way to outline" in chapter 15.

Rather than focus on creation of a formal outline as an early drafting activity, he advocates a note-card system that emphasizes creative thought first.  In a nutshell:  take a stack of notecards and put one discrete idea on each one.  Brainstorm away--the more ideas, the merrier!!  Don't worry about organization or completeness at this stage; just generate ideas.  Then take a break from the project to let your subconscious work on the project.

Next, spread out and arrange the cards into clusters to create sequence, hierarchy, and categorization--that is, create your outline.  Save those cards that don't seem to fit initially--their place may become apparent later.  Expand out from the initial words on each card into phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs.

As he puts it, the card system keeps a writer's options open as long as possible to allow full creative thought.

(My idea)  You can also create cards with rules, analogous case facts, etc., and link them with the related idea.

(My idea again)  This would be a good first-semester small-group activity.

hat tip:  Dr. Natalie Tarenko, writing specialist, Texas Tech University School of Law


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