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  • Writer's pictureTraci Browne

I Sound So Foolish! - (interview tip for writers)

group of sticky notes that say "blah"

"I sound so foolish" is what one of the experts I interviewed for a trade publication article recently said when I sent him his quotes for fact-checking purposes. We can do that in trade pubs, and corporate content marketers should be doing it as well.

I told my expert that it wasn’t just him. We converse much differently than we write. We fill our conversations with stops and starts. We circle back to begin again—to clarify. We speak in run-on sentences which sometimes have no end at all.

Put a pen in your hand, and you are superbly eloquent. That’s because, when we write, we take our time and think.

I often struggle with my interviewees’ words when it comes time to write the article. I search and search for that one great quote, and it usually is missing. I cannot change their words, although sometimes I will correct their grammar. This isn’t journalism after all. Changing someone's words without their consent is never cool.

To get around this, I always send my interviewees’ quotes back to them for review. If they want to change it to represent their thoughts better, that’s fine by me. After all, isn’t the point to educate the reader? Ambiguous, run on, circling thoughts interfere with that goal.

Another way writers get around all that stopping and starting and circling back around is by employing the word “that.” As in expert so and so said that…then you summarize what they said.

Now and then you come across someone who can speak very clearly and thoughtfully (lawyers are very skilled at this), but it’s been my experience that is very rare.

Do your experts a favor. Run their quotes by them and let them edit them as they see fit. If you’ve summarized their thoughts, and are unsure if you got it right, ask them. Give them an opportunity to clear up any ambiguity.

Content marketers should approach their work the same way a journalist does, but we don’t have to follow all the rules of journalism. We have the power to give people a second chance and make them sound smart and articulate.

Do that, and you have a source for life.

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