There are many ways to structure a multiple-choice question via SMS. Here are some guidelines and examples to help you improve the user-friendliness to survey respondents and improve the accuracy of data.


A multiple choice question is a question that can result in the respondent selecting one of many pre-determined options. For example:

  • asking a user if they are right-handed or left-handed,
  • asking a yes/no question,
  • asking if they eat vegetables every day, every week or never.

Multiple choice questions usually consist of:

  • Introduction: An introductory description, such as "Are you right handed or left handed?"
  • Options: An enumeration of options such as "For left handed, text 1. For right handed, text 2."
  • Correction: An error message in case an option wasn't recognized, such as "Sorry, I didn't understand."

In SMS, as users can read the options at the same time as the question, it is possible to combine the options and enumeration.

The user experience when a respondent answers correctly will be as follows: 

[Introduction]->[Options]-> {correct user input}


If the user makes a mistake while entering an option the flow will typically go: 

[Introduction]->[Options]-> {user input} -> [Correction]->[Options]->{correct user input}



State the expected before the option description.

Readers will associate categories and answers with the content that is read afterward

Note: this is the opposite of voice/IVR-based questions.

Correct: "Did you eat a salad this week? 1: Yes, very often; 2: Not very often, 3: No."

Incorrect: "Did you eat a salad this week? Yes, very often: 1;  Not very often:2, No:3."


Expect wide ranges of input.

Respondents may reply many things besides the enumerated options. In the Questionnaire designer, program multiple inputs for any option, including misspelling, slang, and excerpts from the options themselves.

For example:

Never Smoke
0, N,Never, No
Sometimes Smoke
1,S,Some, Sometimes,
Smoke Every Day
2, Every, Day,

Do stay consistent for similar question types.

Respondents will be 'trained' after only some examples of whether 1 means Yes and 2 means No. For example, if "very frequently" is "3" and "seldom" is "1" in a question about diet, don't swap the options in another question about smoking. Changing the inputs for similar questions is confusing and will decrease data quality. 


Do consider the natural sequence of numbers.

Asking magnitude or linear questions should be done so it matches numeric input codes. This applies to ages, weights, etc. Consider the growing sequences in: "How often do you smoke? 0: Never,  1: Sometimes  2: Every Day." 


Do shorten the list of options.

Keeping the list of options as short as possible will reduce survey time message lengths and make responses more accurate.

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