Mind your language

When designing survey questions it is important to communicate to respondents in the right way so they are able to easily understand and respond. Badly worded questions lead to data that is unreliable and difficult to interpret.

Below are some guidelines for writing effective questions:

1. Use the same language as respondents. Remember that your survey audience can be very diverse and they all should be able to understand and relate to your questions. Avoid using long words and words that aren’t commonly used. For example, use toilet instead of lavatory.

Business speak should also be avoided. Below is an example of a question included on a survey recently sent to my inbox:

jargon question

When was the last time you thought about what could "add value to your coffee experience"?


2. Avoid abbreviations and jargon. Remember that respondents probably don’t know as much about the survey subject as you. Avoid using industry terms wherever possible. If you really can’t avoid using them make sure they are explained.


3. Be brief and to the point. Avoid long sprawling, questions wherever possible, respondents will be less likely to read them and the chances of misunderstanding them are higher.


4. Be clear and unambiguous. Clarity is all important. Ambiguous questions result in uncertain answers which, in turn, lead to unreliable, useless data.



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Keep it simple

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