Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of posts on common Survey writing mistakes. Click here to see the previous item and here for the next one!


Imagine the following scenario: you write a Survey, deploy it to a large group of people, and a few days later start reviewing the results. Unfortunately, the number question responses are all over the map – in many cases there are differences of orders of magnitude between responses. One person says 0.50, another writes 50, and still another writes 5,000. And the question was:

How much do you pay for a can of soda?

What happened? You forgot to define your units! If you are an American thinking in US Dollar terms, the first response might make sense, and the second might make sense if you’re thinking in terms of US Cents, but the last one seems to have come from out of left field (or perhaps Indonesia). At Maven we consider number questions to be the most dangerous questions to ask – yet at the same time, they can also be the most useful because they provide an opportunity to generate real, unfiltered numerical data. Unfortunately, most people just don’t write them correctly. The single most important thing to remember when writing a number question is to define your units as precisely as possible. The units can be whatever you want them to be (including Indonesian Rupiah!), but they must be defined clearly in the question itself:

On average, how much do you pay in US DOLLARS for a can of soda? (enter a number)