One of the joys of doing this column is hearing from readers who either challenge or agree with what I have written. A few readers have asked for more guidance on creation of an outline — a most useful tool for structuring any communication.

Start an outline by stating the theme you want to develop. Then, using Roman numerals (I, II, III), list the major points that support your theme. Under each major point, use letters (a, b, c) to list more support. Under the a, b and c, etc., use numbers (1, 2, 3) for further support.

Here’s a mock-up:

Theme: Promoting participation in sports for girls and women has great value for them and for society.

I. Personal memory: My sadness that girls in my high school never had a chance to play organized sports.

a) My thrill at seeing, upon entering Hutchinson, the mural of the basketball star and hometown hero Lindsay Whalen.

II. A strong step toward equality for women.

a) Society benefits when all people are invited to contribute their talents.

III. Playing sports builds confidence for off-field success.

a) Examples of women athletes who have risen to leadership in society.

1) Sue Ring-Jarvi, whose passion for women’s ice hockey helped lift it to varsity status at the University of Minnesota.

2) Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx basketball superstar, who is sitting out her second straight season to work on criminal justice reform.

IV. Clean competition can build or reveal character.

a) A Mountain Lake female track star stopped running in a race to help a fallen competitor get up; they crossed the finish line together.

V. Opportunity has vastly improved the skills of female athletes.

a) The more that girls and women learn, practice and play a sport, the more they can achieve excellence.

b) The consensus choice of the best female high school basketball player in America is Paige Bueckers of Hopkins.

An outline expresses your thinking and organizes your approach to writing seamlessly and convincingly. Creating an outline also invites you to go beyond dry data to enrich your writing with life experience — your own and others’.


Twin Cities writing coach and Emmy winner Gary Gilson is at