‘Jeopardy!’: Alex Trebek Likes Clues to Be Written a Certain Way

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek dishes out trivia to eager contestants on the classic game show. The 79-year-old TV personality has manned the quiz board for decades and he has a particular way of doing things when it comes to clues.

Who comes up with the clues and categories? 

But first, who writes the interesting clues and fresh categories contestants and at-home viewers see on the board every game? A team of writers.

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As the official Jeopardy! website says writers are responsible for producing enough content for 230 games each season. That breaks down to a whopping 14,030 clues. In addition that there are always a few extra clues at the ready in case a problem arises. 

According to head writer Billy Wisse who opened up about the process in a post on the official Jeopardy! website, those charged with filling the board “should typically be able to come up with two to three categories (14 to 21 clues),” on a typical day.

Alex Trebek prefers ‘when the short part of the clue comes first,’

Trebek has read thousands upon thousands of clues to Jeopardy! contestants over the years and he knows what he likes. In a 2019 interview with Vulture, Jeoaprdy! head writer Michele Loud shared how the award-winning host likes clues to be structured.

Trebek likes “when the short part of the clue comes first if it’s a clue that has ‘this’ or ‘that,’” Loud said. “He thinks the shorter thing should always be at the front.”

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Loud continued, saying rewrite requests don’t come along often.

“Occasionally he’ll ask for a clue to be rewritten slightly because it sounds a little awkward to him,” she said. “But he typically doesn’t have too many notes for us.”

That’s probably because, after years of working on the game show, Trebek and the writers have become pros at their jobs. 

He ‘does his homework’, head writer says

Getting ready to tape a game of Jeopardy! takes a lot of work. For Trebek, that means being at the studio early. Thanks to the game show host’s pre-show routine, we know at 5:15 am he wakes up and heads to Culver City, Calif., where the program is filmed. Around 7:30 am Wisse delivers the day’s games — five are taped in a single day — to Trebek for review. According to Loud, there’s a lot more to hosting Jeopardy! than one might think. 

“He really makes his job look so easy that I think sometimes people don’t appreciate how good he is,” she said of Trebek. “Hosting this show is much, much harder than you think.”

Alex Trebek attends a 'Jeopardy!' press conference
Alex Trebek attends a Jeopardy! press conference | Ben Hider/Getty Images

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She went on to describe his pre-show routine that involves familiarizing himself with the games.

“He reads them over, and if there are things he doesn’t know how to pronounce, he looks it up himself,” Loud said. “If he can’t find it, he asks us to help him. If there are things he’s not as familiar with — current pop culture, typically — he may ask us about it,” she added with a laugh. “But he knows a lot. He’s very sharp, he does his homework, and he’s self-sustaining.”

The next time Trebek is reading clues know that he thoughtfully reviewed them and possibly suggested a few tweaks.

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