Ah, back to my lame blogging average of once a month (maybe). How do busy people work this in? I am thinking that it has to be an every Friday rule, I can't have a cocktail until I write a post; or write a post cocktail in hand... At any rate, I've spent the last 4 days in the phone bank, listening to my callers actually conducting my calls. It is a very humbling experience. Like hearing a recording of your voice, I occasionally cringe and think "Wow! I wrote that?" In general, for questionnaire writing, some tips -- since all of you seem to think Survey Monkey and its ilk mean you've got the chops --
In DC, it is easy to forget that no one is as obsessed about this stuff as you are. Plain language works better than lofty, arrogant, or nasty every time. I just swapped out the word "outraged" for "angry" after listening to a whole evening of how absurd "outrage" was coming across.
Fewer compound complex sentences using gerunds and the like; my god, how I love them, and yet, a smart person could learn to write shorter sentences that are easier to read....I could go on, as I often do...
Before you say a survey is ready to go, print it out and read it aloud. It does wonders for clarity both yours as a writer and in your final product. I repeat: Print. On paper. May the tree gods forgive me, but I read screens all day, and I don't feel like I will really read the whole thing before I wander off to do something else. Youngsters who work for me, take note! IM'ing me that you've completed a task is NOT communicating with me in the manner I choose.
Lastly, it really, really works to have actual human beings sitting at phones, hand-dialing each number, and asking politely for a person the second the phone is picked up with a "hello?" We all know what to do when a computer dialer gives us a 3-second click or dead air -- you hang up before a live operator gets on! Our incidence rates are twice as good as anyone else's these days, and to my knowledge, there is no other public opinion phone bank still hand dialing.
I just heard a caller complete an interview, and she said that her respondent said at the end "You know what? You are a very nice person! I like you!" [yes, of course we are interviewing in the Midwest today] In some states where we do a lot of work, respondents know the name of the phone bank (Standage Market Research) and welcome us like old friends.
Keeping people on the phone is the name of this game. And politeness counts.