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How to Write Survey Questions People Will Actually Answer

Abby Nieten
March 6, 2015
Min Read

What if you could craft a survey people actually take time to complete? How might your business improve if you could get unbiased input from customers or clients? You can. In fact, it happens all the time here at Formstack. And many of our users rave about how easy it is to create robust surveys that get great response rates (see examples here). Still, there’s one trick that we can’t pre-package in our software: how to write survey questions. We can’t write your survey, but Formstack wants to help. That’s why we made this quick-reference guide to help you write good survey questions—the kind that will result in high response rates and authentic, helpful feedback.

Tip 1: Keep Questions Clear and Concise

Straightforward, easy-to-answer questions are key to a strong survey and will help keep it short and manageable. The fewer words you can use to ask a question, the better. For example, instead of: Did you find the system intuitive, easy-to-use and reliable, with good support? Create a matrix question so you can ask one thing at a time: On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate the system’s:

  • Intuitiveness?
  • Ease of use?
  • Reliability?
  • Customer support?

Tip 2: Stay Neutral

This is not the place for salesy copy. You’ll only hurt yourself and your company if you try to “lead the witness,” so stick to unbiased questions. Not sure if you’re remaining neutral enough when writing questions? If the answer has potential to be negative, you’re probably on the right track. While it’s never fun to receive less-than-stellar feedback, there’s no room for improvement if respondents aren’t given an opportunity to be truthful.

Tip 3: Leave Jargon Out

Steer clear of acronyms, industry terminology, and big words that are likely to confuse respondents. This is true even if you’re surveying PhDs or rocket scientists. Busy people need to read and understand your questions quickly. Keep your terminology clear so your users can get in and get out.

Tip 4: Don’t Repeat Yourself

So you’ve written 21 solid survey questions and set everything up in Formstack. Time to share it, right? Wrong. Before you hit publish, first go back and review all questions to make sure each one is unique. If you ask How would you rate customer service? in question one, it’s time to delete Did you get adequate support? in question ten. (Instead, use Conditional Logic in the first instance to find out why a rating is selected.) The more you can whittle down survey questions, the more insightful the answers will be.

5 Fill-in-the-Blank Sample Survey Questions

To help you brainstorm good survey questions, we’ve put together a top-five list. Whether you’re surveying customers, clients or employees, start by filling in the blanks below and voila: you’ll be on your way to a survey that yields essential data you can really use.

  1. How did you discover __________?
  2. How satisfied are you with __________?
  3. How likely are you to __________ in the future?
  4. How effective is __________?
  5. What would you change about __________?

But wait, there’s more!

You can also use Matrix, Radio Button, and Dropdown List fields to craft easy-to-answer questions.

Can't get enough? Check out our guidelines for surveying students, customers, and event attendees. And sign up for a free trial here if you're ready to start building great surveys today!


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Abby Nieten
As Senior Manager, Content Strategy, Abby leads an amazing team of marketing content creators toward a shared content vision. She's been growing with Formstack since 2015 and spent several years as a professional editor before that.
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