Formulating texts and questions when creating your questionnaire

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We can all write. And so do we. Every day and lots.

Whether e-mails, love letters, meeting reports, business correspondence or the formulation of questions for a questionnaire. All these texts have something in common: the better written they are, the more successful they are. This includes, besides a little talent, a few simple rules and tricks.

And that’s why we give you an insight here into how a normal text becomes a great text. Well, let’s get started!
This awaits you – table of contents:

My best questionnaire

Tested many times, unbeatably responsive and successful.

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The basics: What makes good texts

Basics: reading and writing

Even if we actually want to talk about writing today, we should first think about reading a few things.

How does that actually work?

Surprisingly, many people think of the reading process as a letter by letter decoding. Letter by letter, word by word, the eye works its way through the text you write. Wrong!

Experienced readers rarely decipher letter by letter. The eye does not glide over lines in one go, but jumps and holds on to certain points. In doing so, whole words and word series are captured as an image. Or complete words are reconstructed from perceived parts.

The easier the eye can jump through the text, the less the eye has to jump back to make sure, the more successful the text will be.

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So if you know how the eye perceives texts, you can build your texts accordingly. This helps you not only in the creation of your questionnaire and the formulation of your questions, the introductory text and the cover letter but also in the creation of all texts.

1. No word monsters

The eye simply cannot detect these giant letter formations. Automatically the reading flow is brought to a standstill. So, avoid text brakes like:

Honorificabilitudinitatibus

Write rather: with honorableness.

2. Foreign words

Unknown words cannot be perceived as images, precisely because they are unknown. So out with it, they only cause unnecessary setbacks.

3. Give your text a structure

A text that is not written in a structured way will never get a structured look. The mere sight of your text will tell you very quickly:

I am difficult to read. So make sure you have clear paragraphs. Ideally, these should also have intermediate headlines so that the eye can hold on to them.

absaetze-struktur-text

4. Form and content

The most beautiful text will not be read if it is badly prepared.

Here are the most important rules.

  • AVOID TEXTS IN CAPITAL LETTERS, BECAUSE THEY DO NOT GIVE THE WORDS A RECOGNIZABLE FORM
  • Texts should have a good balance between text size and line spacing so that the eye can always identify the baseline.
  • Negative fonts are always harder to read than positive ones.
  • Too little contrast to the surroundings. Even if it looks nice, nobody reads it.
  • Make sure that individual lines do not become too long. This makes it extremely difficult for the reader to find the new line again. Like here with this dummy text, which repeats itself over and over again. Always repeated. Like here with this dummy text, which repeats itself over and over again.

Basics: Grammar

The basis of every text is of course a reasonably correct grammar. I assume that you are familiar with it.

But we don’t want to ignore the topic completely. One part of the grammar is punctuation. And this in turn plays a big role for the copywriter.

Because the conscious use of punctuation marks changes the way you write and read. Here is a short summary of the three most important punctuation marks for me:

The period
The question mark
The exclamation mark

Basics: The point

The most important punctuation character. It says: Stop! Take a break here. Give the reader the opportunity to pause for a moment and reflect on what he has read. And give them the opportunity to take a short breath while writing.

To cut a long story short: The point structures the text structure.

Thought 1 – point. Thought 2 – point. And so on.

Tip: Ideally, a sentence consists of no more than twenty words.

Basics: The question mark

Just like the dot, the question mark separates units. But the question mark says: There is still something open here. And we make use of that.

1. Draw the reader into the text with direct questions

This is a nice way for the reader to understand the thoughts of the writer. But be careful: Don’t let the reader off the leash. He expects guidance in an advertising text. So only use this technique if you can answer the question immediately:

How is it possible to save money with this option?
That is quite simple: …..

Direct marketing texts are premeditated sales talks. So only ask questions if you are really sure that the reader will stay in the text or if you can provide the answer immediately.

2. Involve the reader with rhetorical questions

With the rhetorical question you as a copywriter always keep the lead and involve the reader in your thoughts. Because here the answer to the question is already given.

Surely you also like to save on telephone costs?

The “yes” comes automatically. But be careful! Rhetorical questions tend to seem banal. So use this means sparingly.

3. Bait the reader with questions

Now it gets tricky. A question can be a great bait. If it is strong enough to captivate the reader and motivate him to keep reading to find the answer.

What color is a zebra?

Where is the front and back of an earthworm?

You see: exciting, but dangerous. Because how easily we lose the reader here if he does not immediately see a possible solution. Or he is simply not interested in the question. Use this mechanism very sparingly and offer the reader an answer right after the question.

Basics: The exclamation mark

The exclamation mark is also used to divide units correspondingly in your text.

However, with an accentuating effect. Because the exclamation mark underlines the statement. It makes the statement more emotional and compelling.

You should take a look at this.

You should have a look at this!

A further advantage of the exclamation mark is: It increases even short statements to full sentences. Only with an exclamation mark do you turn New! or Access Here! into complete units.

Attention: The staccato phrases!

Only this month! Only here! Only while stocks last! Take a look now! Strike now! Save money now! Click here!

