Words are powerful, and how you phrase your survey questions may be negatively impacting the quality of your data.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve raised the importance of various aspects of question-wording such as simplicity and specificity, and a few mistakes that are easy to avoid by adhering to best practices. This week, we’ll share three best practices to help you write clearer questions and collect more reliable data:

1) Use Display Logic

Nobody likes being asked questions that aren’t relevant to them, and this is especially true if you’ve already collected demographic information about a respondent. For example, if a respondent told you in a previous question that they are Male, they probably shouldn’t be asked about whether or not they have ever been pregnant.

If you design your survey to present all respondents with every question, some respondents are likely to be asked questions that they have already indicated are not relevant.

One way of preventing this from happening is to ask filter questions and use the various types of survey logic available in Qualtrics to make sure that you only show respondents questions that make sense based on their prior responses.


2) Read Your Questions Out Loud

Another mistake that could be hurting your data is the use of awkward language. Unclear wording may cause people to stop reading the question or become distracted by the phrasing rather than focusing on the subject of the question.

A good way to make sure your questions sound natural is to read each question aloud. Using clear language can make questions easier for respondents to process, helping you get better data. It is a good idea to make reading questions out loud a part of your pre-testing process so that you can get feedback from multiple people before actually starting data collection.


3) Avoid Emotionally Charged Words

Lastly, it is important to avoid emotionally charged words whenever possible. Emotionally charged words can bias the results of questions and upset your respondents. It is best to keep language as neutral and precise as possible.

Your respondents may become uncomfortable or have their responses biased by questions that use polarizing or emotionally charged language. Whenever possible, it’s best to use simple, direct and neutral wording. It is particularly important to avoid emotionally charged language when asking about social or political issues.

Learn More about creating great surveys: