September 17, 1997 / Coverage / Fall 1997 / Interviewing/Reporting

Four Types of Questions You Should Never Ask

Written by Idea File Staff

YES/NO QUESTIONS
Never ask them, even if you follow up with “why?” They only give you weak quotes that force you to use awkward transitions. Check your questions and rewrite them to eliminate yes/no questions. A questions is yes/no if it begins with any of these words: do, does, did, have, has, had, can, could, should, will, would, was, were, might, must.

YES/NO QUESTIONS
The person you’re interviewing is afraid you’re going to make him look dumb in your article, and he’s listening intently for hints on the direction you want the interview to take. If you ask questions that lead him, you may end up keeping him from giving you an honest answer.

THINK/FEEL QUESTIONS
Don’t ask, “How did it feel when the car ran over your mother?” or “What did you think when you found out you were growing a tail?” What are they going to say- “It felt bad?/I worried about sitting down?” Ask what the first thing they did was or the first thing they said. Ask questions that will get specific, detailed descriptions of how they reacted.

GENERAL QUESTIONS
Great reporters know that general questions get general answers. Avoid broad, general questions that will get broad, general answers, such as “How did the team play Friday night?” Be specific- “Which play did you think was the turning point Friday night?”

Idea File Staff

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