Zettelkasten Forum

How I use Outlines to Write Any Text

imageHow I use Outlines to Write Any Text

The Zettelkasten note-taking method has made book writing and writing scientific papers easy for hundreds of years already.

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  • N.B.: This link currently referenced in the last paragraph is no longer good: "The smaller my toolkit, the less I have to rely on others."

    I found a current link that works, https://frankchimero.com/blog/2014/no-new-tools/

  • Thanks for reporting this! Fixed it, will update in a sec!

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • Really enjoyed reading the outlined screenshot and getting a glimpse of your outline for the article. I appreciate the Behind the Scenes

  • @ctietze Thanks for the post, it was an interesting read! Outside making some rough overview of things, I never really leveraged outlining. I might have missed it, but I am very curious, does this mean that all your latest Zettels are written as outlines too? Or are they only done so initially?

  • In my David Epstein verzetteling Videos, you see I do all kinds of things in practice. Sometimes I start with a quote and comment on in, but for structure notes or the book overview, I start with an outline and stay in its confines.

    I also don't outline my forum posts. At least not many. And most blog posts stem from observation or "lab" notes while I am programming, which doesn't really qualify as an outline. But this technique is still useful, even though I don't use it for every text :)

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • I've had to learn how to use outlines as an adult, too, and appreciate this post. Am curious, though: An outline is a bridge between the non-hierarchical nature of the Zettelkasten and the hierarchical (in a productive way) organization of a paper. Given that, why do you use bullet points instead of the numerical (I, a), i) structure of an outline in a text editor like Word? It's easier to see "parent" thoughts and how they flow to examples, and moving isn't an issue because the numbers adjust to the move immediately. :smile:

  • @bforbes No strong reason, just fuzzy feelings. I like bullets more :) I have a bit of a harder time looking past numbers instead of asterisks or dashes. But some editors help there, offering to tone-down the color of the list enumerators so they don't stand out as much. And this would probably get better with practice. An outline is an ordered list, and thus numbers would fit better to convey the order. Semantically, its the better choice. I find bullets to be more playful, sandbox-y, malleable.

    The text editor I'm using in the screenshot doesn't automatically tidy up lists when I move items, so the numbers would be off at first. Similarly, the indentation level is just more spaces at the beginning of the line, and the editor is not aware of the kind of list at the point. So outdenting would not promote the item in a hierarchy, changing from a) to iii) to 2. or similar. -- I don't think that's the strongest reason in my book, though. There are other editors which can do this just fine. I think I'd still prefer not to see numbers :)

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • @ctietze Thank you for replying! That makes a lot of sense, especially the playful, sandbox-y, malleable nature of bullet points. (I see them so often in PowerPoint, where they can become problematic.) I write in Word, and the tidying up is an awesome aspect (there are, of course, issues with Word but this is not one of them). :)

  • @bforbes I work a lot in Scrivener - taking notes from various review meetings, recording thoughts and ideas, summarizing books and articles, etc. I use bullet points a lot. Unlike @ctietze I think I prefer a numbered/lettered system, but then I’m pretty flexible and can work with indented bullet points as well. It’s just that if you indent more than once, it becomes difficult tracking what level you are at (or why).

  • So how about using a tool such as Workflowy or Checkvist?
    I'm evaluating plain text over bullet points for my notes.

    (If you think it's better to open a new thread, please let me know)

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