Right now, the tag wiki excerpts for all of author tags are a confused mess: we really have two main formats for these types of tags that currently exist.

The first is something like this:

For questions about the works of T. S. Eliot or his life as a writer.

The second, which is one the format that I use (the tag wiki excerpt below is mine), is something like this:

For questions regarding the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the 19th century Russian journalist and author of such works as Crime and Punishment, and The Idiot.

Personally, I've been seeing far more of the first type of tag excerpt than the second one, and thus I've been editing many of them after the fact to make them more like the second. However, I'm really not sure if this is an even a productive effort. Does it matter if these author tags don't follow a standardized format? If they do, is the format I've created sufficient?

3 Answers 3


Here's what I recommend for any author going forward:

An author is a human. In common with all authors, is a couple things: they've all written various works, across different categories.

I believe that every author excerpt should include, at least, the following items:

  • Author Name
  • Nationality
  • Examples of well known works the author has written
  • Examples of topics or genres the author has written about
  • Maybe a fact or something about the author's life if we have space or if it may be important to know.

Bottom line, we want excerpts to give a brief overview of the author. We can't expect a biography, but it should give us some general sense of who the author is.

The next thing, like all excerpts, is usage guidance. What's the tag about? When should it be used? I won't exactly give any particular information here, since usage guidance varies from tag to tag. Generally speaking, you'll based any usage guidance on de facto site practices, or meta posts. If there are any quirks with the topic, be sure to include them - it's crucial information for any asker to know. I've made some general advice here.

As an example, I'll use Arundhati Roy, the author of The God of Small Things (as an example, and because I just recently read her book).

For questions about Arundhati Roy or her works, an Indian political activist and author most famously known for her essays and novel The God of Small Things.

I'll try and briefly answer a few of your questions:

Does it matter if these author tags don't follow a standardized format?

Yes. It's important. Standardization increases unity and transparency in the community, and developing a community approach is crucial for the site. For people who look at excerpts, it will be a way to ensure there is the basic information needed to illustrate an author to the casual reader.

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    Sorry, but I've downvoted this answer because you're talking about tag wiki excerpts without including usage guidance on your list of necessaries.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 23:51
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    Downvote reversed after your edit.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 0:02
  • @Randal'Thor I disagree with including verbiage like “For questions about …” in an excerpt. Excerpts are supposed to be short and to the point. The character limit is a limit meant to be reached only in extreme cases, it isn't a goal to aim for. “Arundhati Roy is an Indian political activist and author most famously known for her essays and novel ‘The God of Small Things‘” would be a much better excerpt. Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 22:29
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    @Gilles Under the principle that excerpts are for usage guidance, I prefer to link the content back to this site in some way if possible. Just giving a brief description of who the author is and what she wrote definitely isn't enough, because the excerpt should state clearly that the tag is for BOTH questions about her as an author AND questions about her works (unlike author tags on SFF, say).
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 23:16

The excerpt

The tag wiki excerpt MUST include usage guidance. In the case of author tags, that means specifying that the tag is to be used both for questions about the author themselves and for questions about any of their works. So a very simplistic tag such as the following is OK:

  • For questions about the author So-and-so or about any of their literary works.

  • For questions about the works of So-and-so or their life as a writer.

(I consistently favour the first of these two formats; Benjamin consistently favours the second. That's why you'll see these two all over the place.)

Extra information such as the author's nationality and a list of their works (the latter is especially important since it indicates related tags), provided it fits into the character limit for tag wiki excerpts, would be a very welcome addition, and a big improvement over the rather generic examples quotes above, but not essential for a workable excerpt.

The tag wiki

The full tag wiki should include a more detailed description of the subject of the tag. In this case, that means as much information about the author as you can be bothered to put. As a minimum, I would include:

  • their nationality;
  • their birth and death dates;
  • a general overview of the kind of literature they've written (e.g. poems, detective stories, romance novels, ...);
  • a list of some of their best-known works;
  • any literary awards they've won;
  • anything about their lives that you feel is interesting or relevant.

See also the quoted section at the bottom of my answer here, for general guidance on writing tag wikis and excerpts.

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    I feel like your examples and guidance for creating tag wiki excerpts will lead to excerpts that are both generic, uninteresting, and unhelpful. A tag about an author will undoubtedly be about the author and their works. Adding a bit of a personalized tone to a tag wiki excerpt can convey the meaning of the tag, and some information that is easily accessible. Excerpts are what people see when hovering over a tag - we can do a little bit better than simply saying "This tag is for the author's work" That's just my opinion on the excerpt.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 0:03
  • The tag wiki though, I think is pretty good! The only thing I'd add is to try and make it (or at least give it) a slight biographical tone. Where/How the author grew up, and things like that. Doesn't have to go to in-depth, but maybe adding "Life-experiences" or something would be simple enough to add to that list :)
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 0:04
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    @Zizouz212 "A tag about an author will undoubtedly be about the author and their works." - don't be so sure. Over on SFF, author tags are generally meant to be used only for questions about the author and not questions about their works. Remember, a tag wiki excerpt is just that: an excerpt. It's not supposed to give you a huge amount of info, and there's a fairly short character limit on it. That said, I do agree that extra information is nice and would improve the excerpt; I just don't think it's necessary for a workable excerpt. Edited my answer to reflect both of your points.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 0:10

We don't need to write author wikis—or excerpts!

There is very little gain by writing those excerpts. Unless there are dozens John Smiths writing stuff it's not necessary. A good taxonomy doesn't need generic excerpts of wikis for tags of the same type. A good taxonomy is clear - by meta consensus - what any author tag is for. Is it for questions about him or her, about his or her works or both. With that in mind there is no need to create hundreds of redundant excerpts and wikis.

Writing competing tag wiki (excerpts) is the first step towards a bad folksonomy. One defines an author tag as works-only, one as author's-life-only. Total mess achieved.

The only times we need excerpts is to solve disambiguation. Several people with the same name and so on. Names that could be confused with titles or something else.

Regarding tag wikis, there is really no need to write those at all. There is one place that does it better. It's called Wikipedia. Since we won't be describing what aspect of Shakespeare we are considering on-topic besides the above mentioned works/life thing (which would fit in the excerpt) there is no gain whatsoever in creating a tag wiki.

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