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Modern Surveys Need the ‘Write’ Stuff, Too

Posted by Jacqui Amaral on Nov 8, 2017

You want simple, faster, better access to data and people.

We’ve heard this message loud and clear. Industry statistics have overwhelmingly communicated that consumers are living and working on their smartphones and tablets, but researchers are not writing surveys to reach the modern respondent.

So what does it take to ensure the surveys you’re writing and scripting are “modern” enough? At Lightspeed, we believe a modern survey is one that’s less than 10 minutes in length, optimized for mobile, and is amplified by additional data sources. As researchers, we focus on the tools needed to help you redesign surveys for mobile devices and methods to connect you with an entire network of data, but let’s not forget about writing the actual questions.

Click here for more information on modern survey design and Lightspeed's  QuestionArts Intelligent Components 

As a marketing professional, my inbox is often flooded with links to blogs, materials and webinars pertaining to writing tips and tricks. I recently came across a free download from HubSpot titled “The Marketer’s Pocket Guide to Writing Well,” and thought some of the content could easily be transferrable to writing for modern respondents. Within the guide, tips revolved around audiences, word choice, feeling and editing. With these themes and other writing tricks in mind, here are six relevant recommendations to consider as you create your next questionnaire for the modern, connected consumer.

  1. Write for your audience: Who are you interviewing? Moms with kids? Business managers? Doctors? Speak in a voice that will resonate best with them and use words you’re confident that they’ll understand. This includes tone and language. If you want an engaged respondent, create a conversation specific to the target you’re speaking with. Regardless of who your audience is, try avoiding boring, stiff language.
  2. Write how people read: If you’re looking to shorten your length of interview, the last thing you want is a respondent to read through a question multiple times. Keep your sentence structure simple and brief. Take the time to cut any unnecessary words that don’t add to the question or background. And remember – use contractions! Survey questions aren’t formal reports, and contractions make reading easier.
  3. Use simple vocabulary, but choose the right words: There is no need to impress respondents with a object_Book and Coffee by lake.jpglarge vocabulary; if anything, big words can make you appear less credible. At the same time, use the best words to make your questions clear and easy to digest. The HubSpot guide states, “time spent thinking of the word that best describes what you’re trying to say is time well spent.” This is good advice to consider when writing a shortened question that’s going to be displayed on a small smartphone screen. 
  4. Be consistent: Have you ever started a new book immediately after finishing another? If you haven’t, know that chapter one can be the slowest to read as you adapt to a different author’s style of writing. A respondent can have the same experiences if each question follows a different format or uses a different tone. Be as consistent as possible with your writing from question to question.
  5. Edit, edit, edit!: While using small words might not discredit you, poor (or improper) grammar and spelling will. To quote the guide again, “if you want to be extraordinary, do what the extraordinary do: revise.” Send your questions to a coworker, or better yet, a friend not in the market research industry. Multiple editors will not only catch your “device” and “devise,” and your “who” and whom,” they’ll tell you if something doesn’t make sense or reads awkwardly.
  6. Be Concise -- The Shorter, The Better: Utilize the Twitter mentality: 140 characters, short and concise and easy to digest. If you need to ask more than 15 minutes of questions, then consider splitting up the survey and use chunking/modular concepts.

Mobile plays an increasingly important role in our daily lives; we need to not only adapt our research methods, but also our writing to this reality. To connect with today’s time-poor consumer, we need to speak in language they understand.

Topics: Survey Design, modern surveys

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