My favorite outline


Yesterday, I talked about the value of outlines and why you don’t always need them, especially when writing a short article. What I didn’t say is that having a supply of go-to outlines available can make help you write faster and better articles, whether long or short.

In your writing toolkit, you should have a list of the basic outlines at your disposal, such as these classics: 

  • The listicle: a simple, unordered list of various points, tips, techniques, problems, resources, questions, etc. Examples: 7 books everyone should read this year, Questions most people ask an Estate Planning Lawyer, 10 tips for organizing your legal documents. 
  • How-to/process: show the reader a step-by-step process for doing something, the benefits of doing it, and what might happen if they don’t. Examples: How to find a good bankruptcy lawyer, What to do if you’re in an accident, How to file a quitclaim deed. 
  • Story: what you (or someone else) did, what happened, what you learned, and how the reader can use this in their own life or business. Examples: How minimalism helped me become a better lawyer, My most difficult case and how I won it, What I learned about leading a successful life from a 70-year old history book.
  • A better way: challenge something everyone does or believes is true and show them why this is wrong or there is a better or easy approach. This type of outline includes the following parts: (1) Most people think/believe, do; (2) This is a mistake/ineffective/wrong; (3) It doesn’t solve the problem or accomplish the goal and can make it worse; (4) A better approach/way to think is

“A better way” outline is good for lawyers because by challenging conventional wisdom, it can position you as a thought leader, differentiate you from your competition, and stimulate word-of-mouth from those who like your better way and those who don’t.

 Which is why this is my favorite type of outline, and why I’m using it in a book I’m writing. 

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