This answer will by necessity not cover all cases; when in doubt check the tag wiki excerpts for tags you are considering using, or ask in chat/meta. “Tag wiki excerpts” are the little usage guidance blurbs that show up in various places. When typing in tags for a question, excerpts show up mid-type or on hover. Clicking on a tag will also show the excerpt.
Separate words (and authors’ initials) with dashes (-). Omit punctuation, including apostrophes. Only ASCII characters are allowed, so romanize foreign words/names.
Questions about a specific work
- Use a tag for the author(s) (meta discussion)
- For example, jane-austen or william-shakespeare or sappho.
- If there are multiple authors, either tag with all or none. This will generally be indicated in the tag wiki excerpt of the work.
- “Author” here could mean a writer, lyricist (musical), illustrator (comics), band (song) etc.
- Use a tag for the work or type of work
- If the work is short, use short-stories, poetry, song-lyrics, essays or comics as appropriate (meta discussion).
- If the work is long or significant enough, use a title tag (meta discussion), for example, pride-and-prejudice or romeo-and-juliet.
- If the work is part of a series, tag with the series name and not with an individual title tag (meta discussion), for example, sherlock-holmes or little-women-series.
- Note that the maximum tag length is 35 characters; some longer names will have words dropped/shortened to fit.
- If the work was originally published in a non-English language, use an x-literature tag (meta discussion) where “x” is a language, not a country (meta discussion).
- Add any other applicable tags. Some common ones to add at this stage include meaning, character-analysis, symbolism, inspiration, historical-context, name-significance, textual-history, wording-choice, title, and literary-device. A list of all tags can be found on our tags page, which has a search bar to help look up whether a tag exists.
- Don't add or create tags for literary movements, such as romanticism, naturalism, or modernism.
If you miss a tag, especially a more obscure one (e.g. timeline), that's okay. Someone will add it for you, or ask if it applies.
Questions about multiple works
These tend to fall into two categories:
- Questions about two works (and how they relate to each other)
- Use author, work, and language tags for each work.
- Some common tags used for relationships are inspiration, intertextuality, and allusion.
- Add more applicable tags, as above.
- Questions about a group of works
- If the "group" is a series, then use author, series, and language tags.
- If the "group" is the works of an author, then use author and language tags.
- If the "group" is a class of literature (e.g. Renaissance plays), then history-of-literature and/or medium tags (e.g. theater) may be appropriate.
- Add more applicable tags, as above.
Questions looking for something based on partial information
These fall into two categories:
- Questions asking to identify a work based on incomplete information
- Questions asking to identify the source of a quote
- Use the tag quote-source. Please provide the entire quote and any context that you are aware of.
- As above, add author, language, and/or medium tags if known.
Questions that don’t fall into any of the above categories
You’ve got an unusual question! That’s not a problem with the question itself, as long as it is on-topic for our site. These kinds of questions are unique enough that we can’t provide guidance here. Try asking in chat, or searching the tags page for keywords from your question to see if any of them are tags.
What should I do if I need a tag but don’t have enough reputation to create it?
If there’s a tag that you want to use (following the above guidance), but you haven’t acquired 150 reputation yet, you will be unable to create it. Most commonly, the needed tag will be for an author or work that just hasn’t been represented in our questions yet.
What should you do? First, add as many pre-existing tags as you can. Then, you could post a comment on your question, or ask in chat, for a higher-reputation user to add the tag for you.
Potential tag-editors: if you're unsure whether a tag applies, comment on the question to query the asker if they think the tag applies. Or, ask in chat.
Note that there is a five-tag limit. If you can’t fit all the tags you want, try cutting out any that might be more tangential. Tag editors: consider carefully when adjusting the tags of a five-tag question, as the asker has likely chosen the tags with care.