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Named to "Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites," this #SharingwithWriters blog is a way to connect with my readers and fellow writers, a way to give the teaching genes that populate my DNA free rein. Please feel free to add to the conversation using the very tiny "comment" link. For those interested in editing and grammar, go to http://thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Ins-and-Outs of Writing a Professional Interview or Q and A

If you are a regular at this #SharingwithWriters blog, you probably already know why I am a fan of the Ann Landers question and answer format for a multitude of purposes including interviews. Foremost is that readers are busy and know they are likely to get good information or advice in a short amount of space.  I sometimes use the letters I get from my readers in my SharingwithWriters newsletter and then pass along an occasional one to readers of this, its sister blog.  This question allowed me to talk about one of my favorite topics, interviews--and repeat my little Ann Landers anecdote!


QUESTION: I’m a new author and have been asked to do interviews for a pretty high-powered blog and don’t want to embarrass myself. Do you have any guidelines for me?

ANSWER: One of the things I notice about really great interviews is that the question and answers are short. And when I am asked to do interviews, the interviewer often suggests short answers and sometimes gives me a preferred word count for my answers.

When I was writing for a newspaper back in the dark ages I learned that it is an editor’s privilege—in fact her duty—to edit interviews and other material like wedding stories submitted to media. I was sometimes assigned the duty of fitting the layout of a page into the space available after advertising has been allotted its space. Even the famous columnist knew her columns might necessarily be cut to allow space for the newspapers' meat and potatoes--their paid ads.  

I don't do interviews for my blogs, but if I did, I'd tactfully—gently—let the interviewee know that I might need to edit it for style purposes or length. That way, they aren't surprised when they see interview answers that aren't exactly what they submitted. In many cases, they will be grateful that we caught some typographical or grammatical faux pas. Most times, they don't notices the edits at all.

Another thing. This comes straight from my college journalism classes: When we're wearing a journalism hat, we aren't required to let an interviewee (or informant) review, check, or otherwise monitor what we have written. We have a free press. So, you aren't obligated to run what you have written by your interviewee. You may choose to ask them to check for accuracy. Be sure that you put quotation marks around anything your subject actually says or writes.Paraphrasing is allowed and is usually quite evident by in the sentence structure. In other words, your reader will be at least subconsciously aware that paraphrased text isn't a direct quotation.

Check out Time magazine's interviews. They're usually on their back page and they aim at information, but also try for a little spice, humor, or originality of language—even controversy. Your blogger will appreciate it if you can come up with an image that they might use, too. And it will always benefit you if you add your own short bio or credit line. It will save your editor work. Be aware, though. She may do some editing of her own on it and it’s her right not to use it at all as long as she credits you with a byline.



Howard-Johnson is the author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the award-winning second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter (where she talks more about choosing and the advantages of winning contests and how to use those honors)  and The Frugal Editor. Her latest is in the series is  How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. Learn more on her Amazon profile page, http://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfileGreat Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers is one of her booklets--perfect for inexpensive gift giving--and, another booklet, The Great First Impression Book Proposal helps writers who want to be traditionally published. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it will help them convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. In addition to this blog, she helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com. She also blogs at all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at The Frugal, Smart, and Tuned-In Editor (http://TheFrugalEditor.blogspot.com )

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