This brand of quiz show answers as well as it asks

What is Jeopardy?

This post describes my recent experience with Jeopardy. For some time, I have been bothered by the double standard of the show; a strict one for the contestants and somewhat lax one for themselves. Although I had tried on may occasions via blog posts and tweets, I had been unable to elicit a response from the show. My latest effort was to  write the following letter. To my pleasant surprise, I received a very responsive, polite, and articulate reply.

Here is my letter, followed by their response.

Dear Jeopardy,

My wife and I, who are in our seventies, have been watching Jeopardy daily for as long as we can remember. The reason for this letter is that I am disappointed with your double standard. You are quite strict regarding the accuracy of the responses of your contestants, but you do not hold yourselves to the same standard. Similarly, Alex is quite pedantic when it comes to pronouncing foreign words and expressions, but he does not provide sufficient oversight of other aspects of the show.

That bothers me, but my efforts to try to fix things like this do not seem to work very well. Consequently, I created a blog called “It Bothers Me” on the Web at  I wrote a blog recently about Jeopardy. You may find it at In addition, I have tweeted to Jeopardy and to Alex several times. I have had no responses. For this reason, I am writing this letter.
Jeopardy has the same responsibility for accuracy to its audience as it expects from its contestants. I speak not only as an intelligent viewer but also as a highly-experienced (over 50 years) writer, editor, and graphic designer. Here are just some of your mistakes.
First, in regard to your text displays, I have this to offer. In typography, the use of all capital letters is ill advised, particularly in body text. Words in all caps are hard to read because they are all the same shape. Lower case letters, with their ascenders and descenders are much easier to recognize because of their varied shapes. Moreover, a larger size type may be used since lower case letters take up less horizontal space. The use of all caps also prevents making the distinction between proper nouns and other words. It could help you if you would do some research on readability of type.

You  also need to learn a few things about typography, punctuation, and spelling. In your text displays your video department is using inch marks (a vestige of the age of typewriters) instead of curly quotation marks that can be generated today by a computer. It should also be noted that punctuation, such as periods and commas, belong inside the closing quotation mark even though they may not be part of the quotation.

Another typographic capabilty of computers is the use of accented characters. In one of your shows you spelled resume without any accents. Since Jeopardy uses foreign words and phrases quite often, it would help to know how to create such characters.

Language and spelling are another issue. When you refer to someone as a French writer or an Israeli writer, the adjective describes their nationality or their ethnicity, not the language  of their writings. Why then did you describe Sholem Aleichem as a Yiddish writer rather than a Jewish writer of stories in Yiddish? For the record, the locals in Antigua say “an-tee-guh”rather than “an-tee-gwuh.”

Finally, in the area of spelling, while it is not intuitive, there is no “n” in “restaurateur.”
I hope you will take the time to respond to me.

Stanley Berkson

Their reply.

jeopardy-letterhead logoDear Mr. Berkson,

Thank you for your very detailed letter. We are lucky to have viewers like you who are not only loyal watchers but take the time to consider the show seriously and write us about it.
We are sorry that you find the all-capital letters style displeasing, but as a graphic choice dating back to the beginnings not only of our show (1984) but to the beginning of the original Jeopardy! (1964), it has become familiar to our audience and it’s unlikely we would change it at this point.

Your point about the use of “smart quotes” is well taken; we did use them at an earlier point in the show’s history, and we will pass your letter on to the people who work with our graphics to see if they are considering going back. As far as putting the commas outside the quotation marks, that again is a style choice that goes back 30 years, based on the British and also frankly the more logical system (as the comma usually isn’t part of the quotation). Again, we know this bothers a portion of our audience but we hope that it does not seriously diminish anyone’s enjoyment of the show.

We do try to use accent marks in the category headings, and in the clues whenever it seems necessary for comprehension, but we can certainly do better with consistency in that department. However, it doesn’t seem to us necessary to be consistent about using nationality versus language to describe a writer. “Yiddish writer” is an accurate way to describe Sholem Aleichem and is more concise than “Yiddish-language writer”. We appreciate your correction on the pronunciation of Antigua; but we would like to point out that “restauranteur” is a perfectly acceptable form of the word per the American Heritage Dictionary and many others.

Again, we appreciate your taking the time to help us improve the show. We will certainly be taking a look at your blog, and we hope that you continue to watch and enjoy our program.

The Jeopardy! Writing Staff


About stanleygraphics

I am a veteran graphic designer who started at the time when cut and paste meant an X-acto knife and rubber cement. I use my experience to educate others. I have an intolerance for ignorance and stupidity.
This entry was posted in language, pronunciation, punctuation, typography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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