Let me be clear: outlines make or break your dictated content.
If you’re using dictation blogging or dictaphone writing to create blog posts, book chapters, short stories, articles, or what have you, you have to have a solid outline.
Outlines are crucial because they provide organization. You’re not just shooting off your thoughts and hoping that something sticks or makes sense. Your outline provides an overall shape to what you’re saying. It limits what you should say and prevents you from talking about stuff that doesn’t matter.
A good outline also sets the tone for your content. This goes a long way in setting the overall quality of your piece.
Finally—and, I believe, most importantly—a great outline sets you up to deliver on the promise of your content. Every single piece of content you dictate has a promise. Otherwise, people wouldn’t bother reading it.
For blog posts, you are promising that you will deliver whatever is promised by the keywords your readers used to find your content on Google.
Sadly, dictaphone writers screw up outlines all the time.
Sure, you can go from writing 3,000 words per day manually to dictating 50,000 words day after day. The problem is, quantity never replaces quality.
Dictation bloggers end up producing garbage because their outlines are trash.
Usually, this happens because they didn’t give themselves enough time to write quality dictation outlines. They end up with a very vague list of ideas, so they end up winging it.
When I “wing it,” I end up rambling! Sometimes I hit the bullseye, but most of the time, I’m just spitting out words.
Another reason why dictabloggers screw up their outlines is they don’t read it.
They don’t even read it once. They just write and, once the list is done, they start dictating. They don’t go over the list items.
They don’t try to come up with a big picture and see if all the items line up with the objective behind the outline. They just write it out and start dictating.
To help you come up with better outlines, whether dictated or handwritten, here are 17 common mistakes dictation writers make when preparing outlines.
Keep these in mind when you are writing out your materials. Avoid these and you increase your chances of coming up with a solid outline that will produce a solid transcript.
Mistake #1: There is no central point or purpose to your outlines
If you fail to focus on the intent of the searchers for the keyword you’re targeting with your content, your text is going to be worthless.
Maybe you just come up with a list of points to cover that somehow has something to do with the keyword.
Maybe you repeat the keyword several times.
These aren’t good enough.
An effective blog post or online article addresses the intent behind the keyword that piece of content is targeting.
If you don’t do this, there’s no set purpose for your outline and its value suffers quite a bit.
Mistake #2: Wording your points so broadly you get confused
If your outline has very broad terms or your theme for your outline points is so broad, it’s very easy for you to talk in circles.
It seems that each outline item is broad enough to cover the point that came before and the point that will come after.
This is very frustrating because you basically find yourself repeating yourself again and again as you read each outline point.
You start to panic and try to come up with something different. And, this makes things even worse.
Mistake #3: Using outline points that are too similar to each other in content
If you write your outline in short sentences and the sentences are very similar to each other, you can end up confusing yourself.
For one, you might find yourself repeating the points that you made earlier because of the similarity of the outline items.
They do have some difference in terms of theme and context, but the way you wrote ended up confusing you.
You waste a lot of time trying to figure your current outline item apart from the one that you just covered. There’s a lot of dead time in your dictation, and this can increase your transcription costs.
Not only that, you may end up so confused trying to separate the points from each other that you fail to fully prepare for the next point.
You need more time to get your thoughts together and this creates more dead air during your dictation’s recording process.
Mistake #4: Your points are so narrow they choke you up
The whole point of an outline is to get your creative juices flowing. An outline must not be a fully written article or even the major excerpts of an article—that would defeat the purpose.
A great outline consists of a few sentences that are worded in such a way that they inspire you to achieve a state of mental flow.
Just by looking at the outline, you know what to say, when to say it, and when to end.
You then start up with the next point and repeat the process until you’re done with the article.
The problem is if your outline points are so narrow that there’s really only one way to dictate them, you put a lot of pressure on yourself. You’re so intimidated by the wording that you feel that you have to “make it perfect.”
This throws off your mental agility, and it feels like you put on a straitjacket.
Not surprisingly, a lot of dictation bloggers choke up; they draw a blank.
You have to widen your points a bit so you avoid putting unnecessary emotional pressure on yourself.
Wording counts for a lot. And, if you frame your outline points so narrowly that it seems that there’s only one “right answer,” you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Your outline is supposed to help you, not trip you up.
Mistake #5: Writing a mini-article instead of an outline
I get it. When you’re writing your outline, you are trying to freeze the thoughts that come to mind when you think about the central theme of whatever it is you’re writing.
But, just because you think about it doesn’t mean you have to write it down.
The whole point of an outline is to distill the main points of what you’re about to talk about so you can remember those prior insights.
When you were doing research for your article, you were learning a lot of new things and covering a lot of ground. You shouldn’t write everything that you’ve read.
