Questions to find the human angleDense, complicated and potentially boring subjects need explanation, no matter who you’re writing for. That’s often what I’m asked to do, and here’s my “secret” for turning a potentially boring subject into an interesting one:

Find the human, because that’s usually where the story lies.

A client once paid me the compliment that among my strengths is the “ability to find the human angle in any story.” Here are some of the questions I use to “find the human” when interviewing a company’s experts on a complicated subject:

  • Who was involved in this effort?
  • How does it affect employees / customers / the company?
  • What does it mean for the people who will be reading this (benefits, advantages)?
  • What’s important for readers to know?
  • What made you decide to…? / What were you thinking when…?
  • How would you explain this to a teenager / your mother / your grandfather?
  • What would you compare this to? (pull out metaphors and similes to help readers gain a better understanding)
  • Can you give me an example?
  • Did anything surprise you about the project / process?

I almost always finish with these questions:

  • Is there anything else we haven’t talked about that would be important for employees to know about the subject?
  • What’s the most important thing you want people to remember after reading the article?

Typically, the answers to these last questions will reinforce key points already made, and often give you one of the best quotable quotes from the entire interview.

How do you tease out the human angle in your writing?

This post updates one originally written in 2016. Image from PublicDomainPictures and Pixabay.

Related reading:
Where’s Waldo? Some situations where you want to find the human, and specific questions to ask
Expressive writing is your on-ramp to understanding
Boring topic? Here are 3 tips to spin your ‘straw’ into gold