Loglines have been used for many years in Hollywood as a tool to help producers sort through a multitude of scripts in deciding which films to create and which ones to throw away. Traditionally, a logline is one or two sentences (we prefer one) that summarizes the central conflict of a story and provides emotional insight into the plot and characters.

Why are loglines useful?

Loglines offer an organizing structure that keep purpose specific, and well defined. The difficulty of writing an effective logline is to condense the experience of a two-hour movie, or a semester-long experience, into fifty words or fewer. Making every word purposeful helps to narrow and condense what can be unwieldy or unclear. There’s no room for fluff.


Here are some famous loglines:

A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers. —The Matrix

A young African-American visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point. —Get Out

A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit. —Three Signs Outside Ebbing Missouri 

If you’re interested in more examples, check out “101 Loglines” here.

What is the difference between a logline and a tagline?
A tagline is more of a slogan or advertisement for a movie. Whereas a logline describes the narrative structure (plot and purpose) of the movie. 

For example, here’s a Finding Nemo tagline: There are 3.7 trillion fish in the ocean. They’re looking for one.

Here’s a Finding Nemo logline: A young fish is captured from his home coral. A group of unlikely friends set out to find him, without knowing where he is or even if he’s alive. 

Why write a logline?
A good logline can be really hard to write. Not only does it need to be concise in description, it must also capture the feel and action of the plot as well. It is essentially the ultimate short story. No word can be wasted. 

Loglines require there to be a story-arc for your course that doesn’t begin and end with content and delivering content.  Rather, there’s a compelling story structure that students engage with (and co-construct) as you all work together throughout the term. 

Additionally, we find loglines a useful practice in terms of course design in at least two ways: 

  1. describing the experience of the student going through your course; and,
  2. describing the compelling force for moving through the course all term. 


10 Tips for Writing Loglines



How do we write a good logline?
Think about a logline as the backbone of your story. It needs to be descriptive, succinct, and compel your audience to want to begin and experience the course. 

It’s important to include some sense of the protagonist, the feel, depth, or essence of the plot, and something about the difficulty or antagonistic force the protagonist will face. 

Give it a try with this prompt: Write a logline to describe your previous semester teaching/working. 

  • Example: Learn how to move on water, and answer the two most important questions for every paddler (Trey Rouss, Intro to Paddleboard, Canoe, Kayak).

  • Example: Design across various modalities, contexts, and software, while collaborating on a team and interfacing with community partners. (Shannon Kelly, Visual Rhetoric and Document Design). 

  • Example: Question your questions? (Intro to Philosophy).

  • Example: Freedom? Individuality? Responsibility? (Intro to Existentialism).

Another way to approach writing a logline: How might students describe your class as a logline?