In fact, you should just allow yourself to be emotionally comfortable with the material.
Try to remember the key points, but don’t pack them in all into your outline. If you do, you end up with a mini-article.
When I first started dictation blogging, my “outlines” were basically 75% of the finished blog posts and articles I was working on.
You might think that this is a good thing, but it’s actually a big problem. You don’t know which parts to add to, and you don’t know which parts to cut down on.
It leads to a lot of confusion, and the resulting transcript’s overall quality is uneven at best.
Focus on writing an outline. This means identifying the main points, simplifying them, and getting them down.
When you read the outline point, it should be so powerful and complete that whole “unpacked ideas” and examples flow naturally through your mind. That’s how an outline is supposed to work.
Mistake #6: Failing to include examples
If your outline is just a series of points with no examples that serve to explain those points, you’re writing a list—that’s not an outline.
It’s like you were simply whipping out a shopping list: each item is stuff that you’re going to shop for at your grocery store.
The whole point of an outline is to give you enough inspiration to tease out a set of well-developed paragraphs from your mind. This doesn’t just include the point that you’re trying to make but also examples of that point in action.
Mistake #7: Failing to follow a logical sequence
Please understand that if you want to be a successful writer, whether you dictate your content or type it out manually, people have to get value from whatever it is your produce.
It’s hard to do that when your outline doesn’t follow a logical sequence.
It’s as if you start at the end, then you bounce to the beginning, then you talk about something that happened in the middle of the process, then you go back to the end.
Not only is this hard to follow, but people will have a tough time gaining some value out of it.
Remember, people are reading your stuff because they have problems to solve.
They’re looking for an experience. Give them that experience by making things smooth and easy-to-follow.
You start at the beginning, work your way to the middle, and then you conclude with the end. This way, people can actually take action on what you just said.
If you wrote an amusing blog post, then they’re more likely to remember because it fits a logical sequence that is similar enough to a lot of the other stories that they remember.
Mistake #8: Including outline points that duplicate other points’ themes
It’s a bad idea to include outline points that are so similar to each other that they trip you up.
It’s also a bad idea to do the same thing but using different wording.
Let me put it this way: you can come up with an outline that may seem that it has different outline points (they’re all worded differently). But when you read them, they actually talk about the same themes.
Or, the themes that they cover are too closely related to each other.
If you do this, you end up confusing yourself.
Again, you are in danger of repeating the same materials until you figure out that the themes are too similar to each other—so you try to edit yourself verbally.
You spend too much time and effort trying to do this while you’re in the middle of dictating your points. And, if you’re faced with this problem again and again as you read through your outline, it can get very tiring.
Also, you might not do a good job separating and distinguishing each outline item enough. When you get the transcript, it seems that you’re just talking about the same point in slightly different ways again and again—not exactly the hallmark of quality content.
Don’t include points that duplicate or come very close to other points’ themes.
Mistake #9: Using overly vague outline points
Just as it is a bad idea to use outline points that are so narrow that they choke you up, you can’t go to the other extreme either.
If your outline points are so vague that they don’t really push you to zero in on key concepts that you’ve thought about when you were researching your content and writing your outline, vague outline points are sure to make you draw a blank.
This is bad news!
A sense of panic starts to set in. There are gaps in your dictation as you mentally scramble for things to say. Your mental gears are grinding against each other as you try to mentally define each outline point.
But, it’s too late. You should have done that when you were writing your outline.
The best way to fix this problem is to read your outline from the point of view of somebody who doesn’t have a clue about what you’re going to talk about.
You will instantly spot vague points. Clarify these on your outline.
Mistake #10: Using outline points that have logical gaps
I get it. When you are writing your outline, you are so pumped up because you are going to be dictating your blog post, article, or novel chapters.
You’re excited about going from 3,000 words per day to maybe 20,000 to 50,000 words daily.
But, the problem is if you are so excited writing your outline, you may focus on key points and fail to break them down.
You make key assumptions that you shouldn’t be making.
When you end up reading your outline, you go from point to point, and there’s a logical gap in between.
Remember, whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, your outlines should be logically tight.
They should walk the reader through whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. And if you assume that each point is so clear and convincing, there’s a good chance that you might make logical leaps.
The workaround to this is to assume that people don’t know what you’re talking about.
You have to walk them through the process so things make sense to them. They should get the feeling that everything is falling into place.
Don’t just assume that the reader, by finding himself or herself on your website, would automatically know what you’re talking about.
Mistake #11: Failing to break down answers to search intent
If you’re writing a blog post or article that you’re going to be publishing online, keep in mind that you have to deliver value to the reader of that content.
