About a month back, I've decided to dedicate more time into Literature SE, and have contributed to editing (and still editing) many of the tag excerpt wikis. I've learned a lot about community expectations & guidelines, what we do here, and how we tag things.
During my time, however, I noticed some inconsistencies regarding tags. For example, we have for some reason even though it's only really used for identification and doesn't seem consistent with any other tags out there.
I started thinking more about genre tags when I asked this question and tagged it under . Rand al'Thor responded by stating that

We don't usually use genre tags except for questions (like this one) about the genre as a whole.

So that's what I accepted until I saw that specific comic works were tagged with the name of the work along with (more on this in a different meta post). This triggered a very long discussion about genre tags and Tsundoku suggested that

If we want to tag questions about genres in general, wouldn't it make more sense to use a tag such as or or even simply instead of a tag for each individual genre?

It seems that this isn't really a topic that's been resolved, even though Hamlet's answer to Do we need a children's literature tag? and Rand's post in 2017 both seem to assert that genre tags shouldn't be used.

I think we need to also differentiate between what Rand al'Thor calls genre and medium.

A genre is defined as "a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter". In this case, the definition that's most relevant is the "subject matter" part. Basically, genres are dependent on the content itself, and content in "form, style, or subject" matter often tend to blur. On the other hand...

A medium is defined as "a means by which something is communicated or expressed". Unlike genres, mediums tend to be much more straightforward. , , and pretty much all language tags are all medium-based tags, a way that the stories are communicated. There's some inconsistencies in tagging these that I want to address in a different meta, but for now, other mediums seem to include: , , and . Also perhaps ?

Now I know what some of y'all are thinking: So what? Why does it matter? No one else really seems to care that much about it. Aren't you making a big deal about a trivial thing?

And to that I say, "Well yes, but actually no."
As a sapling tag wiki editor, it's very frustrating to see inconsistencies, because I don't know whether I'm supposed to do this or that. This inconsistency seems to also cause a lot of confusion within chat as well.

Purpose of a tag:
From my understanding, tags help to pinpoint answerers (experts) to questions specialized to them and help people locate answered questions in the future. Specialized genre tags can do that, but at what cost? Besides a handful of questions, pretty much all genre tags are used in , which I'm not sure really justifies its existence.

With this considered, can we get rid of genre tags as a whole?

  • 3
    If you don't want discussion of the specific tags here, maybe you should remove that list from your question? People are naturally going to nitpick it; indeed, before reaching your "Final comment", I was thinking to start an answer proposing a general course of action with a hefty "but" to add that several of the tags you list aren't really genre tags.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 18:03
  • @Randal'Thor, okay, removed them Commented May 12, 2020 at 18:06
  • 2
    Would you also want to get rid of the tags that you listed under "medium"?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 0:01

2 Answers 2


OK, you've won me around. I propose the following plan to be voted on:

Let's use as a single tag for questions relating to any genre.

We don't have that many questions about genre, so it makes sense to group all of them together rather than curating a tag for comedy, a tag for tragedy, a tag for romance, etc.

Also single-genre tags are more likely to be misused: people will put them on questions about individual works, perhaps thinking they're to be used in the same way as language tags. We tag every Dostoevsky question with , but we don't tag every Hamlet question with . Using a single tag would avoid this confusion, because a question about the genre of tragedy could fit under but nobody would think to tag just any question about a work of tragedy with it.

(I suggest the plural form instead of , to make it clearer that the tag is for questions about all genres, not just about the concept of genre in general. I don't feel strongly about this though: if anyone thinks a different name for the tag would be better, please comment below.)

One of the current uses of single-genre tags is for story-ID questions. But even their usage there is inconsistent, and in my opinion unnecessary.

Let's look at some different types of questions, based on existing ones from the site:

  • What's the name for the genre featuring XYZ? (example)
  • How did the XYZ genre develop over time? (example)
  • What's the name of this story in XYZ genre? no genre tag (example)
  • What's the meaning of this passage in this XYZ-genre story? no genre tag (example)
  • What elements define XYZ genre? (example)
  • Does this story have elements of XYZ genre? (example) Caveat that some such questions will be off-topic, but we seem to be OK with "how do this genre's tropes appear in this book" even if not with "what genre is this book in".

Note that this proposal is only about genre tags, not medium tags. Let's keep , , , etc. but get rid of , , , etc. The boundary between genre and medium may get blurry at times, but hopefully we can apply some common sense. E.g. it makes sense to keep and as their own tags, because many such stories come from oral tradition and don't really have their own consistent titles or known authors.

  • I really like this. What is the consensus from the other users on Lit SE? Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 17:29
  • Well, three people have voted on this answer so far ...
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 18:08

Medium versus Genre

Medium isn't a common literary term, as far as I know. If we want to start using it to distinguish between types of tags, my position would be that , and may be considered as different "media". However, we typically discuss works tagged as play texts and relatively rarely as a theatrical experience, and we discuss song lyrics just like any other (poetic) text and not in relation with the music. In practice, this means that these "medium" tags end up being just normal genre tags. The argument for using these tags would therefore need to be along the lines of "we want to have these genre tags because they are for works that do not exlusively rely on text (i.e. theatre experience, drawings and music, respectively)". Note that we have a , which at least acknowledges that non-textual aspects can be relevant to the broad category of works that we accept as literature on this site.

The tag seems to be better fit for the "medium" category, since several of the questions there are about how or how long certain works existed purely as oral tradition before they were committed to paper. As long as these works were transmitted orally, they were also works that did not exclusively on text (since the art of storytelling goes beyond simply reciting a text).

With tags such as , and we are basicallly tagging genres, since we typically discuss the relevant works as texts rather orally transmitted stories, so I wouldn't put them in a "medium" category, either. Unless, of course, we want to use the argument that these works do not exclusively rely on text (even though they are now transmitted as printed text in literate cultures).

Based on the above, one may make a case for tags such as , , , , , and if one ignores the fact that we discuss the relevant works as texts rather than as works that have both a textual and a non-textual component. This would also justify tags such as (currently two questions), (currently not in use, even though not all text in a musical is a "song lyric"), , .

The "Other" Genres

Where does that leave genres that don't have a non-textual component?

The tags (346 questions) and (276 questions) have so many questions that people have earned tag badges for them (see poetry and short-stories) and it doesn't seem a good practice to me to take these away at this point.

(Aside: is neither a genre or a medium in this context; it may be a theme, which makes it fit into the category of themes or theme-like tags that we have, e.g. , and . I consider these tags as outside the scope of this question.)

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