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Developing the Body of a Speech: Outline & Principles

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  • 0:01 Outlining the Main Points
  • 1:56 Principles of Outlining
  • 5:07 Division in Outlining
  • 8:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathryn Jackson

Cat has taught a variety of subjects, including communications, mathematics, and technology. Cat has a master's degree in education and is currently working on her Ph.D.

Developing the body of a speech can be a time-consuming process and a critical part of outlining. This lesson will help you understand the principles of outlining the body of your speech.

Outlining the Main Points

Jeffery is creating a speech about the AmeriCorps organization for his civics class. He's conducted some research, and now he's ready to write his central idea and start outlining the body of his speech. However, he will need to keep a few things in mind first, before he jumps right into the outline of his speech.

The body of a speech is the center part of the speech that discusses the main ideas and key concepts of the speech. The body is everything but the introduction and the conclusion. The body of a speech is made up of main points.

For a speech, you will need between two to five main points. If you have only one point in your speech, it will either be quite short, or it will actually be too complex for the audience to follow. If you have one long point in your speech, you'll need to break that point apart into multiple points. On the other hand, five points is a lot for a speech and a lot for the audience to follow. This should be reserved for longer public speaking engagements or more technical topics for a technical audience. In a speech, you'll find that the most common number of main points is three. Three seems to be the magic number of points that the audience is able to follow the best.

In a speech outline, it is important to keep the same structure and repetition throughout your speech. This is important because it helps the audience follow your speech. An audience member can't re-listen to your speech the same way a reader can re-read a sentence in a book. This means that you will have to structure your speech consistently and word things in a repetitive manner.

For example, if you were creating a speech about a famous person, such as Theodore Roosevelt, your main points may be about Theodore Roosevelt as a politician, an author, and an explorer. For this speech, you would need to have your main points in the same order as your thesis statement. So, if you mention Theodore Roosevelt as a politician first, then your first main point will need to be about Theodore Roosevelt as a politician.

Principles of Outlining

For English and speech outlining, there are a few principles that are important to consider. These are the principles of coordination, subordination, and division. Before we get into these principles, let's check back with Jeffery and his outlining process. Jeffery has made a list of all of the topics that he has found about AmeriCorps. Somehow he will need to get these ideas into a coherent speech. Let's talk about how he can do this by using the outlining principle of coordination.

Coordination is the principle of outlining topics into groups of thoughts in a balanced manner. This means that for each main point, you will need to group similar thoughts together so the audience has an easier time following the thoughts in your speech. This also means that your outline should be balanced in nature. For example, going back to the Theodore Roosevelt example, you wouldn't want to discuss Theodore Roosevelt as both a politician and an author in one main point, and then have information about him as an explorer in another main point. You wouldn't want this because the first main point would have too many unrelated thoughts, as well as it would be significantly longer than your second main point, which only has one thought.

Using the principle of coordination, Jeffery has grouped related topics into different bubbles. From there, he can pick his main points. He can start constructing his main points from these thoughts using the principle of subordination.

Subordination is the principle of outlining topics in levels from general thoughts to specific thoughts. For example, if I were giving a speech about cars, then I might want to outline in levels like this : Cars > Hybrid Cars > Toyota > Prius. Jeffery will need to take the ideas in each topic and separate them from general to concrete. To do this, Jeffery will take each bubble and outline the ideas from general to specific. Some ideas will be broken down into several parts. Take a look at this chart:

Chart for example
subordination chart

First, notice that the largest level is Jeffery's topic: AmeriCorps. This is the most general topic. The next three levels represent the three main points that Jeffery will discuss in his speech. Notice that all of these levels, or main points, are phrased similarly as a question. This is another tool to help the audience follow along with the speech. His first main point asks the question, 'What is AmeriCorps?' This would be the first level, or the most general topic in this main point. He breaks this down further into three sub-points: about, history, and focus areas. Jeffery can cover the majority of the questions that most listeners have in this main point of his speech.

His next main point is more specific: 'What are the AmeriCorps programs?' Here, he has two different levels. Because the AmeriCorps programs serve different functions, Jeffery decided to group these into two different categories so that it is easier for his audience to follow along. His sub-points are volunteer funding and support, and community and disaster. Under this, Jeffery has two sub-points for each sub-point. This is a good time to talk about the principle of division in an outline.

Division in Outlining

Division is the principle of outlining levels in a similar and balanced pattern. Take a look at this outline to understand:

I. Main Point #1: Environmental and Emergency Volunteering

A. Supporting Point 1: Environmental Volunteering

1. Animal-Centered Programs

a. Animal Shelters

2. Plant-Centered Programs

B. Supporting Point 2: Emergency Volunteering

1. Non-Government Agencies

2. Government Agencies

This is a main point from a speech about volunteering.

You may notice that there are different levels in this main point. The topic is more general: Environmental and Emergence Volunteering, while each level goes more specific - from environmental volunteering to animal shelters. Let's apply the principle of division to this key word outline.

The second level in this outline has two sub-points: environmental volunteering and emergency volunteering. This is perfect because it divides the main point topics in a balanced manner. It also follows the same order as the main point topic: environmental first and then emergency volunteering.

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