Interview articles can be difficult for both professional and freelance writers. It can be intimidating to interview subjects, and it can be difficult to arrange their responses into a coherent story.
However, when done properly, interview articles can provide profound insight into a subject’s thoughts, life, and opinions.
Perfecting the art and learning how to write a good interview article can be a valuable unique skill for freelance writers, but even seasoned journalists can struggle with them at times.
Because these are the most common types of pieces published in magazines and newspapers, anyone can profit from brushing up on the fundamentals.
How to Write an Interview Article?
Either you’re interviewing a United States Supreme Court justice, a TV show star, or an English teacher at a Brooklyn high school, the focus of an interview article is to engage readers while learning about your subject’s personality and voice.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing the best interview article possible:
Make a list of appropriate questions.
You must first interview before you can begin writing your interview essay or feature article.
You should conduct extensive research and develop a list of questions for your interview subject.
Read other good interviews, profiles, or write-ups on the person you’re interviewing to get an idea of the types of questions they’re typically asked.
Then, do your best to come up with specific questions that you believe the subject has never been addressed before.
A question should ideally elicit a one-of-a-kind, thoughtful response. When writing interview questions, try to think of open-ended questions that will encourage your interviewee to speak at length about a specific topic.
Conduct an interview with your subject.
First and foremost, you must deal with the actual interview. You can’t write an article, let alone a profile if you don’t have all of the background information. Your interview will be completed with either a set of notes or a sound recording, preferably both. It’s generally not a good idea to rely solely on written notes, especially in this day and age when you don’t have to.
You’re more likely to miss telling voice tones and possibly inferences if you’re too busy scribbling everything down. Not only that, but you’re also not engaging your audience.
You’re frantically scribbling down the information you believe you’ll need right now before you’ve even begun fleshing out your profile. If you pay close attention to your subject as he speaks, you might be surprised by the questions that arise.
If you’re interested in his responses, chances are your readers will be, too. Maintain vigilance.
If you do take written notes, make sure to clean them up and double-check any special spellings or names while the interview and interviewee are still fresh in your mind. Alternatively, record the entire interview.
Then, later on, you can sit down and listen to what was said and transcribe it.
You’ll also have the recording to refer to if you have any questions later on.
Sort your data
If you use a recording device, you should think about hiring a transcriptionist to write down the recording for you. They’re surprisingly inexpensive, and you can deduct the cost as a business expense when it comes time to file your taxes. However, some writers have the dexterity to do this themselves, which can be advantageous.
Purchase a dictation recorder and machine, the type used in offices across the country, for a one-time, tax-deductible purchase. Transfer the recording to tape, insert the tape into the machine, and begin typing with the help of a handy little foot pedal that allows you to pause the recording when you need to catch up.
If you do a lot of interview-based writing, this could be a worthwhile purchase. And now for the icing on the cake. You can fast-forward through sections of conversation that don’t add anything to your profile.
You’ll still have them on tape if you need to go back to them later, but time is money, as they say. Don’t squander it by typing words of dialogue you’ll never use or highlighting multiple pages of a transcript that someone else typed for you word for word.
However, you should keep this lag time to no more than a day or two. If you wait too long between the interview and when you start writing, you risk losing your gut impressions and instincts, not to mention your motivation. And you don’t want to wake up one morning yawning, only to realize that the finished product is due today and you haven’t even gotten past this step. But you already knew that, right? Freelancing for a living necessitates superhuman focus.
Make a transcript of your interview.
After you’ve finished your interview, transcribe the entire conversation.
There are transcribing services available, but transcribing your own interview can be beneficial to your writing process.
Typing out the exact text of your questions and answers can give you a good idea of which parts of the interview are the most interesting.
This process can also reveal which sections are dull or lacking, allowing you to determine whether you need to ask clarifying follow-up questions.
It is an excellent time to reread your editor’s assignment or, if you’re working on something you’ve pitched to an editor, to go over your own pitch. Go back to your original notes if you haven’t even pitched the idea yet or if you’re just winging it. Was there any mention of a particular, specific slant, such as a focus on the subject’s recent accomplishments or promotion of a specific service? Compare your broad topics to any research you may have done on the person prior to the interview.
Compare them to your editor’s instructions or your own objectives.
Take these broad subject areas and refine them, then use them as subheads in your transcript for the time being. You can rename them to catchy subhead titles right away, or you can wait until you have a finished product to ensure the subheads truly capture the essence of the subject.
Decide on a format for your article.
There are numerous ways to write an interview.
Your editor may decide on a form in advance, or you may be free to choose your own based on your specific writing style, point of view, and set of writing skills.
Several other people prefer to write a standard question and answer article, in which the body of your article is simply the text of your questions and the answers provided by your subject.
Others prefer a narrative format in which the critical points of your subject’s responses are described in the third person.
Regardless of whether you are writing an article or an essay, make sure that the beginning of your piece is particularly strong so that your reader is immediately engaged.
This may necessitate rearranging your interview so that the most compelling response comes first.
Copy and paste
Copy and paste the interviewee’s quotes about each topic into the appropriate subhead area using the cut-and-paste function in your word processing program.
Of course, if you transcribed the interview recording yourself, this is the simplest option, but if you did not receive the transcript in a word processor file and it was typed by someone else, there are plenty of software programs available that allow you to scan and edit.
You’re now taking the subject’s words out of the chronological order in which he spoke them, but that’s fine.
In fact, it’s ideal. You’re not simply rewriting what he said. You’re creating a profile. It is not necessary to pull entire paragraphs.
At this point, you should have a good idea of where your article is going. Sort out the best quotes and save the rest for later.
Make a brief introduction
This step is influenced by your own writing style and preferences. Many authors prefer to start with this before fleshing out their subtitles. It can help you figure out where you’re going with this story by establishing some internal guidelines for the subtitles.
Introduce the subject, her history, and the background of your piece, whether before or after you flesh out your subtitles. The introduction should provide context for the article in general, as well as frame the interviewee in some way.
It frequently refers back to the introduction or an interesting part of the interview. You can also use it to speculate on the interviewee’s future plans.
Refinish and polished
After you’ve established the basic structure of your interview paper, it’s time to polish it. Your interview’s raw text is likely riddled with half-thoughts, tangents, and stall words like um or well.
You will almost certainly need to edit your interview to remove stall words in order to make it coherent and readable. Many of the direct quotes may also be reused.
It is acceptable to paraphrase or rephrase exact quotes to make them more coherent, as long as you do not change the message behind the quotes; if you do paraphrase, do not surround the paraphrased material with quotation marks.
Proofread and revise
It’s now time to put the final touches on your article. One of the final steps in writing an interview article is proofreading.
Compare your paraphrased responses to the transcript to ensure you have not changed the meaning of your subject.
Check that the names of people or places mentioned in your topic are spelled correctly. It is also the right time to go over your article on a larger scale. Is there anything in the interview that you feel is redundant or superfluous? If that’s the case, delete those sections and move on to your next question. If you have time, try to find images or particularly interesting pull quotes to accompany your article.
- Prior to conducting an interview, conduct research on your subject.
- Follow your editor’s instructions and pay attention to that person’s perspective on the interviewee’s interests.
- If possible, give yourself a day or two after the rough draft before editing.
- Keep track of the word count as you write and make edits as needed.