September 8, 2009 / Five Simple Ideas

Five Simple Ideas for… Taking better notes

Written by Idea File Staff

An interview that lasts less than an hour can still lead to a ton of useful information and quotes. That is, if the reporter takes proper notes and gets the right details down.

Note taking is not necessarily an easy skill to teach. Every writer can develop their own personal style of note taking that works successfully. However, there are still some easy tips you can use while you hone your style.

1. Come up with your own shorthand. You can’t write out everything word for word. It won’t work. Figure out what works for you. Use initials for names, and abbreviate words that will be easily understood later.

2. Use a tape recorder or digital recorder. A recording device can help you check the accuracy of your notes, especially with quotes. But be careful! Don’t rely solely on a recorder, because they aren’t always reliable and they will make some sources nervous. Always take written notes too.

3. Leave space for the non-verbals. You should be looking for mood and atmospheric detail in any interview. Keep some room on the page, maybe in the margins, to jot down notes about your non-verbal observations.

4. Write new questions at the top. You never know exactly where an interview might lead. New questions will occur to you that need to be asked. Leave space at the top of your notes to jot them down on the fly as you go.

5. Don’t write everything down. Stick to the key facts and the interesting details.

Idea File Staff

Idea File Staff reports are posts compiled by the Walsworth Yearbooks Marketing Department, covering a wide range of yearbook topics.