I think our site could greatly benefit from improved instruction on how to tag.
There's been a lot of discussion here on meta about changes needed to the tags, what the purpose should be, etc. I understand that this has been discussed & settled on Stack Overflow, but I'd wager that most new users on Cooking.Stackexchange are not coming from the SO background. Most of the tagging errors are caused by a lack of understanding of tags' purpose.
When one asks a new question, the existing instruction is:
How to Tag
A tag is a keyword or label that categorizes your question with other, similar questions.
► favor existing popular tags; avoid creating new tags
► use common abbreviations
► don't include synonyms
► combine multiple words into single-words with dashes
► maximum of 5 tags, 24 chars per tag
► tag characters: [a-z 0-9 + # - .]
► delimit tags by space, semicolon, or comma
I propose the section instead read:
Tags help experts decide whether or not they might be able to help you. You'll get better answers if you choose tags that each describe a single area of expertise.
► Try not to create new tags!
► Examples of tags to use: Type of cuisine (italian-cuisine), name of technique (baking, deep-frying), food or ingredient (apples, pie), or type of food or ingredient (vegetables, spices)
► Examples of tags not to use: Type of question (how-to, explanation, fix), subjective terms (traditional, easy), descriptions of your problem (burnt, curdled), noise words (emergency, urgent), or any term that describes a very vague or broad area (cooking, method, technique)
The Mechanics of Tagging
► Join multiple words with dashes (ex. Chinese-cuisine, not Chinese cuisine)
► Max of 5 tags, 24 chars per tag (a-z, 0-9, + # - .)
► Separate tags by space, semicolon, or comma
Lastly, if you are tagging a new question, there's a handy link on the right to see a list of popular tags. But if you click on that link, you lose the question you were working on. Is it possible to have the list show up in the sidebar w/o having to navigate away from the page you're on? Or is the only option to open that link in a new window?
Relevant link - 8/1/2010 SO blog post: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/08/tag-folksonomy-and-tag-synonyms/