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[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWkHjU3phuo]

Question & Answer Format.

Obviously when deciding what questions to ask a huge amount depends on the person you are interviewing and on where the interview will be published. The interviewer wants to discover something new or interesting about the celebrity/writer/sportsperson/personality they are interviewing. The reader does not want to be left feeling that they’ve heard it all before!

However, most interviewers will think about 3 broad categories when coming up with questions.


  • their childhood and how they became the person they are today.
  • past successes and failures in their career.
  • past scandals in their personal life.
  • other jobs they’ve done (or previous tours/tournaments/shows/books).


  • what are they working on currently.
  • what they like/dislike about their current job.
  • how their career impacts on their personal life.
  • recent successes and failures.
  • recent scandals and how they coped with the fall-out.


  • what is their next project.
  • will they ever change career/focus or do this until they die?
  • do they have any fears for the future? things they’re looking forward to?

The tone tends to be very informal, you write as you would speak – this is after all a conversation that then gets written down.

Keep the questions short and the answers fairly long.

Avoid cursing or blank it out e.g. “For f*** sake, I can’t believe she said that

Writer’s often introduce the interview with a paragraph describing where they met, what the interviewee was wearing, the interviewee’s general mood, friendliness and demeanour and a comment on how long the writer had to wait, how long the interview lasted, who else was there, if the interviewee’s phone rang during the interview – and if they answered it!

Sample Interview:

The first thing I notice on entering his house is the smell – a mixture of pipe tobacco, smouldering turf and men’s cologne. The second is that this is a man who knows what he likes – one glance reveals a room crammed full of books, expensive liquor, paintings of beautiful women and the carcasses of stuffed animals. He’s made no secret in the past of hating journalists so my heart is doing a conga beat as I arrive for our interview. I needn’t have worried however. Yes, he hates journos but he loves women, which is undoubtedly why my bosses sent me. He bows low, kisses my hand theatrically, helps me out of my coat, and offers me a drink. As he prepares a whiskey sour I look around. Despite being a married man and father of three, this is a bachelor’s dream pad. I’m about to lower myself into an armchair but he catches my elbow, steers me over to the couch and once we’re sitting in close proximity I’m suddenly very conscious of the plunging neckline of my blood-red dress. I decide the best thing is to start the interview before I get any more flustered.

ME: So what drew you to the theatre?

BILL: …hmm (teasing) I haven’t been asked that one before!…well, I like telling stories, and there was a small theatre in my town growing up so I guess I just embraced what I knew instead of turning to something completely alien. And I must be doing something right because the audiences keep coming.

ME: That’s true, your plays have been enormously successful. Do you read what the critics say too or is it just important to keep joe public happy?

BILL: (smiling, pausing thoughtfully)…the thing is, critics are a bit like teachers. If they were doing what they love instead of just talking about it then maybe they wouldn’t be so bitter, maybe they wouldn’t be so eager to criticise everyone else for their own failings. If they’re so bloody good at figuring out what works on stage, then why don’t they write their own bloody plays instead of trying to fix everyone elses.

(At this point he drains his glass and strides over to the sideboard for another. I sense it’s time to change the subject).

ME: so if you weren’t a writer, what kind of career appeals to you?

Again he pauses, and this time positively smirks while answering.

BILL: I’d like to see more women on stage.. I have an eye for beautiful women you know.

ME: But don’t you worry you might land yourself in trouble with the long arm of the law?

BILL: Well you and I both know I’ve already been in trouble with them on more than one occasion. But no, I think times are changing and we need to keep up.

ME: How interesting! If you were running the country what changes would you make?

BILL: I’d certainly never get in the way of the monarchy. The arts in this country would be dead without their patronage. I’d probably extend access to education so that scholarships were available for kids from poorer backgrounds. I’d improve the roads – it takes too long to get anywhere from London if your horse keeps losing his shoes on rough cobble and loose rocks. And I’d take a firmer stance on highway robbery too, those thugs deserve nothing less than the death penalty if you ask me!

ME: Strong sentiments. Can you tell my readers a little bit about your newest play? I believe it’s opening next week in the Globe?

BILL: Yes, we’re hoping for big crowds. Of course only a select crowd can attend the opening night on Monday with his majesty in attendence. But then it’s every evening at six o clock – thankfully the evenings are still bright so we don’t have to start at four like in winter! The basic storyline has all my favourite elements – love, lust, violence, murder, betrayal. The central character is really just an everyman, wanting to satisfy his own desires but also desperate to do the right thing. I think it’ll be a smash hit. Now let me get you another drink? We’ve surely talked enough about me…

William Shakespeare’s new play opens next week in The Globe. Royal Gala performance Monday, 13th September, 1599 @ 6pm.


