Author Topic: Could you ask a question?  (Read 5251 times)

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Could you ask a question?
« on: November 15, 2002, 10:25:40 pm »
Another survey today in the post, on transport non the less. This must constitute the most crass example of a form I have ever seen, it surpasses even a Brussels directive. The results must by design be at worthless.
Read it and weep at what they do with your money :(

JET passed me on the form and no matter how hard I try, no matter how much it hurts, no matter that I swore the day would never arrive, I have to agree with the man. If you wanted to give a class in how not to write a form, this would be it.  Click on the links below the images to see a full-size version of the extracts from the form.

Choice examples of poor questions - amoung many - are ...

Example One:

Click here for larger version

“If yesterday is a Sunday and your birthday is between Jan and June complete for Saturday instead”

Please explain the logic in that! My birthday is in December, but I’m sure I’d have noticed if people born Jan – June didn’t travel on a Sunday. For the pedantically challenged – e.g. me – is January between Jan and Jun?

Example Two:

Click here for larger version

“Thinking of those aged 17 or over in the household please complete the following table…”
Great wording that “Thinking of …” All I’m thinking of is “What an awkward way to ask a question”

“If your household has two adults including yourself and a 17 year old son...” Don’t know about you, but I keep thinking that’s two adults – i.e. the other parent is missing – but they mean three.

Example Three:

Click here for larger version

“...undertake your main food shopping…” I can only conclude the guy who wrote this did a creative writing course, dropped out halfway through the first lesson but still wants to use what little he thinks he learnt.

While we’re on the subject of English, is question 15 turning verb “shopping” into a noun?

On question 14, what do I answer is I do my shopping approximately once a week?

Example Four:

Click here for larger version

How not to do it. Questions 21 and 22 refer back to question 20, then question 23 refers back to question 15. Nice, should confuse and put off anyone who doesn’t like filling in forms i.e. everyone.

Question 21 could form a new party game: See who can find a child that couldn’t ask the same question more clearly using less words.

And why “undertake”? What’s wrong with “make”?

I remember an episode of “Men from the Ministry” where they put out a questionnaire hold these two questions:
“1 – Are you a member of the opposite sex?
2 – If not, why not?”

That was supposed to be a joke. What the purpose of this form is I have no idea.

I’ve had to post this here as the original thread had issues and stopped displaying new posts – which means JET got the last word  :(
« Last Edit: November 18, 2002, 09:19:36 am by admin »

Offline jet

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Re: Could you ask a question?
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2002, 11:09:13 pm »
This is a cause for cellebration and perhaps a reason for a national holiday on this day every year, the reason.
Jet & JF are in total aggreement for once.
Oh by the way this form is also available in many common languages, urdu etc etc
Did any one else get this form and actually understand it.
For instance I got this form on a Monday and was supposed to detail my travelling for the previous day.
It could have been, went nowhere ( as usual) Flew myself to Kent and back ( hopefully) Went to middle of English Channel fishing. All of these being possible can anyone tell me what benifit these answers could have had to anyone?
Just imagine if this form went to a Concorde pilot. ie went to New York and Back plus sainsburys on the M25.

Offline Alfred the Great

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Re: Could you ask a question?
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2002, 09:44:07 pm »
Speaking of converting verbs to nouns, I get very cross when I read modern american marketing blurb, particularly computer software for businesses.

Their favourite verb is "leverage", ie, using their product (AutoCAD as it happens) will "leverage" your productivity. I thought that using good old AutoCAD might help "lever" your productivity into the space age but not leverage......

There are other examples of this but I can't think of them at the moment.

Oh yes, don't you just hate listening to people talking about how much they paid for a house/car or what they are earning, and they say "34k" not "34 thousand".

Do they think they sound big?

Confucius he say "a dog is for life not just for Christmas Dinner"


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Re: Could you ask a question?
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2002, 07:08:14 pm »

I have to admit that the travel form is a really stupid piece of jobsworth.    Jet did show it to me and I could not believe how stupid and crass it is.

It is almost on a par with the letter from the TV Licencing Authority which I received many years ago when I did not have a TV.  It went in the vein of:-

You have not renewed your TV licence.

Do you have a television in the premises?  Yes/No

If no, why not.



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Re: Could you ask a question?
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2002, 12:32:06 pm »
Elsewhere another survey was mentioned. I’m not sure if it was this one:

But it is also by Hertfordshire County Council. It claims to seek advice over cutting local taxes by 3%, or, as a result of changes in government funding, raising local taxes by up to 15%. Now my political views vary between socialist, liberal and conservative depending upon the subject and how much I fell like arguing, but no-one would ever call me a Thatcherite and I have never bought the low tax, low service model. But this has to be the worst example of asking loaded questions I have ever seen. Take the first question.


     1. Care for elderly people
     Examples of service cuts
Reducing funding for nursing home care or home care, which would mean 300 elderly people having to wait much longer for a nursing home place or 500 elderly people not getting care at home
      Examples of service improvements
      Funding 60 extra nursing home places or 60,000 extra hours of home care so many more elderly people could get the care they need without having to wait

This survey is a meaningless load of tripe designed to keep local taxes high by pulling on the heartstrings. It doesn’t tell us how much of a cut would result in 300 poor old people having to wait much longer. The 3% mentioned is taken as blanket, but is not attributed across each service. So this cut may be too small a fraction of the saving to be worth anything, or it could represent 98% of the saving.

