How to Write an Outline to Save Your Time

By Karen Palmer on November 2021
Category: Essay Writing

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When you get an essay assignment, writing an outline is the first thing you should do. There are so many benefits to writing an outline. Besides helping you organize your thoughts, it helps to save a lot of time. And time is a precious commodity in a student’s life. With so many courses, activities, and responsibilities, anything that helps economize time is a blessing and an outline is just that. 

If you haven’t made an outline for an essay before or you’re interested in switching up your outline style, here are some tips and benefits to making an outline so that you’ll never want to write an essay without an outline again!

How Writing Outlines Saves Time

As mentioned, one of the main benefits of writing an outline is that it saves precious time. But how? Isn’t it faster to just sit down and start writing? 

While writing an outline may seem like an extra step, it actually makes all the other steps of essay writing go more smoothly, reducing the need for rewriting and speeding up the editing process. 

Here are the ways an outline saves time:

  • Jump-starts the writing process – Getting started writing an essay can be really challenging. You might not be sure what you want to talk about or how to start it. Rather than sitting there staring at a blank page and trying to craft the whole essay in one go, starting with an outline takes the pressure off. If you often suffer from writer’s block when writing essays or tend to procrastinate, getting into the habit of writing an outline first can help get your thoughts rolling, but without the commitment of having to actually write it all yet. In fact, once you write your outline, you’ll find you’re more eager to write your essay and fill in those blanks. While it may seem like you’re doing extra work at first, outline writing actually removes roadblocks to essay writing, ultimately saving time. 
  • Tighter arguments – By taking the time to write an outline before diving into the writing process, you can see where your argument is going and organize your thoughts better. You can sit back, analyze, add, delete, rearrange, and essentially get your ideas in prime order so that when you do write, your arguments will be tighter and more coherent. This is a huge time-saver and prevents you from having to go back and reformulate arguments when you discover they didn’t really work. 
  • Better flow – When you make an outline before writing your essay, your essay will flow more easily from paragraph to paragraph. Your transitions will be better, and the entire essay will be easier to read and easier to edit. You won’t have to waste time struggling to draw connections between your thoughts. It will all be spelled out for you.
  • Easy editing – When you make an outline first, your arguments will be more coherent and the transitions will be better. When you go back to edit, you’ll find there’s precious little left to do. Perhaps a little bit of word tinkering will be necessary, but otherwise, it should be the easiest editing experience you ever had. 

How to Make an Essay Outline so You Can Save Time

Essay outlines are simple, but there are a few steps you need to take first that will help you make better outlines. 

  • The first thing you need to do is be clear on what the assignment is. This will determine the rest of your workflow.
  • Next, you’ll need to gather your research. As you research, you’ll take notes and write down ideas. 
  • Based on your research, you’ll decide what your thesis will be. 
  • Once you have your thesis, you’ll need to know what arguments you’ll use to support it. 
  • Now, you’re ready to write your outline.

When writing an argumentative essay, a great outline will look like this: 

  1. First paragraph (introduction) – Include your idea for a hook (a strong statistic, quote or story). Then write your thesis statement. 
  2. Second paragraph – Next, you’ll need your first supporting argument. Your strongest argument should go here. Write a sentence or two that summarizes it including notes on the resources you’ll use. 
  3. Third paragraph – This paragraph should provide further evidence that supports your thesis. Write a sentence or two that summarizes it including notes on the resources you’ll use.
  4. Fourth paragraph – Include an anti-thesis. Explore and consider the other side of the argument and why you don’t agree with it. 
  5. Fifth paragraph (conclusion) – Explore the next steps for this issue. What do you see people saying about it in 5, 10, 50 years’ time? Include a sentence or two to summarize your thoughts. 

See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? And imagine how much time you’ll save on editing and cutting and pasting while changing arguments around and discarding ideas. Here you have it all laid out and you can see exactly how your essay will flow and be able to spot any holes in your argument before you even start writing. 

Conclusion

A great outline can absolutely be a major time-saver. When you have your thoughts in order and know what you have to say, the entire essay writing process will flow more smoothly and more quickly. Happy writing!

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