Formal Outlines

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Formal Outlines

Formal outlines use Roman numerals (I, II), capital letters (A, B), Arabic numbers (1, 2), and lower case letters (a, b) to designate levels of importance. Formal outlines fall into two categories: sentence outlines use complete sentences, and topic outlines use only key words and phrases. In a topic or sentence outline, less important entries are indented, as in the sample formal outline below.

I.
A.
1.
a.
(1)
(a)
(b)
(2)
b.
2.
B.
II.

A few other factors to keep in mind:

1) Each topic or sentence outline begins with a capital letter.

2) All items labeled with the same designation (capital letters, for example) should be of parallel importance, and each must explain or support the topic or subtopic under which it is placed.

3) Only sentence outlines allow end marks (the full stop, the question mark, and the exclamation mark) at the end of each sentence. DO NOT use such marks at the end of an entry in a topic outline.

4) All items at the same level should be grammatically parallel.

Not parallel I. Dietary Problems

A. Consuming too much fat

B. High refined-sugar consumption

Parallel I. Dietary Problems

A. Consuming too much fat

B. Consuming too much refined-sugar

Here is an example of a sentence outline on American western movies in The Sampler: Patterns for Composition, 2nd ed., by Rance G. Baker and Billie R. Phillips.

Westerns

Thesis sentence: Nearly all westerns are characterized by monotonous plots, stereotyped characters, and oversimplified themes.

I. The monotonous plots of the western almost always involve the same sequences.

A. A stock situation is introduced.

1. The hero is wrongly accused of a crime.

2. He clears his good name.

3. He captures the villain, wins the girl, and rides into the sunset.

B. The plot is built around obvious physical action.

1. The hero is involved in chases.

2. The hero is involved in fistfights.

3. The hero is involved in gunfights.

4. The hero wins them all.

II. Second, stereotyped characters are characteristic of the western.

A. First is the hero.

1. He speaks good English.

2. He is well-dressed.

3. He is a paragon of virtue.

B. On the other hand is the villain.

1. He speaks rough, ungrammatical English.

2. He dresses in dark, drab, wrinkled clothes.

3. He is the epitome of general wickedness.

C. A minor stereotype is the barmaid.

1. She is immoral by occupation.

2. She has a heart of gold.

3. She risks her own safety for the hero.

D. Another minor stereotype is the hero's sidekick.

1. He is older than the hero.

2. He is secondary to the hero in prowess.

3. He is available for the dirty work.

4. He provides "humor."

III. Finally, simplified themes are characteristic of most westerns.

A. The themes are often expressed by clichés.

1. One common theme is "Cattle rustling doesn't pay."

2. Another common theme is "Good always triumphs over evil."

3. A third common theme is "Arrogance leads to downfall; humility leads to victory."

B. Many of the themes tend to emphasize violence in the solution of problems.

1. The villain seems to understand only a good physical beating.

2. The hero can and will beat hell out of the villain.

a. God is on the hero's side....
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