The format and layout for dialogue are similar to that used for a play.

  • You write (stage)directions describing the characters clothing, hairstyles, the setting, props, furniture, telling the actors what actions and body language to use, where to move etc…
  • You write the name of the character followed by a colon to the left of the page, followed by their dialogue. As the dialogue continues don’t write directly underneath the name so it’s easy to see who’s speaking at all times (see below).
  • For film scripts, use a separate line for the characters name and centre it, then write the dialogue underneath – as in the picture above! Directions on how to say specific lines are written in brackets.
  • You tell the reader where & when the action is taking place. Int = interior Ext = exterior.

Look at the following example:

Int. Bedroom day.

Marian is dancing to loud dance music. The door opens but she doesn’t notice.

Sean: Hey! HEY LOSER (shouting).

Marian: Sean get OUT! Jesus (muttering) can I not get five minutes to myself?

Marian goes to dresser, ties up loose hair, switches off iPod dock.

Sean: (quietly) Mam needs you downstairs.

Marian: (apologetic) Oh. OK. Is she ok? Did she take her tablets?

Sean: She’s fine M. Don’t panic. She just needs you to help with dinner. I tried

but she didn’t trust me not to chop a finger off and stick it in with the


Marian: (smiling, relieved) Don’t blame her! Grand so, I’ll be down in a


Sean exits. Marian goes to the mirror, looks at herself long and hard, sighs, turns and exits.

Cut to:

Ext. Garden same day.

Marian’s mother Susan is standing under a tree staring vacantly up into the branches.

Marian: What are you doing Mam? Sean said you were making dinner?

Susan: (confused) I thought I heard your father’s voice. In the tree. But he’s not


Marian: (distressed) He’s not in the tree Mam. (to herself) He’s not anywhere.

Diary Entries

[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6pVMa9Vd9Q]

Tone is the most important element – it should be informal, confessional and immediate.

  1. Write as if the events you are describing have just happened – most people write their diary at night just before they go to bed, looking back at the events of the day gone by.
  2. Because diary entries are written just after an event, the end of each entry can have the writer looking forward to the following day, wondering what will happen, describing how they hope things will turn out and possibly fearing the worst.
  3. Focus on your feelings, thoughts & opinions. Be brutally honest, confide your most intimate secrets, things you wouldn’t even admit to your best friend. Hold nothing back.
  4. Slang is appropriate here. This is one of the only times that you are expected to write as you speak. Therefore you can curse (but don’t overdo it!). Short snappy sentences work well.
  5. Making a statement and then changing your mind will create a sense of immediacy for the reader (never do this when making a speech or writing an article) as if you are pouring your thoughts out onto the page without even thinking them through fully.
  6. Witty observations, sarcastic remarks and self-mockery will keep the reader entertained.
  7. Choose a significant event /situation not a typical boring day where nothing much happens.
  8. Persona? You may be asked to pretend you are a character from one of the texts. If so make sure you reveal their personality (not your own) in the diary. If you are given the choice of being anyone you want, choose someone interesting or unusual – Hitler, God, Sylvia Plath.
  9. If asked to write a series of diary entries write 3 or 4. These can be dated consecutively (Mon / Tues / Weds) or can be spaced out (Mon / Thurs / Sat).
  10. Real life diary entries deal with unrelated events – a car crash Monday, an argument Thursday & a hangover Sunday but fictional diary entries are different. The reader wants a sense of unity & closure. For this reason, entry one should introduce an issue, entry two should develop & complicate it, entry three should reveal how it was resolved.

Diary v’s Blog?

The word ‘blog’ is short for ‘web log’. There are two main types of blog

  1. discusses a particular subject.
  2. a personal online diary.

Blogs are

  • maintained by an individual or a company
  • regularly updated
  • interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments

As of Feb 2011 there were 156 million public blogs in existence.

The language used tends to be fairly informal.

If you are asked to write a blog about a personal event(s) in your life write it in diary style.

If you are asked to write a blog about a particular topic write it in the style of an article.


(Your address goes here),


Co. Illusion.

(Put in the date too!) 20/04/1979

(The address of the recipient)

The Irish Times,

24-28 Tara Street,

Dublin 2.

