THE WRITING PROCESS
Organization: Standard Outline Form
Numbering, indentation, punctuation, and other physical aspects of outlines follow certain conventions, particularly when the outlines are to be read by someone other than the writer. When you are required to turn in an outline with your paper, use the type of outline your instructor specifies and put it in standard form. Numbering and Indentation Make the numbering of your headings consistent throughout. This is the typical method for numbering and indenting a topic or sentence outline: Thesis statement:__________________________________________________ ___________________________________ (sentence statement) I. ________________________________ (roman numeral for main head) A. ____________________________ (capital letter for subhead) 1. _________________________ (arabic numeral for second 2. _________________________ subhead) a. ______________________ (lowercase letter for third b. ______________________ subhead) B. ____________________________ II. _______________________________ The main heads (I,II,III...) are set flush with the lefthand margin. The subheads are indented four or five spaces in typed copy, or they may be indented so that they are directly under the first word of the preceding heading. When a heading runs over one line, the second line is indented as far as the first word of the preceding line: I. The photoelectric cell, known as the "electric eye," has been put to a variety of practical uses. A. It is used in elevator floors to enable the elevator to stop at exactly the right level. Avoid overelaborate and confusing outlines. There is rarely any need to go further than the third subhead (a,b,c...). Two levels of headings are often enough for a short paper. Punctuation and Capitalization In a topic outline, capitalize only the first letter of the word beginning the heading (and all proper nouns), and do not put any punctuation at the end because these headings are not complete sentences. I. Present need for physicists A. In private industry B. In government projects Punctuate every heading in a sentence outline just as you would punctuate the sentences in your paper: begin with a capital letter and end with a period. Except for proper nouns, the words in the heading are not capitalized (a heading is not a title). I. Although a general course of study may allow students to more fully explore their educational options, the advantages of specialization in college are many. A. Students can practice setting professional goals. B. They can obtain more knowledge about their subjects. Content of Headings Each heading in an outline should be specific and meaningful. Headings such as "Introduction," "Body," and "Conclusion" are not useful unless you indicate what material belongs in the sections. Instead of using general labels such as "Causes," and "Results," indicate what the causes or results are. Putting headings in the form of questions or in statements that will have to be filled in later is not an efficient habit. The necessary information will have to be supplied when you write, so you might as well supply it in the planning stage. Indefinite Definite I. The Wars of the Roses I. The Wars of the Roses A. When they began A. Started 1455 B. Why? B. Caused by rivalry between Houses of York and Lancaster Dividing the Material Generally, if a heading is to be divided at all, it should be divided into more than one part. When there is only one heading under a topic, it usually repeats what is in the topic and should therefore be included with it: Unnecessary division The Smithsonian Institution I. Established by an Englishman A. James Smithson 1. in 1846 Accurate division The Smithsonian Institution I. Established by James Smithson, an Englishman, in 1846 The heads of an outline should represent equally important divisions of the subject as a whole, and should be parallel in grammatical form and tense. In a topic outline, if `I' is a noun, `II' and `III' are also nouns; if `I' is a prepositional phrase, so are `II' and `III'. The same principle applies to subdivisions. A sentence outline should use complete sentences throughout and not lapse into topic headings. Unequal headings Equal headings Growing roses Growing roses I. Preparing the soil I. Preparing the soil II. Planting II. Planting III. Growing the plant III. Watering IV. Mildew IV. Fertilizing V. Insect pests V. Spraying VI. Using a spray gun The subdivisions should also designate equally important and parallel divisions of one phase of the main divisions. Unequal subheads Equal subheads I. Job opportunities in I. Job opportunities in Wisconsin Wisconsin A. Raising crops A. Agriculture B. White-collar work B. Business C. Dairy farms C. Industry D. Factory Jobs E. Breweries Headings of equal rank should not overlap; what is in II should exclude what is covered in I; B should be clearly distinct from A. Overlapping Accurate Transporting Freight Transporting Freight I. Water I. Ship A. Ships A. Passenger Ships B. Freighters B. Freighters II. On the ground II. Truck A. Trucks III. Railroad B. "Piggyback" A. Loaded into cars in trucks B. "Piggyback" in III. Railroads trucks IV. In the air IV. Airplane (Adapted from Handbook of Current English 8th Edition, Jim W. Corder and John J. Ruszkiewicz)
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