Outlines are basic frameworks that guide many businesses, organizations, professionals, and other individuals in writing various essays, reports, research papers, surveys, proposals, and other documents and projects. Whether you are working on a business plan, a persuasive speech, a memoir, or a class presentation, developing a clear and well-structured outline is essential in mapping out your main ideas and supporting points systematically.   outlines

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Outline Definition and Meaning

An outline is a document composed of key points of a project or work and its major details arranged in each section or paragraph in an alphabetical style, bulleted list, numerical format, or alphanumerical layout.

Outlines demonstrate a clear picture of the main ideas and supporting details of a specific subject or topic and they are used by many businesses, organizations, and individuals, especially story writers, novel writers, academic researchers, teachers, and students. 

What Is an Outline?

An outline is a structural background or foundation of any written document or project such as a narrative essay, speech, school presentation, letter, resume, novel, memoir, business plan, story, course, proposal, program, thesis, etc. The key principles in creating an outline are consistency, coherence, emphasis, and unity.

10 Types of Outlines

Plan Outline

Whether you are managing a fashion clothing business, crafting a plan outline is helpful for you to identify your main goals and objectives, and be prepared in attaining them in the future. It contains the executive summary, solutions, customer benefits, product details, market analysis, business techniques or strategies, company management team, and financial plan. Showcase your creative prowess as you structure your business outline while using a sample and printable professional plan outline template like this. 


Report Outline

This type of outline is used for a variety of reports such as college reports, middle school reports, argumentative essay reports, research reports, annual business reports, daily work reports, and many others. It is used by companies, organizations, and individuals as it provides a systematic overview of their task, performance, speech, or project. Finish your DIY report outline easily when you select and download from our extensive collection of sample report outline templates, and freely edit and customize the template according to your needs and preferences. 


Proposal Outline

A proposal outline is a formal document that gives you an overview of your project or business. It is an important marketing and communication tool for businesses and organizations in selling or convincing a business proposal or project proposal to their target audience. When preparing your proposal outline, understand your proposal readers, clarify the issues, write a persuasive plan of action, highlight the major details, and offer an innovative solution. 


Essay Outline

Students and professionals usually write essays for their school projects or analytical papers. Follow the standard essay outline format which generally consists of five paragraphs: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Browse through our sample essay outline templates available in MLA, APA, strategic, 3-paragraph, and detailed formats, and download the template you need for your essay writing.


Quotation Outline

Use a well-designed quotation outline to structure your professional service fees and present your clear sales quotation or service estimate forms to your clients. With our eclectic selection of quotation outline form templates, you can conveniently and quickly prepare your quotations in no time! So, easily download and use our customizable and printable service quotation outline template here below. 


Budget Outline

Create a simple and well-defined budget outline for managing the expenses of your startup business, event, household, project, or tuition. It will help you see and analyze your finances well. Whether you need an outline for your marketing budget, corporate budget, IT and software budget, freelancer budget, or annual budget plans, you may download, and customize our sample budget outline templates here for your budgeting. 


Survey Outline

Make a compelling survey outline when you conduct surveys for your work. If you are developing your customer satisfaction survey, employee feedback form, training survey, product survey, or market research questionnaire, it is important that you use a well-structured survey form outline. Browse our survey outline templates with fully customized, and high-resolution mockup features on our website and download the template you need. 


Resume Outline

Interns, financial officers, mechanical engineers, fashion designers, and many other beginners and professionals need to write captivating resumes to catch the attention of the companies they want to work for. Design an eye-catching resume for your job application and your potential employers! Draft your resume outline with ease and comfort while using our sample resume outline templates on our website.


Invoice Outline

Prepare a simple and minimalist invoice outline when you request payment for your freelance or professional services. State your full name, address, business name, contact details, invoice number, purchase order, payment terms, and due date, as well as the dates of services you offered, descriptions, hours, rates, their individual amount, and total amount. Simply fill in the necessary information in this invoice outline template and personalize it. 


Letter Outline

Whether you are writing an authorization letter, or a vacation leave letter, creating a letter outline will assist you in making a clear and engaging letter. If you need to write some professional business letters or personal letters, choose from our unique collection of letter outline templates on our website. You can easily customize these printable templates based on your needs and preferences. 


Outline Uses, Purpose, Importance

An outline offers various uses according to the purpose of a business firm, or an individual. You can see different types of outlines in numerous printed and digital materials such as fiction and non-fiction books, speeches, programs, scripts, and others. Below is a list of the common uses, purposes, and importance of outlines.

Enhanced Focus

Making a basic outline for your essay or research paper is fundamental because it brings out all your ideas and thoughts in a cohesive manner. It helps you in refining your ideas and focusing on your primary goals and priorities, preventing you from drifting away into unrelated topics.

Order and Harmony

Drafting an outline is beneficial to facilitate order and harmony in your content. Whether you are preparing an outline for your business plan, or project proposal, an outline is an effective tool when you present your facts and ideas in the optimal order and construct a systematic document. 

