www.whyville.net Nov 18, 2012 Weekly Issue

Veteran Times Writer

How To Create Quality Questions

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Whether you're an aspiring writer or simply a kid trying to make it through school, chances are, you will come across the interview process at least once. Maybe you will have an assignment that consists of you writing questions for an interview, or perhaps you will be writing for your school newspaper. There's also the chance you could be writing an interview for our very own Times. Either way, the key to every successful interview are questions that get meaningful, in depth, and interesting answers. But how?

Remember the "5 W's" ( . . . and that one h)

Who, what, when, where, why, and how: you've heard them dozens of times. Your grade school teacher pounded them into you, your English professors have engraved them into the side of your brain, yet we all tend to forget how important they are. When writing an interview question, trying to incorporate at least two of the "5 W's" (or the h) into the question.

What to do: Where did you locate your favorite species of elephants and why did they become your favorite?

What not to do: Where did you get your hair cut and how? (How was it cut? How did you get there? How did you sit in the chair while they whacked it all off? You've got to be specific!)

Be curious. Be nosy.

The key to a great question is to discover an answer no one was expecting. People do not want to hear or read an answer they would easy pick up in every day conversation. Ask questions that draw out life stories or personal connections. Readers will stay interested if they can relate or find common ground with the interviewees.

What to do: How has your environment of downtown New York City affected your music career?

What not to do: Is buying fat free mayonnaise a good idea? (Well, yeah! People know it tends to not taste as good if it's healthier but it's still on the verge of dull, and not showing a real personal opinion. An answer from this question would more than likely be something you'd just assume - it more than likely wouldn't help any personality shine through.)

Avoid "Yes and No" questions

If your question can be answered with "yes" or "no", get rid of it! Interview questions should bring out a discussion - not a one word answer. Make it a habit to write your questions in a way that evokes a person's personality to come out through their words. Anyone can say yes or no, but it takes a real answer to get to know who is being interviewed!

What to do: What is your opinion on life after death?

What not to do: Do you think heaven exists? (More times than not, you will receive a one word answer. Try to focus on addressing the person's opinion rather than their answer through the questions.)

Keep it interesting.

The main purpose of an interview is to entertain the audience as well as educating them. Try spicing up questions to help highlight the interviewee's personality. Prove to readers that you chose a great interviewee and showcase your awesome interviewing skills with questions that make people think, feel emotion, and enjoy what they're reading!

What to do: Kissing a celebrity must have been an interesting experience - what should all of us expect if we're ever in the position?

What not to do: How does watching dust float around in your free time affect your life? (ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ)

That's all for today! Hopefully you've gained some insight on how to write excellent interviews.

Until next time!


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