Also, how long is “much” longer? And does the need for this service exits? And what else could we spent the money on? Are there any efficiency savings?

As the survey is on the web the people who post to it are self selected and therefore not representative. If it happens to agree with what the council wants, then it will be used as justification, otherwise ignored.

If the council wants to make savings I suggest they stop wasting money on this sort of propaganda dressed up as democracy.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2002, 12:59:19 pm by John_fraser »

Offline jet

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Re: Could you ask a question?
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2002, 12:44:32 pm »
Dear John,
You will find it was me surprise, surprise!
The form is calculated such so that no matter which way one answers the Council gets what "it" wants.
Nothing new there.
The only thing missing was that if you do this or dont do that "all the little furry animals will die". This time senior citizens were used as the reason, how insulting.


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Re: Could you ask a question?
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2002, 10:00:33 pm »
This week I got this reply from Herts Online. I'd actually sent them my comments on the second survey, but referred them to this thread. As a result they’ve answered my comments on the first survey.


Dear Mr Fraser,

Thank  you very much for your e-mail you sent on 19 November 2002, bringing to our attention the comments you made on the Brookmans Park website forum.

The  interest  that  you  have shown is very much appreciated and we regard this  feedback  as  an  important  part of our review process to the County Travel Survey once it is completed.

The  purpose  of  the  County  Travel  Survey is to provide an accurate and robust  database  of  the  travel  behaviour  of a representative sample of Hertfordshire residents. The survey provides information not available from other  sources  in  that it covers all days of the week, all trip modes and all  trip purposes, we therefore regard it as an extremely important source of data.

The  survey  was first undertaken in the Autumn of 1999, when a return rate of  14.4%  was  achieved.  As you are aware it has just been repeated and a return  rate  of  17.4% has been achieved so far, and it is hoped that this figure will increase as late questionnaires are returned.

It  is  extremely unfortunate you feel that many of the questions have been poorly  written  and  are  difficult to understand, we spent a considerable amount  of  time  and  effort  designing the survey to make it as robust as possible for all members of the public in Hertfordshire to complete.

With regard to the point you make regarding the Travel Diary section of the questionnaire  (Example  1), the purpose of this statement was to obtain an even  distribution  in  the number of people stating Saturday and Sunday as yesterday's  travel for those questionnaires that were delivered on Monday. However, I agree that this statement is slightly difficult to understand if you do not know why it is being done.

The  first  point  you  make regarding the wording of Question 4 (Example 2 Part I), appears to contradict the research that we have undertaken as part of  the  survey  on  wording  in surveys of this type. The phrase 'Thinking of?.'  is  fairly  common wording in surveys of this type, and is seen as a friendly way of introducing a particular topic.

The  second  point you make regarding the wording of Question 4  (Example 2 Part II), I  do  not think many people would read this as two adults, and indeed from the  questionnaires  that  I  have seen this appears to be the case. In any case  any  confusion can be easily addressed by looking at the example that is given on the questionnaire.

The  point  you  make  regarding  the clarity of Questions 21, 22 and 23, I agree  that  referring  back  to  other  questions is slightly difficult to follow,  but  from the questionnaires that I have seen the vast majority of people have answered these questions correctly.

In  relation  specifically  to Question 21, I can't think of another way to make it any shorter and I feel that it is clear enough. The correct wording can  be  difficult  to  achieve  and I agree that 'make' is perhaps plainer English  than 'undertake', but nevertheless 'undertake' is acceptable and a word that is well understood.

I  hope that the above points have gone some way to addressing the comments
you   made  on  Brookmans  Park  website  forum.  If  you  require  anymore
clarification  regarding  any  of the questions in the County Travel Survey please do not hesitate to contact me.

Paul Junik
Senior Engineer
Transportation Planning & Policy
Hertfordshire County Council

Credit to them for explaining the “Sunday Birthday” puzzle. I’ll chase some more on the second survey.

Offline jet

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Re: Could you ask a question?
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2002, 10:46:38 pm »
Dear all,
I have perused the letter above and am none the wiser.
Although I have an IQ in excess of 140 I am still baffled by the whole thing and reiterate that I have never read such a load of rubish in my life ( perhaps I have had a rather sheltered one)
It appears to be written in a foreign language which rhymes with rowlocks.
Guess that my job application in local government rowlocksed then.
How anyone can consider  a 17% response a success is beyond me, surely the figures will all differ  and are  83% lacking which together with the fact that not everyone was asked in the first place tend to indicate that the results are of no use whatsoever.
Now we see what happens to the extra money which is being injected into local government, it is used in part to finance pointless excersises such as this which provide a nice little earner for someone.
Well heres a question for Mr Junik, what are the results of this survey? and how many were returned?
baffled of BP
PS John can you explain Sundays Birthday etc because I cannot see the point at all, the answers would differ subject to the weather alone. Ie it rained so everyone watched the telly :)
« Last Edit: November 28, 2002, 05:52:48 pm by jet »