7 Deadly Sins of Survey Writing

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You don’t really like taking surveys.

But here you are, in a situation where you need to write one for yourself.

It’s interesting how much people hate taking surveys, but when they get a chance to write one themselves, they don’t bother changing what they hate about surveys.

You might have even said in the past:

“I hate taking surveys,” and promised yourself that if you ever had to make one it would be better.

Oh how the tables have turned.

Because you have no idea how to get started.


Well, at the least here are a list of things you shouldn’t do, to jar your memory about why you didn’t like surveys so much.


SurveyYes presents: The 7 Deadly Sins of Survey Writing


  1. Lust: the desire to get unnecessarily intimate with the respondent

There’s a time for intimacy, and a time for privacy.

One of the greatest turn-offs that you and your respondents might experience in a survey are questions about personal information.

Phone number:

Doesn’t that make you cringe?

People are hesitant about giving such information away.

There are exceptions:

In an information form, or a very close-knit organizational survey or any other applicable circumstance—this information may be needed.

But remember,

People are more inclined to give honest feedback about their experience when their feedback is anonymous, or feels private.

If you need to ask, ask at the end.


  1. Gluttony: Consuming too many responses

 “I’d like 30 multiple choice questions with a side of 5 required open-ended questions (each 100 words minimum).”


Asking too many questions, and therefore trying to get an overwhelming amount of responses—

if people can even complete your survey at this point,

is gluttonous.

Strip down your questions to the bare minimum nutritious value that you need!



  1. Greed: trying to kill two birds with one stone (and killing no birds with two stones)

While killing two birds with one stone sounds incredibly efficient, killing no birds with two stones is just plain silly.


Case 1 – The Double-Barreled question

“What is the juiciest and sweetest fruit you’ve ever tasted?”

The juiciest may not be the sweetest, and the sweetest may not be the juiciest.


Case 2 – The Wordy Question that tries to say/ask too much

Get to the point.

No one likes word jumbles. Ask questions efficiently, and keep it simple.

If you need a lengthy description for your question, do so prudently.

There are some questions that just need to be split up into smaller questions.

Just because you’re trying not to violate Deadly Sin #2 (too many questions), doesn’t mean you stuff it all into one.

So again, keep questions simple.

This being said…



  1. Sloth: Gettin’ lazy.

…simple doesn’t mean sloppy.

  • Make sure the survey is grammar and punctuation-polished.
  • Order your questions so that the survey flows in a logical way.
  • Look through your questions and make sure they aren’t confusing, complicated, or too general, and

MAKE SURE you aren’t making any of the mistakes on this list,

or wrath shall come upon you.

Speaking of which—



  1. Wrath: Forcing respondents to give you an answer

What’s something that might guarantee an unfinished survey?


When a respondent is trying to answer a question, and can’t find their answer choice or even an “Other” option.

When this happens, you’re forcing the respondent to either:

  • choose the closest answer which may not be the answer at all, or more likely
  • give up and close out the survey

Go the extra finger tappings.

Write out as many possible choices as you can, and then the “Other” option at the end just in case.

Other: or you could do whatever you want to I guess



  1. Envy: wanting what answer you need

Do you want authentic results and actionable feedback?

Don’t do this:

Envying a certain response that you need (AKA, bias) and building your survey in that way.

Case 1: The Loaded Question (Can’t stop thinking of loaded potatoes)

This type of question has a presumption of something that is unjustified.

Example: How many people are you going to share this article with?

This assumes you’re going to share the article at ALL.

Which of course, could be the case. *hint*

Case 2: The Leading Question

This type of question usually leads into an answer that is desired

Example: Don’t you think this survey guide is great?

As opposed to asking,

What do you think about this survey guide? (comment your answer below)



  1. Pride: using lofty jargon

Talk on people’s level.

Don’t use jargon.

Jargon complicates and confuses respondents, making a question difficult to answer.

When a question is difficult to answer, it often gets unanswered.

So take a dosage of humility, get your talk down to earth, take a chill pill, whatever you need to do.

Because more than anything,


A survey is a conversation

Remember this, and you’re sure to succeed.

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