This site, despite being around for nearly a decade, doesn't seem to actually have a broad, general principle/philosophy to tagging. By this, I mean that there lacks a certain kind of foundation or guideline to what each tag is, when it should be tagged, and why it should be tagged that way. Additionally, this site seems to lack how a question should be tagged.

For example, in Literature SE, we have a very consistent tagging method, but the reasons for a certain group of tags to exist answers the four questions above. Let's take one of our more unique tags, which are our usage of the language tags (french-literature, german-literature, etc. etc.).

  • What (description of tag in the excerpt): "For questions originally written in X language, regardless of where it was initially published."
  • When: The category of language tags should be used when asking about any work of literature written in a language other than English
  • Why: The addition of language tags was proposed to better help "experts" find their specialty of work. Language tags are really helpful with this process, because a German speaker, for example, may help clarify a translation that might've otherwise been confusing. Without that tag, one might never know that work was originally in German or the question could be answered by someone with knowledge of the German language/culture.

It's not to say that Literature SE's tagging system is perfect nor that we never have disagreements. The important thing though, is that we have a point of reference we can turn to. The main question we always ask is, "Does this tag help an expert identify a question they can answer", "is this tag potentially too broad", and "do we really need that tag?"

What is the philosophy/principle of tagging that is specific to BHSE here? Each site has its own unique quirks to how something should be tagged, but there seems to be both a lack of a baseline of the rules to tagging, inconsistency to how tags are used (even when the tags themselves give directions on how to use and how not to use it!) and seemingly haphazard creation of tags that seem to follow no rule in its creation.

One user described the tagging process like this:
"I'd summarise it as: 1) tag the book of the Bible 2) tag a translation if that's relevant, or greek/hebrew 3) tag an approach to interpretation (source/textual-criticism/historical/etc) 4) add anything else you think is relevant and that might help you find other related questions".

That #4 is a bit problematic. That means I can virtually create any type of tags that I think are appropriate, without what seems to be many restrictions on how or why that tag should be implemented. The tagging principle, from my understanding, was "create the tags you want, and if it causes problems then we discuss in the meta".

And even with some basic guidelines, these tagging methods are not applied consistently! This question's pending suggestion, a quite experienced user (from the looks of it) rejected the edit despite the question needing neither the nor the .

"This [new testament] tag is reserved for questions related to a collection of texts within the New Testament rather than only one individual text within this collection"

"Questions may refer to narratives unique to a gospel or shared between gospels."

And is there a reason why it has the ? Why do we have people tags anyway? A lot of existing tags have either zero usage guidance or just a description of that tag rather than any real information on how the tag should be used. Questions seem to be tagged incorrectly, or at least just redundantly, and important tags are sometimes just missing.

I really would like to contribute to this community, but I can't even make excerpts or edit any, because I have no clue on why the tag exists or what the tag is for! There's a lot of ambiguity, and at least a set of principles that govern the creation and usage of the tag would be good.

A very relevant meta post:

(I've attached meta posts related to tags from Literature SE metas as well. I think these provide a strong reference point by what I mean by "tagging philosophy". Literature SE doesn't have a specific meta post dedicated to tagging philosophy, but the questions are about a broad category of tags rather than just individual tags, which seems to be a lot of the meta posts regarding tags around here.)

There's a very similar question that was asked by Jon Ericson, except it deals with secondary tags and also what to do with some tags that were hotly debated. I'm asking here for a general philosophy in all tags, not just secondary tags. With that being said, I think I would also like an answer to Jon's question on secondary tags, especially in terms of organizing the tags.

  • 1
    I'm glad you are interested in sorting out our tagging system. I've seen a lot of different approaches on other sites and it's good to think about. As a reader, I really want the title of the book (and it's handy that is a finite universe). But other than that . . . I don't know if it matters too much. (Oh and hermeneutical-approaches is useful if the question is about technique that applies across the corpus of texts.) This isn't to dismiss the question, but more to ask what we are hoping to achieve with our tags. It helps to have fresh eyes for that question. Oct 21, 2020 at 17:28

1 Answer 1


One user described the tagging process like this: "I'd summarise it as: 1) tag the book of the Bible 2) tag a translation if that's relevant, or greek/hebrew 3) tag an approach to interpretation (source/textual-criticism/historical/etc) 4) add anything else you think is relevant and that might help you find other related questions".

This is a pretty helpful summary I think. Another person said this:

I am a fan of neat rules, but I do know that no tagging system is perfect. With that being said, I would just like to see principals here though

Of course that was you :) I'd like to propose "no tagging system is perfect" as a foundation of the tagging philosophy here — I want to suggest a few principles, but I'd hate them to be applied in a rigid way as if they were rules. We need wise tag curation by people who understand the (often competing) principles, and what tags are for, and use their discretion to weigh up the various factors.

Principle 1:

No tagging system is perfect. Weigh up and apply principles rather than looking for a neat or perfect solution that does't exist.

Principle 2:

Tags are for:

  • Enabling people to 'follow' a subset of questions.
  • Improving discoverability for people searching.

Principle 3:

Tags should not be:

  • too broad (like or anything else that would apply to a large proportion of the questions on the site
  • too narrow (like a person tag for ) — simpley searching for "Enoch" should be enough

Principle 4:

Most questions here are exegetical. Othere fall into a number of reasonably well-defined niches:

We don't want an "exegesis" tag (too broad) but usuallly, one of the other tags in this list should be applied

Principle 5:

Tag the book of the Bible if appropriate. Exegetical questions have to arise from a particular text, so will always have a book tag.

Principle 6:

For questions about a translation of a word/phrase, tag a translation or language (greek/hebrew/aramaic), whichever are relevent.

Principle 7:

Add relevent topic tags. Person tags like are in this category, along with tags like and

Principle 8:

Finally, apply these principles with complete confidence — there is no perfect tagging system, but there are many many cases where tags are blatently incorrect, so if you know these principles and are even trying to apply them, you are alomst certainly helping the site. If you get something wrong, someone else can fix it — that's how the system works!

  • what about for tags like marriage? Are those topic tags necessary? Oct 22, 2020 at 5:51
  • @NorthLæraðr No they're not necessary. But the question is if they're harmful?
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Oct 22, 2020 at 8:41
  • @Jack I'd move contradiction into principle 4 - contradiction reconciliation is its own niche.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Oct 22, 2020 at 8:41
  • @curiousdannii I guess the main question is "How do I know whether a tag is necessary, or if it is harmful?" Oct 22, 2020 at 14:10
  • @curiousdannii good point, edited. Oct 22, 2020 at 14:40
  • @NorthLæraðr and I think the answer is that it's harmful if it's too narrow, too broad or not something anyone ever wants to search or filter on. Conversely it's useful if it is something anyone ever wants to search or filter on — and there is a grey area in between where we can exercise discretion with perhaps a bit of leniency Oct 22, 2020 at 14:42
  • Oh, you should probably add that people should read the excerpt directions, especially for ones where there are instructions, like gospels or new-testament Oct 22, 2020 at 14:44
  • @NorthLæraðr when you say 'people', you mean the people curating questions/tags and doing the reviews, right? Oct 22, 2020 at 21:34
  • Right. But also for users putting the tags, if that's what you mean by curating Oct 22, 2020 at 21:43
  • There is no chance of persuading those people to read the excerpts @North — they are still useful for the small set of people who do of course, but there'll always be a retagging effort for the people watching incoming questions. Oct 23, 2020 at 7:43

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