Say there are 100 factors that determine the outcome of a process. Some of them are simple and easy to observe, while others are very intricate. Is the following sentence correct?

The experiment should determine which of the 100 factors can be efficiently polled through a questionnaire.

  • 1
    What do you intend polled to mean? If you had to replace that word with something else, what would you use?
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 16 '12 at 11:49
  • @Andrew Leach: My guess is that "questioned" is that something else.
    – Baz
    Nov 16 '12 at 12:56
  • 1
    @Frank You need to explain in more detail what your intention is with regard to your sentence. What is the relationship between the questionnaire and the 100 factors? Are there a hundred questions in the questionnaire? Or are the hundred factors determined by asking a set of questions? Or is the experiment the questionnaire?
    – Baz
    Nov 16 '12 at 13:10
  • 1
    @Baz and Andrew: Sorry for the late response. "Polled" in the example is intended to mean something like "can be asked from the test subject". For example, a test subject can give his age and height (two of the 100 factors) through a questionnaire, but maybe not his pulse response to a specific external shock.
    – st12
    Nov 16 '12 at 15:01
  • 1
    @Frank We'll then you should go with Lynn's answer as it hits the nail on the head.
    – Baz
    Nov 16 '12 at 15:27

Grammatically it's correct, but I think you see from the disjointed answers that it's not readily clear what point you're trying to get across. Poll can have an engineering meaning or a survey meaning, and the survey meaning is not often used in an intransitive sense like "can be polled through..." I would reword it to something more like this:

The experiment should determine which of the 100 factors can be efficiently assessed through a questionnaire.

  • I agree your suggested assessed is a better word in OP's context, but I don't agree there's any real doubt about what the original version means. If you want to split hairs, you could say OP might mean anything between established (i.e. - determined to a high level of precision) all the way to worded (i.e. - capable of being phrased and asked in a questionnaire in such a way that the results might feasibly have some significance). In practice I think those differences are somewhat academic, but assessed at least leaves them all open. Nov 16 '12 at 14:18
  • @FumbleFingers - I mostly agree. It seemed pretty clear to me but it just sounded kind of awkward. And others appear to have had different interpretations.
    – Lynn
    Nov 16 '12 at 14:37
  • I don't see anyone else saying it could mean something different in OP's context. SF's (now deleted) answer focussed on the exact meaning of efficiently, while Baz simply takes issue with this "creative" use of poll, which he's more familiar with in a software context. I'm not saying polled is "correct" here - just that it doesn't seem particularly ambiguous to me. But I agree it could be called "awkward". Nov 16 '12 at 19:04

I guess its grammatically correct but I don't like the use of polled in this context. The word polled is often used in engineering. For example, "the signal is polled by the function". As an engineer, I get a little confused when I see the word used in a "new" way.

Also, I think "easily" is a better word with regard to your use of "efficiently". Again, "efficiently polled" sounds so technical and therefore distracting and confusing. You want to be clear here, not overly verbose.

Perhaps I have misunderstood the idea you wish to convey, but how about rephrasing the sentence like this instead:

Using a questionaire, the experiment should determine which of the 100 factors are easily established.

  • I agree that 'polled' doesn't really fit, but I think you've misunderstood the original idea of the sentence.
    – Lynn
    Nov 16 '12 at 12:41
  • How do you interpret the original meaning?
    – Baz
    Nov 16 '12 at 12:50
  • I think the question is more: "Which of the factors can be determined with a questionnaire." Your reword made me think that the question was about which factors are easily established, period.
    – Lynn
    Nov 16 '12 at 14:39

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