I've created this question to address the intent and purpose of tags. There has been a lot of talk recently on the subject, and I'd like to address each aspect of tagging in one place. This is a CW, so please vote up or down each premise, feel free to comment, and add new premises at will.
Try to choose tags that identify a single area of expertise.
Members use the "Interesting Tags" feature to highlight the questions they're most likely to be able to answer. Some members may even subscribe to specific tags and never see any other questions.
When choosing a tag, and especially when creating a new tag, try to imagine that you're sitting in front of a panel of chefs, each with different specialties. You don't know which chefs have which specialties, but tags help direct your questions to the right people. The
[pastries] question is for the pastry chef; the
[baking] question is for the baker; the
[sauce] question is for the saucier.
Common subject areas include:
- Techniques -
- Types of food -
- Types of cuisine -
- Specific ingredients or foods -
- Subjects not directly about cooking but considered on-topic -
Retagging a question should not be used as a flagging system.
Do not tag/retag a question as
[close], etc. to indicate an action that you feel should be taken on a question.
Instead of retagging, if you do not have enough reputation to vote to close, leave your opinion in the form of a comment on the question.
If you believe that you see a serious and urgent problem (other than spam or offensive content), you can also flag the post as "Requires Moderator Attention" and write a short explanation.
Do not use tags to attempt to indicate subjectivity.
Do not tag your own question as [subjective] or [wiki] or [discussion].
If it's too subjective and argumentative or discussiony, the community will close it anyway. If it's answerable as is, the community will leave it open regardless of the subjective tag. The tag is useless.
Pay attention to the auto-complete, and whenever possible, use an existing tag instead of creating a new one.
If you pause for a moment during or after typing a single tag, you will see a list of existing tags pop up along with their frequencies. Choose the highest-frequency tag that is still relevant to your question.
Only create a new tag if you are absolutely certain that none of the existing tags cover the same ground. Choosing a pre-existing tag not only helps keep the site clean, it helps get your question answered faster because people will already be subscribed to the tags you choose.
Avoid vague, ambiguous, or subjective tags.
Tags such as
[delicious] don't help narrow down the target audience for your question. Instead, try to choose tags that are more specific, such as
Tags should not cross-link to indirectly-related content.
Just because you think onions and garlic are closely related, that doesn't mean you should tag a question about onions with the garlic tag.
The tag system is about users finding question that are specifically about a certain topic; it is NOT about finding questions that the asker thinks are only indirectly related. If I search for [garlic] questions, I don't want a question about onions.
Use combined descriptors where appropriate
Sort of like compound words, terms might mean something specific when used together.
'brown' and 'sugar' both refer to 'brown sugar', but they're much less specific; it's most obvious when one of the terms used is effectively useless without modifying something else ... why would I search for 'brown'? It might refer to brown eggs, browning (process), brown butter, anything really.
Tags should be terms that you'd actually use to search for the question.
Avoid tags that describe the format of the question (as opposed to its content).
People who wish to find questions they can answer (via the tags) generally do not care whether your question is a
[how-to] question, a
[definition], or a
[comparison]. It is more important to them to know whether or not it's a subject they have expertise on, such as
Don't be overly specific.
If the tag has never been used before, and there isn't a good alternative tag, consider if it might be too specific, and you need to be more general.
As a specific example, there's currently a tag for
thermometer be specific enough, or is even that too specific and
gadgets be general enough? Or should it all be filed under
If there's only one item in a category and there is unlikely to be more additions, it's functionally useless as it can't be used to find similar items (or for people to filter to avoid similar items)
Avoid terms with more than one meaning.
eg, the tag
[seasoning] has been used for both seasoning cast iron pans, and seasoning food.
[orange] might refer to the color orange, or the fruit. (but it was used to refer to the general flavor of oranes)
[coriander] means a different thing if you're American from other english-speaking countries.
If this were a thesaurus, we'd qualify the terms: 'orange (fruit)' vs. 'orange (flavor)'. We can solve this particular problem by using the plural for the fruit, so we can be fairly certain it's not talking about the color. The closest alternative is to use a precombined descriptor -- I've changed the 'orange' flavor item to `[orange-flavor]'.