12 Tips to Learn the Art of Writing

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12 Tips to Learn the Art of Writing

Essay Outlines

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
— Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Outline, whether the question paper specifically demands it or not, wields enormous significance in CSS/PMS Essay paper as it makes up the examiner’s mind regarding relevance, quality of material and analytical depth of the piece of writing s(he) is to assess. Being the very first interaction with the examiner, the outline deserves to be written deftly as well as carefully. Just like the other parts of the essay, making an outline requires substantial amount of acquaintance with the fundamental requirements of a good outline, in addition to frequent practice under the supervision of a well-versed mentor. Usually, CSS/PMS aspirants are advised to make 100 plus outlines during the preparation journey.
For the assistance of the JWT readers, a majority of them being CSS/PMS aspirants, some important tips regarding the art of writing outlines are being shared with an aim to facilitate them in their preparation for the upcoming examination.

1 Outline making, although is an art, yet it can be learned in a scientific way as well. Every outline is divided into a number of parts and portions which, more or less, are common in all types of essays. During the process of learning, aspirants should familiarize themselves with these structural components so that it becomes easy for them to draw outlines for different essay topics.

2 Although it is possible to learn the art of writing an outline without the active help of a mentor, yet it, incontrovertibly, becomes a stupendous task. Outline is one of the three components of an essay – the other two parts are introductory paragraph and conclusion – where the importance of having someone to seek guidance, and make improvement thereupon, is much greater than the other parts. Any seasoned teacher, senior aspirants or a sibling having command over the art of essay writing can be helpful for the purpose. Aspirants, while choosing someone as their mentor, should be very much clear that the requirements of CSS/PMS essay are perceptibly different from the ones students are required to write in their routine educational pursuits. Only a person having the relevant knowledge and power, therefore, should be selected to guide and mentor.

3 An outline consists of two components: main points and sub-points. Introduction, definition, cause, impacts, recommendations and conclusion are some commonly used main points that are given using different combinations of words. The points that are given under the main points are known as the sub-points. At times, it is beneficial to categorize the sub-points using different categories for the better understanding of the examiner or creating a difference from other aspirants. For instance, political impacts, economic impacts, social impacts and administrative impacts are some commonly used categories delineating different impacts of any phenomenon.

4 Main points of the outline are always written with a marker having a color different from that used for writing sub-points. Aspirants should always remember that only blue and black inks are allowed to be used on the answer sheet. In order to enhance the prominence of the main points, they can be written by capitalizing each word.

5 Main points reflect the relevance of the essay to the given topic; they should, therefore, be crafted after due deliberation. It is always recommended to prepare a rough draft of the outline on the back pages of the answer sheet before finalizing it. The importance of main outline can be gauged by the sole fact that aspirants, immediately after the end of essay paper, start discussing it with one another and determine their passing and failing the paper merely on the basis of it. Ideally, aspirants should write main outlines of 200 plus topics before taking the examination.

6 Averagely, a main outline comprises 7-10 points depending upon the nature of the topic. Where less than 7 points give an impression that essay could not address all the aspects of the given topic, more than 10 make it difficult for the aspirant to cover them reasonably within time.

7 Main points and sub-points are always marked with numbers and alphabets, though differently from each other. Usually, main points are numbered with English numerals, and sub-points with either Roman numerals or small alphabets. While giving main and sub-points in the outline, aspirants should be mindful that sub-points, as compared to main points, are written leaving more space from the border to maintain a difference between the two.

8 In argumentative essays, it is always advisable to categorize the sub-points primarily related to the topic. These sub-points should, at no cost, be insufficient in number. Many aspirants have developed a fallacious perception with reference to the relationship between the number of paragraphs and sub-points. Aspirants need to be very much clear that every sub-point need not be delineated in a separate paragraph: ten sub-points can be explained in five, six or seven paragraphs, keeping in view the availability of time and space. Generally, 6-7 sub-points of a particular main point are explained following the one sub-point – one paragraph policy, whereas the remaining ones are summed up in one or two paragraphs succinctly.

9 The number of sub-points giving causes or recommendations should not be more than 8 each unless these have been specifically mentioned in the topic as a demand. Likewise, the sub-points of recommendations should mandatorily be linked with the sub-points of causes/issues: one cannot recommend anything unless it has been highlighted as an issue or a cause of the issue in the outline.

10 Aspirants should never compromise on the appearance of the outline. Cutting, overwriting, illegibility of words, poor use of marker, bad sequencing, inequality of inter-word and inter-line spaces: all these things are detrimental to an outline and should be strictly avoided. Continuous practice can be immensely significant for the purpose.

11 As an outline is the very first interaction with the examiner, it is mandatory to take every measure required for enhancing its quality and convincing the examiner of one’s analytical and linguistic skills. All the available references in terms of case studies, report comparisons, and research papers should be hinted at in the outline as a part of the relevant sub-points.

12 Finally, aspirants should avoid the common mistake with reference to the outline: overconsumption of time. Aspirants must not spend more than 25 minutes on writing the outline for the CSS essay – and more than 15 minutes for the PMS essay. Time management requires regular practice as it, by no means, is an easy task.

The writer is a PAS officer from 38th CTP, currently serving as an Additional Secretary in Government of Punjab. He can be reached at: asim_raza7950@yahoo.com

Muhammad Ali Asghar

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