The technial writing quiz

Anindita Basu

As a run up to the annual conference, this technical writing quiz ran from August 2 through August 9, 2015. Shivi Sivasubramanian won the quiz and Pranab Koch was a very close second. Tweet this The quiz that ran in August had only 10 questions; 4 questions were saved for a second round, just in case the first round had a tie. This page contains all of the 14 questions and the answers thereto.

To see an answer, click the question.


  1. In the mid-1990s, when the internet was accessed through dial-up modems and phone lines were present in maybe 3 out of 10 homes in an upscale urban neighbourhood, this person started a mailing list for technical writers in India. In 1999, he and 16 other like-minded people filled up and signed a form that would eventually result in the birth of the India chapter of the Society for Technical Communication, with this person as its president. Name the person.
  2. This word, an adjective, means someone who reacts quickly and positively to something. In the context of designing, it relates to the ability to change itself automatically in tandem with the context in which it is seen. What is the word that we're talking about
  3. In 1886, R. L. Stevenson wrote a horror story about a man who could split his persona into two. Several years later, when GitHub wanted a blog publishing platform, they wrote up an open source program that generates static web pages and that bears the same name as Stevenson's fictional character. Name the fictional character.
  4. It was first mentioned to the wide world in 1991 as a set of 18 elements or tags that browsers could use to interpret text and images. Today, it is in its fifth version and contains 10 of those original 18 elements. It is also the de facto standard for web pages. What are we talking about? [Bonus points: Name the inventor of whatever it is that we're talking about.]
  5. The original sense of this word indicates that its intention was to make something known. Over the years, the meaning altered slightly to indicate something that points to some other thing. Today, it is seen largely as a carry-over from the days of print publication but it still serves as a useful locator of information. What?
  6. This non-English word, which means 'quick' in its native language, is used today to refer to any environment that allows collaborative authoring. What word? [Bonus points: Name the inventor of the environment we're talking about.]
  7. In 1831, an Englishman took a private voyage on the HMS Beagle and spent the next five years deeply studying the geology and natural history of the places the ship docked at. His observations led him to propound a scientific theory that was at cross-purposes with Genesis as laid down in the Bible. The Englishman also lent his name to a language that is used widely in technical documentation. Name the language.
  8. This phrase is derived from a sentence in Cicero's Latin work 'De finibus bonorum et malorum'. In design, the phrase is used as placeholder text, so that the attention of reviewers is focussed on the graphical elements rather than the textual. What phrase?
  9. Identify the thing shown in this picture, which takes its name from the Latin word for 'hand'.
  10. The first Indian to become an Associate Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, this person was also among the founding members of the India chapter of STC. Name the person.
  11. This word has its origins in an old English word 'witan', which is derived from the German word 'wissen' that shares its root with the Sanskrit 'vid'; all of these words mean 'knowledge'. In the context of technical writing, the word relates to a thing that provides information or shows the correct way to do something. Which word?
  12. Originally developed by the people in the defence industry, this language is written in the form of data items that use information typing and a limited, controlled vocabulary. Which language? [Bonus points: What is the name given to the set which contains the limited, controlled vocabulary that we're talking about?]
  13. The first known existence of this thing dates to 82 BC when Quintus Valerius Soranus, the Latin poet and grammarian, created it as a navigation aid for a lengthy piece of work. Today, it is found in almost every piece of technical writing. What is "it"?
  14. It was used originally to denote a placard or an inscription placed on an object, giving information about that object. In technical writing, it is placed at the head of almost anything of importance, and is one of the determinators of the SEO rank of a page. What are we referring to?

Gurudutt Kamath

The mailing list was called Technical Writers of India (TWIN) and ran on Yahoo!



Wrong answers:

  • Agile: In designing, the word "agile" has not been used as yet. Agile is a software development methodology that incorporates the elements of continuous development and delivery; there is no element of automatic changing with changing context.
  • Adaptive: This is very close to the correct answer. To understand the difference between "responsive" and "adaptive", see this article from the Mozilla people:
  • Dynamic: There is no concept as "dynamic" in designing as yet (unless the reference is to the extremely limited set of people called the US Navy). There is, indeed, something called dynamic HTML but the effects of that happens after a page is loaded.


The answer is not "Hyde".


HTML. The inventor is Tim Berners-Lee.



The word is 'wiki'. The inventor is Ward Cunningham.

Wrong answer: Wikipedia and Jimmy Wales. Wales did not invent the wiki authoring environment. He created Wikipedia project, which is a collection of encyclopedia-like content that is created collaboratively by different authors. Wikipedia uses the wiki environment.


Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA)

"Darwin" is a wrong answer because the question asked the name of the language, not the Englishman.


Lorem ipsum



Man page or manual page

"Manual" is w rong answer; the picture does not show a manual.



Wrong answers:

  • Widget: This word was first used in the 1920s in the sense of 'a small gadget'.
  • Video: This word is derived from the Latin 'videre', which means 'to see'.

The language is S1000D. The vocabulary is Simplified Technical English.

"XML" is a wrong answer. XML was neither developed by the people in the defence industry nor is it written as data items. XML is a markup language that contains elements; these elements can have attributes. The specific answer to this question is a flavour of XML called S1000D.


The picture used in question #9 was created for this quiz by Mugdha Kulkarni. All of the remaining pictures used in this quiz are sourced through Google and used under Fair Use policy for educational purposes. Details of these pictures are: