Tips for Better Outlining and Better Writing

Julie Shenkman
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As an office administrator, you probably write thousands of words every day. Between emails, meeting requests, memos, reports and other documents, office administrators often find themselves doing more writing than anything else. Learning how to outline and structure your writing helps you become more efficient in your job and ensures you always get your message across.

You may think that drafting a quick outline before creating a report, a memo or another important document takes time, but learning how to outline will save you time in the long run. Drafting an outline gives you the ability to note every key point you want to hit in your document. This helps you keep your document short, focused and on topic.

Following are the steps to take when learning how to outline. First, write down the most important point you want to make. Add points of supporting information next. Lastly, remember your high school journalism courses, and include the who, what, when, where and why. This type of brief outline will help you tighten and focus any document, from a client email to a new employee handbook.

To produce better writing, always put the most important information at the top of your document, including this information in the first sentence of the document if possible. This is one of the key principles of business writing, but it is one that many people forget. If you don't put the most important point at the beginning of the document, your readers may skim past it or miss it entirely.

When writing emails, use the how to outline steps above, and try to keep the email under five sentences if possible. And don't forget about the subject line; a recent Wall Street Journal article said that emails with subject lines that clearly communicate what the email is about are more likely to get read. A subject line such as "Three New Employee Handbook Updates" will be more effective than "Big News!"

In office settings, shorter writing is better writing. Use active voice to get your point across quickly. Avoid long strings of phrases; instead of writing "It is thought that the figures may represent more than what was estimated by the client in his original brief," cut it down to "These figures appear higher than those in the client's original brief." Lastly, always proofread your documents before you send them.

Use these tips to learn how to outline and to improve your writing. Once you know how to outline the most important points and write short, focused documents, you will find that your messages are read and responded to more often. You'll also have fewer people asking you follow-up questions, since your messages will be easily understood.

 

(Photo courtesy of stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net)

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