Recently I was out walking our dog when I came across this note taped to a row of post boxes. It read, “Trixie, our Siamese cat has gone missing. She is light grey, has blue eyes and is polydactyl. If you have seen her please contact us at…”
I was stumped by the word “polydactyl”. In Siamese cat circles this may be common terminology but for the rest of us it means having six toes. Not sure why the owner simply didn’t say, “Trixie has six toes”.
My story is relevant because it relates to your choice of language for your next survey. As you develop your questionnaire, continually ask yourself, “will the respondent understand this question and is the language appropriate?” Always remember to keep it simple and avoid complicated language, ambiguous and vague words.
Ask yourself, “is there common agreement in the terms I am using”? For example, we might ask, “In the past year have you used social media?” Do we mean since the beginning of the year or the past 52 weeks?
Finally, there may by words that are used only by a select group of insiders. Avoid using them. Say “six toes” rather than “polydactyl”.