I often write responses to Requests For Proposals (RFPs) and Requests For Qualifications (RFQs) on behalf of my clients. One of the first things I do is to create an outline. To approach a written project like this without one is tantamount to an acrobat working without a net.
Even if the response is limited to a few pages, an outline is not only crucial to organizing your written work, but also to organizing your thoughts. It forces you to define your purpose and assess the finer points of consideration in the response. Like the framework of a building, an outline provides structure to your ideas. It also allows you to quickly ascertain any important missing pieces.
It doesn’t matter if your outline is alphanumeric, decimal, or full sentence. It doesn’t matter if it is detailed or simple. It doesn’t matter if your outline is neatly typed or hastily scribbled on a napkin. And it doesn’t matter if you’re writing an RFP response or a white paper on the future of public relations — just so long as you use one.