Time Efficiency and Work Productivity

Outlines can help you in writing your reports, letters, plans, and other documents in a timely manner. Plus, it allows you to be more productive in your work so that you can do your other priorities and tasks for the day. 

Clarity and Concision

When you use an outline, you are able to maintain clarity and concision in your writing or documentation work. An outline only needs a few words, phrases, and sentences so that your message can be easily and quickly conveyed to your readers.

Organization and Monitoring

With the use of outlines, many people can easily organize information in a sensible manner. These outlines are beneficial in organizing your approach properly, as well as in tracking your data or monitoring your ideas on your work if they are clearly aligned together.

What’s in an Outline? Parts?

Cover Page

Create the cover page of your outline. Use simple language when writing your cover page. This will guide your readers to know what the outline is all about.


This part will help your readers to understand what you are going to say or write. Set your topic and core message. Build your credibility in your introductory paragraph.


Include some supporting sentences for your main points. Structure your body paragraphs in alphanumerical order. For other minor details, list them in bulleted form. 


In the last part of your outline, tell your readers what you have said or written. Simply recap the main points and summarize the core message. You may also add a call to action to persuade your readers about your content. 


If you have some citations or references in your work, you need to include a page to present any article or book you cited. This will prevent you from any plagiarism accusations. So, always give the credit where it belongs.  


How to Design an Outline?

  1. Choose an outline size.
  2. Think about the purpose of your outline.
  3. Select the outline template.
  4. Brainstorm ideas.
  5. Break your ideas down into categories using numbers or letters.
  6. Add and list minor details to each section.
  7. Review, edit, finalize, and download your outline.
  8. how-to-design-an-outline

Outline vs. Essay

An outline is a simple framework that provides a broad perspective of any task, plan, or project.

An essay is a form of analytic, critical, or interpretative literary composition composed of ideas and concepts of the writer about a specific subject or topic. 

What’s the Difference Between an Outline, List, and Abstract?

An outline is a short overview and writing guide used in structuring ideas, and topics, as well as in project management and planning in a systematic manner.

A list is a document that consists of a series of things, ideas, or other items written or printed together in an orderly sequence. 

An abstract is a brief summary of a research paper or thesis that presents the problem statement, description of the research methods, primary findings, and conclusions.

Outline Sizes

Outlines have different standard sizes both in digital and physical formats. The outline size and format are based on the use and purpose of the business, organization, or individual. 


Outline Ideas & Examples

There are different ways to showcase your creativity when it comes to designing outlines. Check out the following details for more outline ideas and design inspiration.

  • Press Release Outline Ideas and Example
  • Bill of Sale Outline Ideas and Example
  • Schedule Outline Ideas and Example
  • Memo Outline Ideas and Example
  • Cover Letter Outline Ideas and Example
  • Family Tree Outline Ideas and Example
  • Meeting Minutes Outline Making Ideas and Example
  • Contract Outline Tips, Ideas, and Example
  • Ideas and Example for Essay Outline
  • Gantt Chart Outline Ideas and Example



How do you write an outline?

When you write an outline, create your topic sentence or thesis statement, consider what points you want to discuss in your paper, and arrange your points in logical and numerical order, each heading and subheading should have at least two parts, and be consistent while writing your sentences or short phrases.

How do I create an outline template in Word?

Simply go to the New option in your Microsoft Word, look for the search bar for online templates, type Outline in the search bar, and then, choose the type of outline you need for your project, or open a new document, click Home and click the arrow next to Multilevel List in the Paragraph group, choose an outline style from the List Library and start typing to start the list for your outline.

What is a five-point outline?

A five-point outline is the most basic framework to guide authors and writers in their story or article projects as it contains the inciting incident or one introductory paragraph, first plot point or supporting paragraphs, mid-point or development paragraphs, second plot point, or second supporting paragraphs, and climax or conclusion.

What are the contents of an outline?

The main subject or topic or background of your project, main ideas, headings, subheadings, and specific points listed in alphabetical, bulleted, and/or numerical order are the contents of an outline.

How Can You Create a Well Planned Research Paper Outline?

Consider the type of research paper you will be writing, identify your subject or topic, write your thesis statement at the beginning, collect notes, resources, and references, list the main points that support your research and label them in Roman numerals, list supporting ideas or arguments for each main point, and organize your outline by sub-dividing each supporting idea until your outline is completed. 

How to Create a Course Outline?

Write a compelling course description, course goals, and student learning objectives, identify the course modules, create sections or learning activities, describe the instructional methods, organize the major topics and subtopics of your course syllabus, and plan the assessments you will use.  

What to Include in a Website Outline?

A website outline should include a home page, about us page, products list, services, testimonials, contact information, and terms of service and privacy policy.

What is an essay outline template?

An essay outline template is a type of document template which offers a simple framework to guide you in structuring your ideas and thoughts logically and in building your own essay efficiently.

How do you write an outline for a meeting?

When writing a meeting outline, include the goals and priorities, talking points, comments and questions, action items, questions to address, challenges to brainstorm, the purpose of each task, and meeting minutes.

What is the most common type of outline?

An alphanumeric outline is the most common type of outline used in many businesses, organizations, and people.