Usually, the main reason why the reader is even checking out your content is because they entered a keyword or a keyphrase into Google. They have a clear intent when entering those terms.
Deliver on that intent. Your outline must break down the answer to that intent.
You can’t just say it in passing in one outline point—that’s not going to cut it.
Your whole outline should be a break down of all the parts, arguments, and details that make up the answer to the visitors’ questions.
Mistake #12: Your outline points refer too much to each other
If your outline points keep referring to each other, you end up confusing yourself.
You have to keep in mind that dictation blogging involves a high rate of speed. You’re talking at 100 words to 200 words per minute.
And if you keep running into an outline item that refers to a previous point that you made, you can end up confused. You may have forgotten what you have said or how you said it.
Every second you take to try to remember can break down your concentration. It’s too easy to get thrown off track and end up drawing blanks.
Avoid this situation by cleaning up your outline so your outline points are not referring to each other. If you can’t avoid this, try to minimize it.
Mistake #13: Failing to manage your readers’ expectations
When you write an outline that has broad promises, you better deliver on those promises. Otherwise, you might want to dial back what you promised so the reader is not left hanging high and dry.
Each outline item must deliver on whatever it is the reader is expecting. If that item doesn’t or is too vague, cut it out and replace it with something that does the job.
Your outline must serve the needs of your reader. And, a key part of this is managing their expectations—if you make a promise, better deliver on it.
The best way to do this is to manage your readers’ expectations by wording your outline items carefully enough so they know what to expect and what not to expect.
Mistake #14: Using passive outline points
When you use passive outline points, don’t be surprised if the content that you’d dictate is also in the passive voice.
This is a serious problem if you want your content to stand out from your competition.
You may be thinking that passive sentences are not that big of a deal. Well, think again!
In the dog-eat-dog world of SEO content creation, keyword-targeted blogging, or Kindle Direct Publishing, you must use every single advantage you have in your corner.
Using active voice and producing more engaging content can put you ahead of your competition. Don’t be complacent and think that if you create content that has a passive tone (because of your passive outline points) that your reader wouldn’t notice—it’s a serious problem!
You’re putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage.
Mistake #15: Failing to break down an outline point which contains several points
There are certain outline points that need to be broken down into their own specific points.
Maybe the idea is too broad or you’re describing some sort of process that can only safely be handled through several outline points. Know how to spot these.
If you read an outline point and you start thinking of a long, complicated, and convoluted process, that’s your cue. You’re dealing with something that would be better off broken down into separate points.
You don’t want to lose your reader.
The funny thing is if you insist on packing that whole process into one outline point, you might end up confusing yourself.
Not only do you lose your reader, you also lose your train of thought.
Talk about a disaster!
Mistake #16: Failing to shorten your outline points for maximum impact
Just like with good poetry and many other forms of written art, the shorter your point, the sweeter it is.
The same goes with online content. If your outline points are long and drawn out, chances are good your content would also be long and tedious.
You have to keep your readers’ attention. This the mark of solid content.
To make this happen, shorten your outline points for maximum emotional impact.
Now, you shouldn’t go overboard and shorten it so much that it becomes vague or confusing. You shouldn’t also cut too many words from the sentence that you don’t know what it means.
It should be long enough to contain everything that you need to know so you can dictate solid content on that point.
Mistake #17: Relying too much on industry jargon or keywords
This mistake is too obvious and, unfortunately, too common.
A lot of online publishers think that they’re going to get extra love from Google by littering their content with all sorts of jargon, industry keywords, or “terms of art.”
Dictation bloggers can make the same mistake when they pack such info into their outline.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for this. But, if you include too many pieces industry jargon or technical keywords into your outline, it’s not going to flow. The amount of user engagement that your content is going to enjoy will suffer.
It would look too robotic, mechanical, dull, and lifeless.
I’m not saying that you should completely avoid industry jargon or related keywords, but be sparing. Focus on delivering on search intent, and everything else will fall into place.
To avoid these 17 common outline writing mistakes for dictated text, you have to practice outline writing constantly.
You can’t avoid these problems the first time you read and become aware of the tips included in this article.
That’s just not going to happen.
Being aware of these is a necessary first step, but awareness is not the same as execution. You have to put these tips into practice.
I suggest that you start low and slow. Be on the lookout for one mistake, clear that out from your outline writing, then move on to the next mistake, and then the item after that.
Also, when you are identifying these mistakes in how you write outlines, work around your errors.
See how you can come up with solutions that prevent you from making these mistakes in the first place.
Once you become comfortable with alternative ways of writing, scale up your speed and the depth of your outline.
Pretty soon, you’ll be blasting out outlines and dictating them quickly without suffering any loss in quality.