How to Use Venn Diagrams

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.”
– Winston Churchill

There’s no wrong way to organize your thoughts. Some writers use mind maps, where a word is placed in the center of a page and ideas branch away from it until the entire page is full. Writers may also notecards, outlines, post-it notes or white boards. Venn diagrams are yet another way to get the creativeness out of your mind and onto the paper. You may remember these from junior high, high school or college. More than likely English teachers taught you how to use them when you classified information. That’s generally the idea, but there are so many options that you can use with these that writers should take advantage of it.

option 1Option one: Two circles. This may be the one most of you are familiar with from your formative and higher education. In essence, you have Idea “A” and Idea “B”, with Idea “C” as the intersection. Let’s say you’re comparing two movies. Each individual circle would have their film locations, when they were filmed, their movie genre and so on. In the center, any information they share would be listed here. Maybe both films were filmed in New York City or both films have Tom Hanks. On the contrary, each outer half has information that is not shared. Maybe movie “A” has Meg Ryan and movie “B” has Julia Roberts. Option “C” would have similarities to both of these movies.

option 2Option two: Sets and subsets. In this option, you’ll see that we still have the two circles. I called this option Sets and Subsets because, initially, each circle within a Venn Diagram is considered to be a set. When a circle is within a circle, however, that circle is referred to as a subset. Let’s say we’re comparing birds. In the larger circle, one set option could be those birds that nest in trees while the inner circle could be birds that nest on the ground. Or, you may compare/contrast birds that fly from those that do not fly at all.

option 3

Option three: Complex Venn diagram. We now move to a more complex diagram. Maybe you have seen this Venn diagram in a science class or maybe it’s completely new. It’s another combination of sets and subsets. We now have five different areas of intersection that we can compare our classifications. Idea “A” intersects with B, C, D, E. Idea “B” intersects with D and E. Idea “C” intersects with B and D, while Idea “D” intersects with ideas E and B. Lastly, Idea “E” intersects with ideas “D” and “E.” 

option 4Option four: Super Complex Venn diagram. Finally, we have what I call the super complex Venn diagram. It’s similar to option three but I have added in an extra circle at the bottom. You’ll notice that there is one subset circle included as well, but keep in mind that you are not limited to only one subset. You can have as many subsets as you feel are needed. So let’s walk through this last diagram together:

Section A Interactions: C, D, E, F, G, H

Section B Interactions: C, G, H, I

Section C Interactions: F, H, I

And let’s not forget our subset. Its interactions are C, D, and E.

Venn diagrams can be useful if you’re a visual person. Use whichever diagram is most useful to you as a writer. It has to make sense to you & your program. What do you think of this outlining method?

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