Questions and entry captions

Questions should be aimed at eliciting precisely the information required, e.g.:

  1. If the date of birth is required, a request for ‘age’ is inadequate.
  2. If details of items are required, it may be safer to provide separate columns for the details, e.g. for name, colour, weight, size, quantity etc., rather than provide a single column with a heading ‘description of items’. Similar considerations may apply to requests for ‘terms and conditions’, e.g. a request for the terms of hire of hall may not produce what is required.
  3. Unless care is taken loose wording can result in a silly question inviting a silly answer, e.g. ‘can you describe the weather conditions immediately before the accident’ might produce the simple answer ‘yes’ instead of details about the weather.
  4. The words used must be unambiguous; some are interpreted in different ways, e.g. ‘approved school’ could mean either a recognised school or some kind of institution.

Points relating to a request for the names of applicants etc. are:

  1. All names should be asked for in block capitals and this instruction should be placed where it will be seen before entries are made.
  2. A request for surname and Christian names will generally obtain information about the full name except when dealing with persons from overseas countries etc. In these circumstances terms such as ‘other names’, ‘first name’, ‘second name’ etc. may be necessary.
  3. Difficulties with names may be reduced by asking for details of status, i.e. Mr., Mrs., Miss or Dr. etc. If they are laid out side by side on the form (Mr/Mrs/Miss) instead of one above the other, the need for an instruction ‘Delete as necessary’ may be avoided.

On questions concerning nationality it may be wise to consult the Home Office, e.g. in wording questions when dual nationality or naturalisation might be involved.

A request for the place of birth may also be needed.

On some forms the status of the person signing the document may need to be established, e.g. Secretary, Treasurer, etc.

The need for introducing the requirements of a counter declaration should be checked as well as the need to obtain details of the counter signatory’s occupation, address and name (and whether the latter must be in block capitals), to facilitate any necessary future enquiries.

The use of special type for a legal or solemn effect may be desirable for some declarations.