The Making Of Outlines. Part 2
§13. Suppose now that you have been jotting down thoughts for a week on the backs of some old cards. You spread cut the cards, and go through a sort of logical alphabeting. You put together thoughts that are alike. Perhaps you get half a dozen groups in this way. Then you ask in what order these groups should themselves he grouped. What should come first, what in the middle, what last? If you have really done some thinking for a week, you will have no difficulty in deciding, as if by instinct, on a logical and progressive outline.
It is not worth while to attempt a psychological analysis of all the ways by which the mind works in making such an outline. But here are a few of the commoner laws: association in time; association in space; association by likeness or difference; association by cause and effect; association by means and end. You are likely to make one of five kinds of outlines: a time outline; a space outline; a comparison outline; a cause-and-effect outline; a means-and-end outline.
A story usually goes by a time-outline. Often it is mechanically simple. A history of the year's business might be written up under four heads - the seasons; or under twelve heads - the months; or under fifty-two heads - the weeks.
A description goes by space-outline or means-and-effect outline, or both. A room may be spatially described under two, three, four, five, or six heads. Thus, under two: walls; floor and ceiling; or, general looks and details. Under three: walls, floor, ceiling. Under four: walls; doors and windows; floor; ceiling. Under five: walls, doors, windows, floor, ceiling. Under six: north wall, south wall, east wall, west wall, floor, ceiling. And still other space-divisions of a room are possible. Again, the room could be divided by means-and-end. The end or purpose of the room might be the first division, the room as filling that purpose the second.
The comparison-outline has several possibilities. Let A and B represent two rooms, or persons, or machines, or pieces of goods, to be compared. A as a whole may be compared with B as a whole; that gives two divisions. Or, the likenesses may go in one division, the differences in another. Or, there may be running comparison through several topics, thus: Boom A vs. Boom B in point of north wall; Boom A vs. Boom B in point of south wall; etc., etc. There may be comparison of A and B in the light of time, or space, or cause-and-effect, or means-and-end. A great variety of division is therefore possible.
Cause-and-effect outlines may be very simple or very complex. They answer the question Why?, and they may answer it under two heads or a dozen. Every cause has a preceding cause, and so the number of heads is limited only by the length and purpose of the piece.
Every good piece of business English will make use of all the five principles of association above mentioned, even though only one guides the general outline. And the most important of the five is that of means-and-end. There never was a real business transaction yet which failed to consider that. Business is always adapting means to end. If a machine is described spatially - by its looks, by its parts - and not by its function also, that description is worthless. Show the thing in action. Show it doing what the buyer longs to have done.
§ 14. In point of fullness there are two general kinds of outline - the phrase-outline and the sentence-outline.
Suppose that some business veteran were asked to tell the story of his life in a few hundred words. Very likely he would make no outline, but would dictate rapidly, following the simple order of time. If he made an outline, it would probably be a mere list of words or phrases which would serve to jog his memory as he dictated. Suppose the veteran were Dr. Price, who made baking-powder. Perhaps his phrase-outline would run something like this: 1852 - mother - dyspepsia - yeast - baking-powder - possibilities of selling - going west - Waukegan - $3,-000 - indifference of public - demonstration - Milwaukee - hotels and grocers - economy - 1863, - Chicago - 1868, advertising - partner - bought him out - success - 1891, $1,500,000. That outline would mean something to Dr. Price, but not very much to any one else.
If for some reason he had wanted another person to read the history of that career in the briefest possible shape, he would have made a sentence-outline. It would have been something like this:
1. In 1853 my mother had dyspepsia and could not eat yeast bread.
2. So I discovered a baking powder for her.
3. I soon saw that it was an article of value to households.
4. In '61 I went west - Waukegan, 111. - for better opportunity to manufacture.
5 I put $3000 into a factory, but the public was indifferent
6. I went to Milwaukee and demonstrated the stuff to hotels and grocers.
7. They woke up.
8. But I had to keep expenses down for some time. 9. In 1863 I got a good foothold in Chicago.
10. In 1868 I began to advertise in newspapers, but my partner did not believe in this, and so I bought him out
11. Events proved that I was right; publicity pays.
12. In 1891 I sold out for a million and a half, but the business has grown by leaps.
13. I succeeded because my stuff was of value. But it took time to prove it
14. 'Most men try too much and don't live according to their expenses.
Such are the fourteen main points in Dr. Price's business career. They follow in general the time-order. But they draw constantly on the cause-and-effect and the means-and-end principles. Now let us see how the completed article would look. Here we do not have to invent, for Dr. Price has done the writing himself. In System, June, 1910, we have his composition:
How I Went Into Business For Myself
by Vincent C. Price.
It was a necessity of the kitchen that led me to the founding of my business, and which led, ultimately, to the largest profits ever made from a single factory product