Creating an annotated outline from a text

Outlines and rough drafts

Many writers prefer an outline to be a casual construction, but sometimes writing needs a more extensive master plan. Assignments that ask for an annotated outline help us learn to read deeply. As a side benefit, analyzing a published writer can teach us how to construct a more thorough planning outline for our own writing.

Thesis statements

1. Plan & Research, Sentences

Although there are several places on the blog that mention thesis statements in context, this post singles them out for a more detailed discussion.

“Thesis” isn’t a word often used in conversation, so first a definition, just to be clear. A thesis is an assertion that the author plans to prove. Two components then: assertion and evidence. A thesis statement is expected to be arguable. After all, an assertion springs from a personal claim regarding the topic. However, the assertion will need to be compatible with at least some accepted facts. (No matter how sharply intuitive you consider yourself, hunches alone will not substitute for evidence when proving your assertion.)

Punctuation for the four sentence types

Punctuation, Sentences

A reminder:  A phrase is a group of words that does not include a subject and verb. A clause is one that does. 

The four possible structures of a sentence:

  • A simple sentence, which contains an independent clause
  • A compound sentence, which contains two or more independent clauses connected with a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon
  • A complex sentence, which contains one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses
  • A compound-complex sentence, which is a hybrid. It is a variation on a compound sentence where a complex sentence has replaced one or both of the independent clauses.

Here are some examples:

Dependent clauses: when to use commas

Punctuation, Sentences

Let’s imagine a sentence is a grownup with a job. It doesn’t live at work, though. Nope. It functions equally well away from its paragraph workplace and out on its own because a sentence is fully independent, thankyouverymuch. And independence is not the focus of this post. (Need to review sentence types and the proper punctuation for them? Go here.)

Too many prepositional phrases?


“Crowded along four shelves, the twenty-two clocks, most with mechanical bells capping their faces, make quite a racket when all are set to ring at the same time.”

Count the prepositional phrases in that sentence. Can you confidently identify four? If not, let’s clear the confusion now. To recognize prepositional phrases you must recognize the various prepositions.