A Q&A is one of the simplest methods of sharing an interview with an audience. It is essentially an edited transcript of an interview that includes both the interviewer’s direct questions and the interviewee’s response in written format. Unlike feature stories, Q&As have little room for “fluff.” They tell the message of your interviewee without a narrative story. Many people prefer Q&As because of their easy readability and to-the-point structure. Due to the simplistic nature of the Q&A, it is important to focus on the presentation of the final product. Here are seven simple tips to consider when writing a Q&A:
- Think about the final product before conducting the interview. This includes brainstorming questions that call for an open-ended response. It is very hard to formulate a good Q&A with simple “yes” or “no” questions. For example, the question “Do you like dogs?” doesn’t leave much room for an explanation on the subject. Consider changing it to, “What do you like most about dogs?” to give the interviewee a chance to elaborate on the topic.
- Type out the entire transcript before editing. This is the easiest way to begin formatting the final piece. Listen to the interview and type out word-for-word the questions you asked and the responses you received. This will help you figure out the best way to arrange the results.
- Arrange your questions and answers in an order that makes sense. The goal here is to make the piece as easy to navigate as possible. Try your best to keep your questions in a good flowing order by not jumping around topics. It should all flow as a typical conversation would.
- Feel free to edit what your interviewee says without changing their meaning. Most people don’t speak how we professionally write. It’s okay to edit out your interviewee’s “ums,” “uhs,” and pauses, as long as you don’t change the meaning of their words.
- Re-listen to your interview after completing your Q&A write up. This will ensure that you haven’t missed any important information that could benefit the piece. Perhaps after re-listening, you realize one of the questions you’ve included in the written version doesn’t necessarily pertain to the interview as a whole. In this step, delete any unnecessary questions and answers.
- Formatting is key. It may seem simple, but formatting in a Q&A is essential. It’s important to keep your formatting consistent. For example, you may choose to format your Q&A like this:
Q: Why is John Mitchell your favorite professor in the School of Journalism?
A: John gives amazing feedback and really cares about his students.
This approach uses the letters “Q” and “A” in boldface to make it clear to the reader which text is the question and which is the answer. This is a common technique in Q&As, however there are several approaches you can take. For example:
Why do you think Kathryn Kuttis deserved to win the Emerald’s “Best Professor” award?
She is the type of educator that makes students want to attend class. Her humor is infectious and she is so knowledgeable about PR!
The reader will be able to tell apart the questions and answers by referring to the bold type and regular type font. Whichever way you choose to format is completely up to you. What matters most is making sure your decision is consistent throughout the entire piece to avoid any confusion on who is speaking.
- Include more than just dialogue. An introduction paragraph is a great way to include background on your interviewee in your own voice. This is where you can explain who your Q&A features, why they are important and what the reader can expect to learn from the piece. Conclusion paragraphs are another way to include your own voice and tie the piece together, telling the reader why the piece is relevant.
Why write a Q&A? Q&As are an amazing way to appeal to your audience. They are typically more informative than feature stories, particularly when there is jargon to be explained. When you’re trying to be simple and to the point, or if you’re on a tight deadline, Q&As are great presentations of interviews. Feature stories focus more on narrative and are usually more human-interest pieces. Both forms of writing present something beneficial, but they also have their times and places. The next time you find yourself writing a Q&A, be sure to follow these tips for a flawless finished product!
Here are some great examples of finished Q&A pieces:
Julia Zinsmeister is an Account Executive on the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship team. She is a junior at the University of Oregon majoring in Public Relations and minoring in German. Interested in international relations, Julia hopes to combine her two fields of study and travel the world as a PR professional. She is excited to see where her studies take her after her anticipated graduation in June 2016.