The key to question wording is to remember that words are not precise descriptive instruments, and so it is necessary to ensure that the words selected have the same meaning for the respondent as they have for the researcher. For example, 'dinner' may be a meal one has in the middle of the day, or in the evening; it may be different for children and adults, and different on Sunday from the rest of the week. 'Supper' and 'tea' are equally imprecise terms. The point of these examples is to illustrate that even the most common of words can be a source of misinterpretation in the context of a questionnaire. In the examples used, the terms most usually applied are, 'midday meal', 'main evening meal', and so on.

When a respondent is being asked about a particular piece of behaviour, the issue must be clearly defined. It is often useful to apply the 'who, what, where, when and how' checks to what is being asked by the question, and if these questions cannot be answered, then the question needs to be reworded so as to be more specific about exactly what is required.

For example, 'How many times have you personally attended an exhibition of industrial equipment, of any kind, in the UK in the last 12 months?' This question makes it quite clear to whom the question refers, 'you personally'; what information is sought, 'attended an exhibition of industrial equipment of any kind'; where the relevant behaviour occurred, 'in the UK'; when it took place, 'in the last 12 months', and 'How many times'. In this example, 'Why' the individual attended such exhibitions could be a subsequent question._

All questions should be kept as short as possible, and should use everyday language. Every part of the questionnaire must communicate effectively with the least educated member of the sample.

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