How to Write an Interview Article in 6 Steps
Whether you’re interviewing a United States Supreme Court justice, the star of a TV show, or an English teacher at a New York high school, the goal of an interview article is to engage readers while gaining insight into the personality and voice of your subject. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you write the best possible interview article:
- Come up with a list of good questions. Before you can begin writing your interview essay or feature article, you’ll need to conduct the actual interview. You should do plenty of research and compile a list of questions for your interview subject. Read other good interviews, profiles, or write-ups on the person you’re interviewing to get a sense of the types of questions they’re normally asked. Then, do your best to brainstorm specific questions that you feel the subject has never answered before. Ideally, a question should provoke a unique, thoughtful response. When writing interview questions, also try to think of open-ended questions that will make your interviewee speak at length on a subject.
- Interview your subject. When you finally sit down with your interview subject, make sure the interviewee is comfortable and both parties are aware of any time constraints there might be. It’s essential to have a recording device during the interview process. If you are a person who prefers to take notes while interviewing, make sure that your note-taking isn’t distracting or off-putting to your subject. You don’t want to spend the entire interview with your eyes buried in your notes. Learn Malcolm Gladwell’s tips for interviewing subjects here.
- Transcribe your interview. After you’ve completed your interview, transcribe the recording of the entire exchange. There are transcribing services that can do this for you, but transcribing your own interview can be valuable for your writing process. Typing out the exact text of your questions and answers can give you an initial sense of which parts of the interview are the most compelling. This process can also illuminate which sections are dull or lacking, which can help you determine if you’ll need to ask any clarifying follow-up questions.
- Determine your article’s format. Interview writing can take many forms. That form might be determined in advance by your editor, or you may be left to choose your own based on your specific writing style, point of view, and set of writing skills. Some people prefer to write a standard question and answer type of article, in which the body of your essay is simply the text of your questions and your subject’s answers. Others prefer a narrative format, in which the main points of your subject’s answers are described in the third person. Certain writers prefer a hybrid of the narrative and Q&A format. Regardless of your article or essay format, you should make sure that the beginning of your piece is particularly strong so that your reader is immediately engaged. That may mean reordering your interview so that the most compelling answer comes first.
- Rephrase and polish. Once you’ve determined the basic structure of your interview paper, it’s time to clean it up. The raw text of your interview is likely littered with half-thoughts, tangents, and stall words like “um” or “well.” In order to make your interview cogent and readable, you’ll likely need edit to remove stall words. You may also rephrase many of the direct quotes. Paraphrasing or rephrasing exact quotes in order to make them more coherent is fine, as long as you are not changing the message behind the quotes; if you do paraphrase, do not include quotation marks around the paraphrased material.
- Review and proofread. Proofreading is one of the final steps of writing an interview article. Compare your paraphrased answers to the transcript to make sure you have not altered your subject’s meaning. Check to make sure the names of people or places referenced by your subject are spelled correctly. This is also the time to review your article on a macro level. Are there any sections of the interview that feel redundant or superfluous? If so, cut those sections and move on to your next question. If you have any spare time, try to select images or particularly absorbing pull quotes that can accompany your article.
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