Dear Sir/Madam,

First paragraph explains why I am writing blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Middle section includes details – take one idea at a time & develop each fully.

Final paragraph states what you would like to happen now.

Yours sincerely,

Evelyn O’ Connor

Common mistakes

  • Incorrect layout
  • Repetitive & disorganised – to avoid this plan (brainstorm) then put your ideas in order.
  • Not enough ideas – letter takes too narrow a focus, only developing 2 main ideas.
  • Letter focuses only on problems and becomes either a rant or a whinge. You must have a balance and if you identify problems try to offer specific solutions.
  • Letter strays off topic. Read the set task carefully.
  • Letter is predictable and cliched – try to offer some new ideas, some originality.
  • Letter is not well written – remember it’s not just what you say, it’s also how you say it that matters. List the techniques you intend to use and cross them off as you use them.

NOTE: If you are asked to write a PROPOSAL or a PRESENTATION use the same basic layout but leave out the addresses, formal greeting and sign-off.

Thus you begin by explaining why you are writing, the bulk of your piece is taken up with specific details organised into paragraphs and you finish by saying what you’d like to happen next.

The style of writing depends on the task – it should be clear from the wording of the question whether you are expected to write in a descriptive / informative / argumentative or persuasive style.

Informal letters just include your address and the date and the language is extremely informal.

Here’s a sample formal letter:





Leinster House,

Kildare Street,

Dublin 2.

Dear Mr. Kenny,

In the words of Martin Luther King, I have a dream. I have a vision of the kind of Ireland I want my children to grow up in, the kind of Ireland we need to create for their sake. Otherwise we must prepare ourselves to look them in the eye and answer their accusation ‘where did it all go wrong?’

We all know the problems we face – an overloaded healthcare system, an ageing population, mass unemployment, gang violence, rote learning in education, drink and drug abuse, a ruined rural landscape and the kind of climate extremes we simply are not equipped to cope with. Is this the Ireland we want for our children? And if not, what are the alternatives?

Let me paint a picture of one future Ireland we could create. Let’s intruduce euthanasia immediately – people over 70 are simply a burden on our healthcare system and a strain on already-stretched public finances with their never-ending pension demands (and believe me, nobody will miss that distinctive old-person smell which follows them everywhere they go!). Secondly, let’s build a large electrified fence around Limerick city, evacuate the law-abiding citizens, provide plenty of weapons and leave them to it. Within six months, problem solved! (The level of unemployment should also fall considerably as a handy side-effect: most of these career criminals have been signing on at multiple locations for years).

Let’s abolish the Leaving Certificate and simply get every student to sit the Mensa IQ test at the end of their school days (grind schools will disappear, as will exam stress – you can’t swot your way to a higher IQ). And while we’re at it let’s bring an end to all substance abuse. Raymed, an American pharmaceutical company have recently developed a product which causes individuals to become violently ill instantly when they consume a mind-altering substance. So let’s introduce a compulsory vaccination programme for all drink and drug addicts. Perhaps we should include all teenagers too, thus instantly solving the problem of underage substance abuse while we’re at it!

Let’s employ drivers to bulldoze all those empty rural housing estates (the unemployment rate will fall even further). Finally let’s place giant sandbags the length and breadth of our beautiful coastline and hand out snow-tyres to all citizens. There you go Mr. Taoiseach, problems solved.

Of course there is another way. There is another future which demands bravery and hard work from you, Mr. Kenny and from everybody in your cabinet. In this future those entering hospital are treated quickly and efficiently because you have had the courage to fire the pen-pushing middle management and are using this money instead to open much needed beds and hire more front-line staff.

In this future ordinary people do not live in fear of gang violence because a complex approach (including harsher punishments, rural relocation programmes, education and the kind of dialogue which brought about the ceasefire in Northern Ireland) is ruthlessly persued until we see results. (Of sourse if we fail there’s always the option of compulsory sterilisation!)

In this future the Leaving Certificate tests real skills and practical knowledge not the ability to memorise reams of irrelevant information. This will only happen if you finally implement the recommendations of the 2005 report by the Examinations Commission which offered detailed proposals for a complete overhaul of both the Leaving and Junior Certificate exams.

In this future stricted customs inspections, lengthier prison sentences, more affordable rehabilitation centres and education make drugs less attractive and less available. In this future we have changed our attitude towards alcohol because the government have provided affordable alternatives to the pub in the form of youth centres, community centres, sports centres, cinemas and parks.

