Q&A: Is It OK to Edit Blog Interview Answers?

As a natural teacher, I love helping people out! I got a great question about interviews from a client recently, and it is something that I have struggled with too. So here is the first in my QA series. If you have a question, leave it in the comments or send me an email.

Beth of justBmore asked:

When interviewing a person through email, what is appropriate to change or edit? Should you just leave the format as it’s written by the subject or can you change it? Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

The word interview on a typewriter

No worries, Beth!  Thanks for the question!

So that I would not be falling back on my TL;DR answer—Of course you can edit it!—I did some research. Now I know why you asked the question—the answer isn’t easy to find. Siri had no idea…

However, what I could find basically assumed that you would have to edit your interview. That assumption is why your answer was buried in tons of other information, like how to handle the whole blog interview process or ask more interesting questions.

The Logic Behind My Answer

Imagine for a moment that your blog interview was a video or you worked for a magazine. Would you publish every single word or air the entire take of your interview? No. You would edit it.

Obama being interviewed by Nilsen

We can’t expect everyone to be a writer or an editor. These are specific professions for a reason. So if someone is a crafter or a graphic designer (or, you know, the President of the United States), they should not be expected to know what an Oxford comma is or whether or not to hyphenate the words premade and pre-built just because you are doing an interview with them.

And if they don’t have a need to run a blog or worry about SEO, they might not care about keywords or want to take the time to hyperlink informative text rather than just copy-and-pasting the URLs.

Also, we need to remember that the people we interview are busy with their own thing. That’s why we want to interview them, right? Since we want to post the work, it should fall on us to do the proofreading before an interview goes live. They might be doing their best to get the answers back to you in the little time they have. So if they leave out a word or use the wrong their/they’re/there, do them the favor of fixing it.

Don’t Change the Meaning!

It is important to NOT change the context or meaning of an answer. I would keep the editing level to a basic proofread. The one exception is if you want to cut out a whole chunk of information. Say their answer was too long, or it didn’t really answer the question and will be irrelevant to your audience. It’s ok to cut it out. (Again, think of a magazine or video interview.)

A camera set up for an interview

More importantly, ask yourself whether every interview you have ever watched or read actually unfolded in the order it was packaged. Oftentimes, the questions will get rearranged. Maybe a follow-up question asked at the end clarifies something in a much earlier segment of the interview. Post production is well within their rights to reorder the answers so they follow each other.

But again, the context and meaning needs to remain unaltered.

My CYA Questions

When in doubt, you can always ask. Here are some questions I like my blog clients to ask their interviewees:

  • What is the correct spelling of your name, company, and any products mentioned (as you want used for this blog)? (Remember when I said sometimes your interviewee is busy and trying to get back to you quickly? I have seen people misspell their own company name. By asking this, they will be sure to look it over and then you don’t have to search the interwebz to figure out the right way.)
  • Do you have any plans on changing your internet platform soon (e.g., pausing sales, changing email address or domain name)? (While checking links for a client, her interviewee had paused the online store for the holidays. This info would have been good to add to the blog interview post.)
  • Is there anything about you or your company that people get wrong, either in explanation or spelling, etc.? (Yet another double check of name spelling, but this also lets your interviewee correct something you may have asked without having to appear rude. It also helps the editor trying to work out the meaning of an unclear sentence.)
  • Are you ok with my editor doing a bit of proofreading to match your interview to my personal style guide? (Totally put the blame on me! In fact, go ahead and start this section of questions with, “My editor is a total PITA, and she always asks me to include these questions. I guess they make her job easier or something…)

Send a Preview of the Interview

Whether you ask these questions or not, send them a preview of the final interview post for feedback. If they see a change which they don’t like, it’s totally fair for them to let you know. More likely though, they won’t notice those minor punctuation changes and will just tell you how fabulous it is.

I use Public Post Preview for my preview links. It’s super easy, and the link expires after a bit so it’s not like the interview preview is available to the whole world for eternity.

Well, Beth, I hope this answers your question!

If anyone has other questions, please let me know. I’m here to help.

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