Too many exclamation marks in a row make a text breathless. Just looking at it shows the reader a certain aggressiveness. So, think carefully about whether you really want this tempo and volume.

The start: Know the destination before writing

The start: Where do you want to go?

As soon as you start, you are in the race! Whoever said this clever sentence definitely meant copywriter.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a short product text, an invitation to take part in a survey or even a more extensive advertising material:

At the beginning it has to be right. That’s why I always recommend that you create a text concept before you start writing.

So that your thoughts can move freely, this text concept should always be handwritten.

1. A short text

Whether questionnaire, letter, description, cell phone text and so on. Here too it is recommended to note briefly, which arguments are to bring in which order.

This gives you many advantages:

  • You create a didactically meaningful order of the arguments.
    If you change the order later, you can usually throw away the whole text and start again.
  • You check, if you have considered all aspects before writing the text.
    Nothing is more difficult than integrating additional aspects into a finished text.
  • You get a first impression of how long the text will be.
    There is space for 200 characters and you already have 400 on the slip of paper. Something is not right.
  • If necessary, you can discuss this draft or have it approved.
    Even in small texts there are sometimes big misunderstandings.

2. A more extensive advertising material (part 1)

Let’s discuss this using the example of the creation of a more extensive advertising medium. It is advisable to sound out what all kinds of topics have to be taken into account.

In contrast to a short text, you often have to work out the contents first.

In order not to lose the overview here and to get a structured result, I recommend “mind maps”.

Tip: Take a large sheet of paper (so that the format does not become the limit of your thoughts).

mindmap-textkonzept

The most important basic rules for “Mindmaps”

  • Use different colors to separate the branches.
  • Set the main theme in the middle of the image at the beginning.
  • Draw the chapters as boxes to create a clear visual separation to the sub-themes.
  • From the chapter boxes you develop further branches.
  • Label everything with keywords only and not with complete sentences.
  • Each line and each position gets only one keyword.

3. A more extensive advertising material (part 2)

After you have defined all chapters, headings and storylines with the help of the mind map, you are now ready for the concrete advertising material.

Here, too, it is advisable to briefly summarize the topics you have worked out in a sketch. That way you will quickly find out:

  • Is there enough space?
  • Is it too much or too little content?
  • Is the number of pages sufficient?
  • Where do pictures have to go?
  • Is the weighting correct?
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Small note: Sketches are not a drawing competition.

So give me the things, even if they look like they were painted with the left foot.

The way, which is shown here, works of course also for the creation of your questionnaire: Again, you have to be aware of the content of your survey, you have to know the questions and only then you can think about an introduction or a cover letter.

The writing style: Getting attention with the right wording

The style: texts that inspire

Great, now the text is ready. The order is correct and all aspects are considered.

But the text simply has to be more catchy! The whole thing simply needs more power!

No matter how boring it reads! There must still be feeling in it! That does not turn me on!

At this point the text CD always says to his junior:

Information informs! Emotion sells! So hit it again!

Let’s go to emotionalize your text with 6 tricks.

1. Address the reader directly

So simply a sober text or also a question in a survey gets immediately a completely personal note. In addition, the reader will find the arguments much faster.

From the advantage becomes so times evenly your advantage.

2. Tell the reader not what he gets, but what he gets from it.

Or, as we advertisers say: Sell the hole and not the drill.

Before: LTE technology brings mobile TV directly to cell phones.

After: Mobile TV turns a boring train ride into a cosy afternoon of television

3. Use emotional insertions

This is a trick from the spoken language. With two dashes you simply separate – by the way – emotion and information. And – hand on heart – who wouldn’t wish for a little trick here and there in dry surveys to charge normal questions with emotions?

4. Positive filler words

With these words you subtly add an emotional touch to any text.

Yes, gladly, of course, simply, of course …

That’s the way it turns out:

Before: The K880i offers a megapixel camera.

After: The K880i naturally offers a megapixel camera.

5. With synonyms you bring color into play

Synonyms are related terms. They are indispensable for an accurate and lively language. Use them to replace general terms with pictorial and thus emotionalizing ones. 

The word “to walk” alone can mean: stroll, strut, run, …

Tip: Of course, nobody has all these words in their head. So make sure you get a dictionary of synonyms.

With these active, emotional formulations, you will be able to create tension in the questions or the explanatory texts, even with longer questionnaires.

6. Use “self-feeling words

The cell phone lies well in the hand. But wouldn’t it be much nicer if the design would nestle in the hand?

To emotionalize advantages, you need terms that make us feel.

Whether a material is comfortable, silky soft, ice-cold, cuddly or scratchy.

All these words trigger something and we feel it on our own skin.

The style: That goes down really well

Just because we write something doesn’t mean it has to be perceived as it is written. So don’t think about Pamela Anderson during the next points.

You see – already caught!

And it’s the same with your lyrics. So always make sure that the right image is created in your head.

Here are a few examples for orientation.

1. No negative associations

Let’s write a headline for the new ringtones:

Here’s something for the ears!

Unfortunately, only the lyricist found this funny. Nobody wants to get something on their ears, and nobody wants to read on anyway. If only we had only written:

Here your ears can experience something.

