Answer-Judging Guidelines

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. A summary is provided in the next section.

Answers that are initially marked incorrect because of a typo or spelling error will be judged correct if they are no more than one typo per word away from the correct answer or a phonetic equivalent thereof, and do not introduce ambiguity with a plausible incorrect answer in the same general category of answers. “No more than one typo per word away” means the player’s answer may differ from the correct answer (or a phonetic equivalent thereof) by one extra letter, one missing letter, one changed letter, or one pair of adjacent swapped letters in each word.

Whether a typo introduces an ambiguity will be judged by the standard of whether it seems non-negligibly likely that a player intended to give an answer other than the correct answer, with the universe of possibility interpreted broadly. For example, if a question asks for “this character,” a typo that produces a different actual name will be judged incorrect, even if the name is not the name of another character in the work.

Numeric answers and numeric parts of answers must always be exact, even if the rules about typos would otherwise allow an error. This applies regardless of type or purpose of number (e.g., ordinal, cardinal, number representing a year or date) and regardless of how the number is rendered (e.g., numerals, Roman numerals, words).

If a non-required portion of an answer has multiple errors, the answer will still be judged correct as long as the required portion (or any required portions that would be counted correct alone) has allowable forms and quantities of errors, and as long as the non-required portion does not suggest a plausible incorrect answer.


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 plausible incorrect answer (protons) in the same general category (particles).

For a question on the Edmonton Oilers, since answering Edmonton is sufficient, answers of Edmonton Oiglerfsd and Edmonton Oi would be judged correct, but Edmonton Fla would be judged incorrect (because it suggests the player was trying to type Edmonton Flames).

Summary of Correctness Guidelines

Buzzword generally follows the NAQT Correctness Guidelines, aside from Buzzword-specific rules about allowable typos and disregarding the rules that do not make sense for answers submitted in writing. Here is a summary of a few that are particularly important for new players who may not be used to the conventions of quiz bowl:

When a question is preceded by instructional text, a response must follow the instruction to be considered correct, with two exceptions mentioned in Rule F.4. Often, the instructions accompany questions where answers that are not specific enough would be prompted for a more specific answer in face-to-face competitions. For example, a moderator would ask “Could you be more specific?” after an answer of Roosevelt for a question on Theodore Roosevelt, because there are many prominent members of the Roosevelt family. Buzzword doesn’t have a mechanism for prompting, so there would instead be an instruction stating First and last name required, and an answer of Roosevelt alone would be ruled incorrect, even though family names are usually sufficient.

Furthermore, the rules about allowable typos also override the Correctness Guidelines (including the above principles). For example, The Catcher ni the Rye is acceptable for The Catcher in the Rye because it is one transposition away from the correct title and creates no ambiguity with a plausible title, but The Catcher an the Rye is not acceptable even though it is one substitution away from the correct title, because the erroneous word “an” creates ambiguity with the plausible but incorrect word “and.”


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. Players are very strongly encouraged to review the guidelines on the protest page and to cite a factual source or specific rule in support of their protest.

(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. Unless one of the exceptions listed in Rule F.4 applies, 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 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.