Answer Judging

Before each Buzzword game, NAQT will develop a list of likely correct and incorrect answers that will be used to automatically judge responses. If players give responses that are not part of that prepared list, those responses will be initially judged by a computer, and, in all cases, later reviewed by a human.

In general, the NAQT Correctness Guidelines apply, except aspects that do not make sense for a game in which players answer by typing rather than speaking.

Answers that are initially marked incorrect because of a typo or spelling error will be judged correct as long as the error is not egregious and does not introduce ambiguity with a possible incorrect answer in the same general category of answers. More precisely, answers that are one extra letter, one missing letter, or one pair of transposed letters away from a correct answer—as written, or phonetically equivalent—will be judged correct, as long as they do not introduce ambiguity with a possible incorrect answer. (A transposition means the swapping of two adjacent letters in the same word; the swapping of more distant letters is not a transposition and will generally not be acceptable.)

For example, answers of Emmerson, Emperson, Emmersun, and Empersun for a question on Ralph Waldo Emerson would all be judged correct. Emmerson is both phonetically equivalent and only one error away from being spelled correctly, Emperson is also only one error away from being spelled correctly, Emmersun is phonetically equivalent to the correct answer, and Empersun is only one error away from a phonetic equivalent.

An answer of Beerthorvghen for Ludwig van Beethoven would not be accepted, as it is more than one error removed from both the correct answer and any reasonable phonetic equivalent.

An answer of phrotons would not be accepted for a question on photons, as while it could plausibly be a typo that is only one character away from the correct answer, it also introduces ambiguity with a possible incorrect answer (protons) in the same general category (particles).


If a player feels that their answer is correct despite it having been judged incorrect, they may protest. Protests cannot be filed until a human reviewer has judged the answer incorrect.

To file a protest, a player should click on the correct answer on their “By Question” summary page, and then click on the “Lodge Protest” button. All protests will be reviewed and ruled upon before the scores are finalized.

In general, players may protest that their answer was correct and should have been accepted, or that the clues in the question were contradictory and thus the question had no single correct answer. In either case, players should include information supporting their claim (including, if applicable, links to reliable sources) in the protest form.

(These rules are an adaptation of Section J of the Official NAQT Rules, which cover the grounds on which a factual protest may be filed in face-to-face quiz bowl.)

There are two possible remedies for an accepted protest in Buzzword: a player may be awarded the appropriate number of points based on where they buzzed in the question, or may be awarded the average number of points scored by all players in their division who answered that particular question correctly. NAQT will decide which remedy to apply; that decision may not be appealed.

The following are not grounds for protest in Buzzword; protests filed over these issues will be summarily dismissed:

“The judge should have accepted my [misspelled] answer as phonetically equivalent.”

The decision of a Buzzword judge about whether or not to accept a misspelled answer as correct is treated in the same manner as moderator discretion regarding pronunciation in face-to-face quiz bowl. A Buzzword judge’s decision on phonetic equivalence is not protestable.

If a player feels that a judge has made a truly egregious error in judging an answer incorrect based on phonetic equivalence, they may protest, but they must explain in detail exactly how their answer is phonetically equivalent to the correct answer and provide reference links supporting their pronunciation. We will have very low tolerance for frivolous protests of this type.

“My answer is correct even though it didn’t follow the instructional text.”
The instructional text that occasionally appears before a question to provide guidance about the type of answer sought (such as “Name and regnal number required”) is considered part of the question text for protest purposes. Any answer that does not supply at least the minimum amount of information indicated by the instruction is unprotestably incorrect. For example, if a question with an answer of carbon has an instruction stating “Name, not atomic symbol, required,” answers of C will be judged incorrect, as that is less than the minimum amount of information indicated by the hint. Likewise, if a question with an answer of Henry VIII has an instruction stating “Name and regnal number required,” answers of just Henry will be judged incorrect.
“I entered the correct answer, but autocorrect changed it to something else when I submitted it.”
We have made reasonable efforts to disable autocorrect, but we cannot control all browsers. Players are responsible for managing autocorrect on whatever device they use to play.
“My internet connection dropped while I was listening to/answering a question.”
We have made reasonable efforts to ensure that a dropped connection will make as little difference in the game as possible; a dropped connection should only affect the question being played when the outage occurred. However, we will not grant requests for “do-overs” or other opportunities to replay, for points, a question that was affected by an internet outage.

Abuse of the protest system (such as protesting all incorrect answers, protesting without good-faith rationale, or repeatedly protesting issues that are not protestable) may result in a suspension or ban from Buzzword.