How to Write Inclusive Survey Questions – A Guest Blog by Chi Whitley

Whether you’re writing internal or external surveys, your questions should be culturally aware and inclusive.

To be aware and inclusive, you must consider how your respondents might feel. At a base level, you don’t want to offend respondents, but you also want to retain quality customers and employees. 

75% of customers today believe in diversity, so they are acutely aware of which companies are looking to make their organizations and the workplace more diverse and inclusive. Keep these tips in mind when writing survey questions.

1. What Information is Needed?

When you draft survey questions, consider the information you’re working to uncover. If there’s a more direct way of getting the necessary information you need without assuming certain traits about respondents then ask.

For example, if you’re wanting to see if employees would be willing to take off Martin Luther King Jr. Day instead of President’s Day, instead of asking an open-ended question for which they would prefer to take off and why simply have two choices with no response.

2. Open-Ended Responses Should Always be an Option 

When asking either yes/no or multiple-choice questions, make sure there is a fill-in box or “other” option. By having a set number of answers or responses, you are assuming that these options will apply to anyone and everyone. 

Moreover, if a respondent selects an answer they don’t necessarily identify or agree with then you are getting skewed data. So, free-form questions not only respect your surveyees by not forcing them into a box, but you also get more complete and accurate data. 

3. Let Surveyees Skip Questions 

This tip might seem counterintuitive, but it’s recommended to let your surveyees skip questions. Depending on the survey length and target audience, many surveyees will simply get frustrated by a survey and will select answers randomly.  To make sure surveys are completed with accuracy allow surveyees to skip questions that don’t apply to them.

By skipping questions you again will receive more accurate responses and information to go off of. Also, you don’t want to make respondents feel uncomfortable answering a specific question.

4. Use Up-to-Date Terminology

Perhaps one of the most important tips is to ensure that your survey’s terminology is up to date. You want to use inclusive terminology, which frequently changes. For both internal company surveys and external client or customer surveys, you want to make sure everyone feels included. So, after drafting your survey research to confirm that your terminology is used correctly.

For instance, know the difference between gender and sex or race and ethnicity. Also, make sure you have the correct subject-verb agreement when it comes to the singular they or Latinx.

For more information on types of racial terminology to use, check out our resource list for Anti Racists and Developing Allies.

5. Don’t List Too Many Multiple Choice Options

Try not to list too many multiple-choice options. Again, you want to be as inclusive as possible, but listing as many possible options for certain questions can feel both overwhelming and offensive since certain respondents might feel as if they don’t belong in the broader categories. 

Furthermore, multiple options can seem inauthentic — as if you’re just wanting to use the right lingo or terms rather than caring about the results. If you begin to have too many options simply add a free-forum option where respondents can enter their own option to identify as they deem fit. 

As you look to survey your employees, new team members, customers, or a target audience, make sure you use the tips above when writing demographic survey questions. Not only will you be known as an inclusive proactive company, but you will get more accurate results. For more tips on how to write inclusive survey questions, see the infographic from Chattermill.