A simple outline that can lead to a powerful product

When writing the content for your next information product, the following is an easy outline to follow:

Ø  Inspire your audience to read and use the product. Use at least one story about your topic, preferably referencing an experience of yours or one of your clients around your topic.

Ø  Identify three primary points you want to address in your product.  Devote a chapter or a unit to each point, depending on the length of your product.

Ø  Take the time to develop at least a couple of sub-points under each topic, again utilizing stories to keep your reader involved. Your stories are an indirect way you can demonstrate the way you work with your clients that enhances the outcome.

Ø  Conclude by pulling all of the points together.  Invite the reader to work with you in the future. Perhaps drop a hint or two about other topics you will be writing about.

I have been using and writing instructional materials for more years than I want to remember. I have learned some basic principles that have made a difference for me and my clients.

First, keep your reader in mind as you write.  

While working at the VA I worked with Viet Nam vets who wanted to go back and get their high school diploma. I learned that if I modified the study materials we had so the examples used topics they were familiar with, they stayed interested longer and were more successful in mastering the material.

If you are writing for someone new to the work you do, your vocabulary will be more basic. You will want to spend more time explaining as you go. You will be more specific in covering the steps involved in accomplishing your goal.

If your reader has been studying the topic for years, you will go into more depth with the topic. You may want to present more of the underlying philosophy of the work you are discussing. You will spend less time on the basics and move more quickly into the advanced material.

Nutrition is a good example of this concept. When writing for someone who is just beginning to pay attention to what they are eating, you will spend more time identifying the basic nutrients in different foods and how they help us maintain better health. When writing for another nutritionist you might go into more of the science that supports the claims you are making – go into more of the why behind what you are saying.

Second, consider the way you are going to organize your information.

You can go from the beginning to the end – chronological organization. You can present several scenarios and help your audience draw a conclusion. You can present your conclusion and then go into the facts that support it. What’s most important is that once you decide on an organizational structure that you stay with it. Continually switching around will confuse your audience and they will just put the material aside and never return.

If you are sharing a new concept or reviewing an old one you may want to include some questions for your reader to answer from their own perspective. This will reinforce the material you are writing about and help them see how it applies to their lives.

Third, if you are preparing a print document invest in having someone edit and proofread it for you.

This helps in two ways. You are so aware of your topic, and have probably read through it several times, doing some edits as you go, that you may not be able to see what is actually on the page. A second set of eyes will see things you don’t see or will recognize that something is missing that you were sure was there.

If you are preparing a script or an outline for an audio file or a video it is equally important to have someone review it for you. You don’t want to leave out a critical point or forget to give a call to action – whether that call to action is to do more study or go to your website for more help.


So, you want to consider your audience and their level of experience with your topic before you begin writing. You want your information to be organized in a consistent manner. And you want to seek out the input of a skilled editor whether you final product will be in print (downloadable or physical product), audio or video files, or all three. 

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