Question Setting Protocols

A set of guidelines to provide consistency when setting quiz questions

Rule 1: Be consistent


Use spreadsheet format, with the following columns

A: Number: The number of the question within a set
B: Question: The Question
C: Answer: The Answer
D: NB: Any extra information
E: Genre: Genre
F: Topic: Topic within the genre
G: Author: Author of question
H: Set: Overarching question set

1Who holds the record score for a test inningsBrian Lara400 n.o.SportCricketSKOKset 35

Columns B and C, questions and answers and should be 'wrapped'. These are obviously the critical components. Remaining columns should be 'shrink to fit'.

Bespoke columns can be added, of course

Font: Verdana

Font size: 14

Embolden the critical part of the answer (e.g. Barrack Obama)

Indent answers

Borders: None

Border Spacing: 1mm

Do not punctuate the end of a question when it is in spreadsheet format

Italicise titles and quotes if you can be bothered! Put quote marks outside the italics, unless they are part of the quote, e.g.

Who had a UK number one with Mouldy Old DoughLieutenant Pigeon
Which Milton sonnet ends with the line, "They also serve who only stand and wait"When I Consider How My Light is Spent

Number column width: 0.75 cm

Question column width: 13 cm

Answer column width: 5.25 cm

Row height: 'Optimal Row height' add 1 mm

Page: A4

Margins: 1 cm all round

Quotation marks: Use only with actual quotations, not titles (see above). There are different types of quotation marks used in electronic word processing, which become indistinguishable, and do not always transfer as required

Year Dates: When recording a date in Excel which is non-year dependent, enter it as being 1900 and format as mmmm d

On what date do Americans celebrate Independence Day July 4 This is somewhat unsatisfactory, but Excel always needs a year for a date formatted cell.


At all times discretion should allow correct alternative answers. e.g.

Who wrote The Casual VacancyRobert Galbraithcould also be answered Rowling, Joanne Rowling, or J. K. Rowling

We are blessed to live in an age when the great majority of information can be accessed instantly, there is no excuse to deny perfectly good answers with "That is not what's written on the sheet"

Any quiz or question can be predicated with provisos, so for instance "Christian name required" might be a necessary understanding (see first names, below)

First names: Generally use them and index answers by them, e.g. Emma Bunton, Emma Stone, Oliver Stone, William Shakespeare.

First name requirement: A first name is often unnecessary, e.g.

Who played Howard Hughes in The Aviator" Leonardo DiCaprioDiCaprio is sufficient.

Where there is room for obvious ambiguity it is ultimately the responsibility of the answerer to make it clear, e.g.

Who won the 2012 Olympic TriathlonAlistair Browleeshould be answered as a whole name, to distinguish him from his brother, Jonathan, who I believe came third


Initials: where initials are the traditionally accepted form of a name use them. Do not add space within strings of initials, e.g. W.B. Yeats and D.B.C. Pierre, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

U.S. or U.S.A. Is United States by default

Self-stylings: Do not use them unless they are universally accepted. Billie Piper is not Billie and Geri Halliwell is definitely not Geri. Elvis is Elvis

Maiden and Married names, changed names: Use the most common one, e.g. Cheryl Cole, Yvonne Goolagong, Prince

Honorary Titles: Avoid them whenever possible, as they are fraught with ambiguity, many peers, for instance, having held the same title. It is an absolute minefield for question-setters, I mean, look at the Wikipedia entry for Lord Halifax. It is redirected to this page, which doesn't even mention Lord Halifax

Bob Geldorf and Paul McCartney are 'Sirs', but that is not a requirement to indicate understanding and plays havoc with indexing. Lord Nelson? Accept it as an answer but index as Horatio Nelson. Sometimes it is unavoidable; if so tilde the alterantive title after the proper name, for example

Who was Prime Minister at the outbreak of the Crimean WarGeorge Hamilton-Gordon ~ Lord Aberdeen

Somtimes the titled name is the more common version, so for instance

Which English poet famously had a dog named BotswaineLord Byron ~ George Byron

Use the Wikipedia entry for guidance on names. Add Lord Hairyballs if you feel you need to.

Saints: In answers, Whenever possible avoid using saint to prefix the name of of a Saint. e.g. Say Luke The Evangelist as opposed to St Luke (see tautology, below). The majority of place names with saint in are written as St, e.g., St Albans, St Andrews, but not all, e.g. St. Louis. The stop should be used as the default users of the name use it.

