Lesson Plan

Writing and Interviewing Tips for MY HERO Interns and Student Reporters

by Shannon Luders-Manuel from Los Angeles, California in United States

How to Write a Profile Story

The first paragraph should include a thesis statement. For a profile, the “thesis statement” is the information about what the hero is known for. For example, their profession, if they were a “first” in their field, a notable accomplishment, etc. 

Each paragraph should focus on a particular theme. The story doesn't necessarily have to be written in chronological order, though it can be. Examples of themes are certain interests a hero focuses on, or challenges or obstacles they faced.

The ending paragraph should include a "big picture" statement, like what the hero hopes to accomplish in the future, how the hero has changed the past, etc.


General Grammar Tips

Periods and commas go inside a closing quotation mark.

Example: She was nicknamed “Wonderwoman," and he was nicknmamed "Batman."

A comma should come between two complete sentences connected by a conjunction. 

Example: The sky was blue, and it was filled with clouds.

Don’t use a comma if the conjunction isn’t used between two complete sentences.

Example: The sky was blue and filled with clouds.

A semicolon (not a comma) is used between two complete sentences that aren’t separated by a conjunction. The semicolon works as a “soft period,” tying the two sentences more closely together.

Example: The sky was blue; it was filled with clouds. (Note that the first word after the semicolon isn’t capitalized.)

Of course, you can also write: The sky was blue. It was filled with clouds.

With an introductory phrase, the subject / verb that comes after it should be what the phrase is referencing.

Example: From her earliest memory, Jackie was always a happy child.

Not: From her earliest memory, everyone said Jackie was a happy child.

Use “who” for people and “that” for things.

Example: She was someone who loved animals. 


How to Tighten Wording

“Whether or not” can almost always be shortened to “whether”

Example: "Whether or not she was hungry was anyone's guess" can be changed to "Whether she was hungry was anyone's guess."

Avoid “being.” 

Example: “Being that it was night...” can be shortened to “Since it was night...”

Avoid “due to the fact that”

Example: Due to the fact that she was tall, she was able to reach the shelf” can be changed to “Because she was tall…” or “Since she was tall…” 

Avoid passive voice.

Example: “She was adored by many” can be changed to “Many adored her.”


Interview Tips

Research the hero both before and after interviewing them. (The first time will be for a general overview and to figure out what questions to ask. The second time will be to use detailed, factual information in the essay. One interviewee joked that I should be her PR person because I had gleaned so much about her life through my research.)

Have questions ready to ask. For MY HERO, include a question asking who their hero(es) is/are and why.

Ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation going.

At the end of the interview, always ask if they have something more to add. Some of the best quotes come from this open-ended question.

Transcribe the interview, skipping over any sections you know you won’t use.

When you write the story, you can use the quotes in any order (as long as you’re not misrepresenting what the interviewee said). Focus more on creating the profile around the quotes as a whole and not each individual quote.

Tape-A-Call is a great app for recording interviews. Just be sure to ask the interviewee’s permission before recording. 

Page created on 8/22/2020 4:00:06 AM

Last edited 7/14/2021 5:54:12 PM

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