Similar to What are good rules for naming menu items?, what are good tag naming conventions?

For example, should one pluralize the topic (wavelets) or always use the singular (wavelet)? Is it better to choose the shortest possible synonym or the least ambiguous (code c++ vs programming c++)? Should one use the active verb form (tagging) or the noun/name form (tags)?

To demonstrate I suppose somewhat ironically, I've tagged this question with both already available tags, tagging and tags.

  • 4
    I think this opens up a much larger debate as to how useful are tags in general. I think if you're sticking with the concept of tags, there's no rules. Duplicates/synonyms/etc are likely inevitable unless you implement some form of human or AI curating. If you're looking at locking down the terms, I'd call that a categorization system rather than tags, where the primary difference is the curation happens BEFORE users interact with them.
    – DA01
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 0:45

4 Answers 4


Tags are folksonomy, so as DA01 rightly points out, you don't prescribe them. Typically if they are prescribed they will be categories.

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    Tagging is a particular way to categorize information, but it doesn't dictate that a folksonomy is the only way to build the inventory of tags. I think there are valid cases for closed inventories, especially in cases that value consistency over actual diversity of vocabulary. Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 4:11
  • True ... that's why I said 'typically' as you certainly can have a closed tagging system, providing pre-determined values while allowing users to choose. Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 7:13

Tags should fit in the following sentence:

This item is about _________.

This simple and useful guideline came from UXExchange, the precursor of ux.stackexchange.com. (I came up with it, so of course I think it's useful.)

So "tagging" would be for an item about the process of tagging, "tags" would be for an item about the actual tags themselves, and "tag" would be for an item about a children's game.

(This applies to the most common use of tags, which is as topic descriptors (what the item is about, as opposed to a category describing what the item is).)

Of course, nothing is foolproof and people will just do whatever they want. But while tags are meant to be user-generated, it is a good idea to give some guidance in choosing tags so you don't end up with 214 "tagging" items, 301 "tags" and 253 "tag". At least a simple guideline like this may help keep your tags a bit more consistent and useful.

  • 1
    Nice use of double parentheses
    – Emil
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 4:16

I would advise you not to make rules for tagging. The whole point of tagging is that it's flexible and mostly user generated. For avoiding typos you could implement auto-completion.


Don't allow spaces. For example: "objective-c" not "objective c", "web-development" not "web development".

  • ... because then you can use a space as a delimiter when inputting multiple tags? Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 0:31
  • But then you get CamelCase Infestation in non-tech folksonomies…
    – Oliver
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 20:04

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