In this future the beauty of our rural landscape is preserved because you prioritise it above the demands of greedy developers. In this future you have learned to minimise the effects of climate change because you have plans in place to deal with flash floods, freezing fog and snow that doesn’t melt for weeks on end.

The first future is easy and barbaric. The second requires patience and hard work. So get to it – our children are depending on you.


Evelyn O’ Connor

Letters to the editor look like this – here’s one I read in  a local paper recently:


I am writing to express my disgust at an article published in your newspaper last Thursday which suggested that the age of consent should be lowered from 17 to 15. I believe this would be a terrible mistake. How can we protect the innocence of our children if they feel pressurised into having sex at such a young age? They are not emotionally or physically ready to deal with the consequences particularly if the girl becomes pregnant. Furthermore, they risk catching a sexually transmitted disease. Finally I believe that such a law would make them more vulnerable to being sexually assaulted or raped by predatory older men or women – ‘cougars’ I believe is the fashionable term. I hope in future you will offer a more balanced view of this important issue and consider the serious child-protection issues at stake.

Yours etc…

Mr. Tom Dolan


[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_5nLxZVoPo]

Newspapers, magazines & websites are filled with articles on every topic imaginable.

If you write an article, you are writing a public discussion of an issue. Even though your response is personal (giving your opinions/describing your experiences) you must also show that you have done your research and know more about this issue than most people!

Techniques =

  • Details – remember the journalists checklist: Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?
  • Quotes – interview experts / eye-witnesses / relatives & friends / local gardai and include quotes (yes, you make them up!) which tell the reader something new about this story.
  • Vivid imagery – describe the event in as much detail as possible (5 senses) so that the reader is drawn into the experience in their imagination (this can be a good way to begin).
  • Background scandal / information – try to include some gossip or little-known facts so that the reader feels you have your finger on the pulse & know more than everyone else.
  • Facts/statistics – link the story to a broader context using statistics. Show how this issue is evident in the rest of society. Is it common or rare? More prevalent nowadays than in the past? More evident in one group in society – male/female/young/old/rich/poor?
  • Personal experience – are you discussing something that you have been through? Then describe your experiences of this topic using anecdotes (remember to use vivid imagery).
  • Humour – discuss the lighter side of the topic. Make the reader laugh (with you or at you).
  • Lists – these are an effective way to sum up the topic and seem knowledgeable.
  • Problem & Solution – don’t simply whine on about the difficulties, try to suggest some constructive and practical ways of tacking this issue, as a society and as individuals.
  • Connecting phrases – these create a flow & help build a series of related ideas for the reader e.g. ‘however’ ‘therefore’ ‘thus’ ‘nonetheless’ ‘of course’ ‘furthermore’ ‘similarly’ ‘indeed’ ‘if’ ‘on the one hand’ ‘on the other hand’ ‘besides’ ‘by contrast’ ‘this reminds me of…’

Broadsheet v’s Tabloid: What’s the difference?

Broadsheets are interested in facts. Language is fairly formal. They present balanced information.

Tabloids are interested in drama. Language is emotive so use plenty of hyperbole & sensationalism. They are usually biased and outraged. Celebrity gossip matters more than war, economics or politics. Tabloids can’t be trusted (never let the truth get in the way of a good story).

Newspaper v’s Magazine: What’s the difference?

Newspapers are aimed at the general public.

Magazines usually have a target market and are aimed at a particular category of people. If writing for a magazine targeting a particular group you may use jargon specific to that hobby or topic.

e.g. golf, fashion, knitting, gardening,scuba diving, adult, kids, t.v., photography, wedding, movies.

Magazines are often more informal than newspapers. Ask yourself who will be reading your magazine, this will help you to decide what tone to adopt.

Website Articles and Blogs?

The internet is now full of articles about every topic imaginable (see www.wikipedia.org). Some are factual, some are opinion pieces, some are personal diaries.

The word ‘blog’ is short for ‘web log’. There are two main types of blog

  1. discusses a particular subject.
  2. a personal online diary.

Blogs are

  • maintained by an individual or a company
  • regularly updated
  • interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments

As of Feb 2011 there were 156 million public blogs in existence.

The language used tends to be fairly informal.

If you are asked to write a blog about a personal event(s) in your life write it in diary style.

If you are asked to write a blog about a particular topic write it in the style of an article.

For satirical news stories, check out www.theonion.com. Hilarious (if you like that sort of thing ;-0)

If you want more help writing your article there are some great resources here http://www.squidoo.com/newspaper-article