Writing Tip of the Day: Ask the tough questions

By Terreece M. Clarke

Most of the time when say “ask the tough question” we are talking about asking tough questions of an interviewee, however, the term “asking the tough questions” can apply to almost any aspect of freelance writing.

Are you as well prepared before an interview as you should be? Could that article undergo one more round of edits before you turn it in? And yes, did you ask your interview subject questions beyond the superficial? Each day ask yourself the tough questions – it’ll make you a better writer.






4 responses
  1. PreciseEdit Avatar

    Great post!

    Tough questions make for good content. But the content must also be delivered well–and that means the writing must be efficient, economical, and effective. We work with many clients who have good ideas and information to share but who lack the skills to communicate it well. We developed “Writing Tips for a Year” for those folks seeking to improve their ability to write.

  2. Phil Avatar

    You make an excellent point. This is why I refuse in all but extreme situations to conduct e-mail interviews. Typically a response to a question will lead to a follow-up because first response is unclear or because it simply brings up another question that may or may not be thought of earlier.

    So even if you plan questions in advance, one needs to be able to ask follow-ups “on the fly.”

  3. Terreece Clarke Avatar
    Terreece Clarke

    Thanks Precise! It’s great when writers can give clients examples of how they can help in the writing process.

    Phil – You can follow-up in an email, but you know what I love – IM. I like IM interviews or Skype for some of the college mags I work with.

  4. Phil Avatar


    One of my clients has asked me to use some type of IM…I refuse, figuring I’m tethered to work enough. I’ve written for some college mags, too, though none presently. The thing about electronic follow-ups is that you wind up playing e-mail tag, sometimes with a person who will respond when he gets around to it. Once a phone interview is runnning, the follow-ups can occur more naturally. You also get the advantage of hearing tone of voice (was it a confident response or not)?

    A good example of why I prefer the phone — yesterday I conducted an interview with someone who said one thing, then five minutes later said just the opposite. I was able to clarify his opinion before the end of the call.

    On the other hand, I interviewed someone from India yesterday with a very thick accent. I talk to people with mild accents from there all the time (I do a lot of technology writing), but this person was extremely difficult to understand. A 45-minute conversation might have gone quicker with e-mail (I’ve never used IM and don’t know all the short-cuts), but that would depend on his typing speed and if he permitted other distractions in a virtual conversation. As I mentioned early, usually people give me undivided attention in a scheduled phone interview.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.