Formatting and initial editing

What should the finished profile look like?

It should be double-spaced and broken into coherent paragraphs. The “question and answer” format of the interview transcript should be edited out to leave a coherent story (see below for tips on doing this.) You should add a title and “by-line” at the top of the first page. A by-line, for example, might be “Edited by [your name].”

How do I come up with a title?

There’s no one best way to write titles. Most people write titles at the end of the editing process, but sometimes a good idea will come to you right away.  Think about what the central issue or idea of the profile is to you and what might catch a reader’s interest. Use a “working title” until you can come up with a better one. As a subtitle, you might put: A profile of [your interviewee].

Should I use section headings?

No. Such headings ask you to summarize what a section is “really about” rather than letting the storyteller’s voice carry the story.

How do I decide when to start a new paragraph?

Most students tend to create too few paragraphs in their profiles. But it’s very difficult to read a massive block of text. Paragraphs of four to six sentences are usually ideal, although some paragraphs may be longer or shorter than that.

In general, a new paragraph begins when a new idea is introduced. Read aloud, and when you pause between ideas, make a paragraph break.

You should also start a new paragraph every time a new speaker is quoted in the story. This helps the reader follow who is speaking.

How do I punctuate?

Listen to the flow of your speaker's voice, and try to use punctuation marks to capture that rhythm. Think also about what punctuation will help your readers understand meaning.

Should I use quotation marks?

Although the entire profile is a quotation (a very long quotation), you need not use quotation marks in the profile itself except to set off dialogue within the story. So, for example, you will use quotation marks when a narrator says:

So then I said, “OK, let’s give it a try and see what happens as a result of a community-wide meeting.” 

But Maria responded, “What? Are you nuts?”

Notice that you capitalize the sentence that begins after the quotation marks. Notice also that the punctuation at the end of the sentence -- periods, questions marks, etc. -- go inside the closing quotation mark.

What do I do with my questions and comments?

Edit them out. You are trying to craft a coherent story, not a question-and-answer session. If the transitions in the interviewee’s story are not clear without your questions, put them in brackets as if they were words spoken by the interviewee. For example:


Q: Where you worried about what they were going to do? How did you handle that?

A: Yeah, I tried to talk to them individually.

Edited version:

[I was worried about what they were going to do] so I tried to talk to them individually.