2. No negative formulations

The new tariffs do not include any hidden costs!

What gets stuck here is certainly the cost trap. Let’s write it positive right away:

The new tariffs are simple and clear!

3. Positive words

This is where the synonym dictionary comes into play again. Because many words have a negative aftertaste. Replace them with positive ones. Here are some examples:

  • “Request” becomes “Order”.
  • “Call immediately” becomes “Simply call”.
  • “Caution” becomes “please note”.
  • Etc.

The style: superlatives and enhancements

Welcome to the land of mega giant washing power.

Despite legal restrictions for the best, biggest etc., superlatives are often used in advertising. Logical! Because we want to convince with best performances.

But beware: if used incorrectly, it can quickly become unbelievable.

What you should know about superlatives and increases and what possibilities there are to reinforce statements, let’s have a look now.

1. The provable superlative

Bingo! If you can offer the reader a proof, this form is always welcome.

But don’t forget to make the proof visible quickly.

Best example: Here comes the test winner

(p.s. add a label immediately or at least name it immediately)

2. The subjective superlative

You can’t prove the superlative, but you definitely want it in your text.

Then you have two options:

a) The personal point of view:

Before: The new Dolby Surround system has a great sound!

After: For our tester Mr. Smith, the new Dolby Surround system has the best sound ever!

b) The restrictive superlative

Before: The new Dolby Surround System has a great sound!

After: The new Dolby Surround system has perhaps the best sound ever!

It goes without saying that these superlatives should only be used very sparingly.

3. The superlative prefix word

This is the classic. Simply add a “word of increase” in front of it and the statement is strengthened. But here, too, caution is called for, because the whole thing quickly seems implausible and hackneyed. Here are a few classics:

Top cell phone

Top service

Best performance

Caution also with trendy increasing words. Use these only if the advertising material goes to the appropriate target group and the word is really still hip.

My tip: Leave out increases such as mega-blatant offer, hypersensitive softpad and hot design.

So! And now let’s take a look at how it works.

4. The word repetition

This is one of my favorite tricks to give statements more emphasis and thus provide a textual powerhouse.

Take the dictionary of synonyms you just bought and put two words with similar meaning in front of your offer. For example:

The strong, robust case…

The surprising, inspiring ringtones …

5. The pictorial increase

Your statements also gain more power through more pictorial formulations.

From very light to featherweight.

Such word combinations to strong images also work with nouns and suddenly turn a copywriter into a star copywriter.

6. The right word

And again the synonym dictionary comes into play. Because this is how a strong heat development quickly turns into a much more appropriate heat!

Without a lot of talking around, you can bring such big pictures into play and save yourself the build-up of small superlatives.

The Style: Anglicisms

Give more impact to your approach. Because this way your top seller gets the special dream to touch, easy creates more awareness and the convenience idea is voted top by the target group. Huh?

The use of Anglicisms almost always leads communication ad absurdum. Because usually the target group misunderstands the message – or not at all.

However, anglicisms cannot be avoided completely. Here are three rules of thumb.

1. Use only if there is no suitable replacement

Meanwhile there is a whole series of terms for which simply no suitable German word exists. These can of course be used with a clear conscience. Or what would you write instead of snowboard, internet or DVD player?

2. Use only if they are learned words

Of course, we use the English words already generally known and do not try to “Germanize” them. Who would still write fairly and decently today? What is actually the translation of fit, recycling, blackout or e-mail?

3. Product names are not changed

The iPhone is called an iPhone and the name is not to be changed.

The practice: helpful tips to get started

The practice: Now we do a little magic

What we have looked at so far are the rules of the game. Now we come to the small but fine tricks of the trade that turn a good text into an even better one.

1. Write the way you speak

Every text is, by all rules, a personal product. So, do not try to pretend. You will only tense up. When my junior copywriters ask me how to write, I always say:

Imagine you are sitting at the counter and you meet a friend and you tell him the story. Sit down at the keyboard and write it down just like that.

You will see that the first draft of the text will read fluently.

2. Never try to write immediately ready for printing

A good text is never created on the first cast. On the contrary. Texting is a process.

If you try to write perfectly right away, you will only block yourself because you get stuck too long on formulations, sentence order, etc.

The first text should “only” be complete and contain everything you want to say.

After that you will shorten it.

Ask yourself the questions:

– Can I formulate something shorter?

– Are there more attractive words? (Once again, think about the synonym dictionary)

– Where are duplications?

– Can I say it easier?

– Etc.

3. Mark sentences that are too long

Once the raw text is available, check the sentence lengths. Take a pencil and mark all sentences that contain more than 20 words. Then think about how you can divide at least a large part of these sentences into several.

4. Mark all commas

This is a simple trick to find out if your text contains too many nested sentences. Try to make unnecessarily inserted subordinate clauses into your own sentences.

5. Check all word monsters

In the heat of the moment our popular text brakes such as honorificabilitudinitatibus

are quickly written. So, review the text and reformulate it consistently.

6. Rewrite your text

The improved text will improve even faster if you rewrite it with your corrections. Avoid “tweaking” the existing text document.

And now?

Good luck with your writing!

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