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What Is A Reverse or Backwards Outline?

Updated on October 23, 2012
StephanieBCrosby profile image

Stephanie Bradberry is an herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. Her academic career includes teaching, tutoring, writing and editing.

Basic Outline Structure
Basic Outline Structure | Source


So what is a reverse outline? A reverse outline is an outline done after a draft is complete. Sometimes it is referred to as a backwards outline. As the name indicates, you are working backwards--in a sense--because you have completed all the writing. Now you have to reverse engineer what you have done.

What Is The Point?

If you hate writing to begin with, you are probably wondering why you are being put through a torturous process. But if you like writing, you will recognize the benefits right away. Composing a reverse outline allows the writer or reviewer to make the familiar strange. This means you are used to looking at your work from beginning to end. As the writer, you know what to expect coming up or you can easily fill in the blanks for information that might be missing but you think is self explanatory. Doing a reverse outline makes you dissect your writing line-by-line to see how it fits into the grand scheme of your writing.

Who Can Compose The Reverse Outline?

Actually, there are two people who can do the reverse outline. The first is the author. The second is anyone reviewing the paper or document.

You may wonder why an outside person would want to complete this task. But it can be quite beneficial. Again, the author is biased to his or her own work. So whether a word, idea, or sentence is missing, the author is not liable to pick up on it. However, a fresh pair of eyes are.

Another added benefit is the author and a reviewer completing a reverse outline for the same draft. This will give the author a side-by-side comparison of what is going on in his or her head and what others see. It can be quite amazing how disparate the outcome.

What Is Your Experience With Reverse Outlines?

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What Kind Of Writing Can This Be Used For?

Believe it or not, a reverse outline can be used for any type of writing. They can also be useful in proofing PowerPoints, presentations, transcriptions, and so on. In fact, a reverse outline can be used for projects that are not in a written format, for example, a speech or a spoken word poem.


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    • StephanieBCrosby profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      Hello again teaches12345. I admit that I do not do reverse outlines consistently. But I do like to be able to pull it out of my back pocket when needed. Thanks for the compliment. I really kept this one brief and hopefully to the point. Thanks for stopping by :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I have tried this on occasion, as you mentioned, it helps to catch errors, and to detail the writing. You have really written this well.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      Hello always exploring.

      Once I learned about reverse outlining, I was like, "No duh. It makes so much sense." However, they are not used very often or popularly taught. I am not sure why though. But I am glad you see the benefit like I do!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Interesting article. I can see the benefit..Thank you for sharing..


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