Ordinal numbers: Ordinal numbers should be written as plain numbers, e.g. Edward 2, World War 2. This allows them to sort.

By default any name answer which has an ordinal number should have that ordinal number apart from 'the first', where although it may be added is not absolutely critical. It is always assumed that King Edward is King Edward 1 by default. (One good reason is that if, for instance King Stephen 2 was crowned in the future, there would be no need to change all the books about King Stephen for the past 900 years). Obviously a question-master may have a personal preference for the primary ordinal and require e.g. King Edward 1 but they would, if fair and consistent, also require Of England. To re-iterate, as long as an answer is reasonably unambigous, if it correct it should be given, e.g.

Who was King of England in 1300Edward 1could be given as plain Edward, or Longshanks perhaps Hammer of the Scots, or even Malleus Scotorum

Demonyms 1: It is assumed that if a name has a demonym (e.g. King Henry 8 of England), that the place is the place where the question is being asked, e.g. in an English quiz Henry 8 would be fine. For some places, providing there is no scope for ambiguity the demonyms can be omitted, e.g. Ramases can be safely assumed to be Egyptian unless indicated otherwise. In the hierarchy of assumptions, Open refers to golf, and The Open is The British Open golf championship. Otherwise a sport reference should be mentioned, e.g.

Who won the US Open (tennis) in 2012Andy Murray

Demonyms 2:To help indexing, try to avoid demonyms as answers, frame the question to require the place name, e.g.

What country did Michael Schumacher representGermany

As opposed to

What nationality is Michael SchumacherGerman

It is better to use the name of a country than a demonym, so use them, e.g.

What nationality is Michael SchumacherGermany

This may look uncomfortable, but it is much easier to detect replicated questions, especially with Holland/Netherlands/Dutch answers

Holland is always Netherlands unless specifically stated otherwise

AD or BC: AD by default

"Mount", "Lake", "Isle of" etc Follow Wikipedia for guidance, so Portree is on Skye, but Douglas is on the Isle of Man, Annapurna is big, Mount Everest is bigger By all means embolden just the critical part, e.g. Mount Everest

Line breaks are quite awkward in spreadsheets as they can transfer into seperate fields. Instead of line breaks use a spaced vertical bar, normally typed by SHIFT+/

Who wrote "This is the Night Mail crossing the border, | Bringing the cheque and the postal order"W.H. Auden


Tautology: Where something is in the question don't put it in the answer, e.g.

Which Saint is attributed with the expulsion of snakes from IrelandPatrickas opposed to St Patrick

Avoid writing surnames only unless absolutely unavoidable, e.g. Ludwig van Beethoven as opposed to Beethoven. By all means highlight the surname.

Commas on serial lists. A 'serial' comma should go before the conjunction and in a list of three or more items, e.g.

Who starred in The Cable Guy, The Truman Show, and Dumb And DumberJim Carey

Time Setting: Endevour to make a question last forever, e.g.

Who became the Chacellor of the Exchequer in 2010George Osborne

As opposed to

Who is the Chancellor of the ExchequerGeorge Osborne

For fuck's sake don't do answers in block capitals. Why? because if somebody else wants 'sentence case' answers in block capitals, they just highlight the answer column and 'change case'; 'Caps'. But if the answers are capitalised only 'Capitalize every word' is available. Just don't do it, it's gay.

Be careful with the use of the word 'famous'. It is often pointless. Eg: Who famously ran the first four minute mile? is just long winded (although I suppose there is a case for someone running one before!) That goes for other subjective/tautolgical additions and answers. Sometimes you may need it, Eg: Who most famously said "God doesn't play dice"?

For tough 'How Much' questions think about awarding for small percentage error (Eg 10%)

For 'what year' questions think about awarding half a point for a year either way

Beware of 'buts' in buzzer questions (e.g. Julian, Anne, Dick and Georgina were all members of The Famous Five but who had a hit with "Take Five"?)


This list will cover most topics. Some subjective judgement is required. Of course there are many sub-topics, like I said, this is to a degree subjective, but don't put football on its own, call it Sport:Football or something like that.

Special Occasions Topics
Bonfire Night
St George's Day
Mother's Day
St Patrick's Day
Current Affairs
English Language
Food & Drink
Music (Non-pop)
Music (Pop)
Natural History

I'm sorry if you are the type of person who likes the answers written upside down on a different page; I really am.