When you're writing an article, it's very tempting to simply jump write into your word processor and start pounding the keys. However, crafting copy this way can lead to copy that is weak, overly complicated, or takes too long to produce. In order to maximize your articles potential and minimize the time you spend on the article, it's best to formulate your plan ahead of time. One of the most tried and tested means to do so is the simple, yet effective, outline.

Establish Your Primary Argument

Too often writers are crafting an article without a clear, concise, and short statement of what they wish to accomplish. By outlining your argument, you can identify your primary thesis early, and then structure the article around that thesis.

Establish Your Supporting Statements

Knowing your primary thesis is important. However, you'll need to back that argument up with facts. Here it's best to work along the rule of threes and fives – find three or five supporting statements for your primary argument, and craft three or five sentences to support each of those statements. Whether you choose three or five depends largely on your target word length.

Research Your Argument

Research for an article would seem like it naturally belongs near the top of the process. However, research without a clear end goal can quickly eat up your time. Knowing what you're looking for makes research faster and the results better tailored to your needs.

Fine
Tune Your Argument

Now it's time to tighten up and finalize your outline. Evaluate your supporting statements based on the results of your research. Also, use your research to add to your supporting sentences. Read over your final argument and attempt to pare down any statements or sentences which do not directly add to your primary argument.

Spot Argument Flaws

Having worked out the crux of your argument already, you can now look at the entire outline and see if you've missed anything, misstated, or overemphasized. Getting this done before you write the article prevents you from having to inject hasty, strawman defenses later.

Your final outline should provide you with all the materials you need to transition smoothly and effectively into a written article. Your primary argument provides the thesis for your opening paragraph. Summing up your supporting arguments rounds out your introduction. The same general process is repeated for each subsequent paragraph – with supporting arguments becoming paragraph thesis sentences and supporting sentences making up the body of said paragraphs. After that, you've just got to tie everything together in your closing paragraph and the argument is made.

By outlining first, your ensure that your outline does all the hard work for you, and writing is now just a matter of connecting the dots and keeping within the article's word count. As with any new thing, the more you stick to this method, the easier it becomes. After practicing writing articles from an outline for just a short time, it's easy to see your copy output increase.