I recently encountered a difference of opinion with regards to how the Usage guidance (excerpt) section of the Tag Wikis should be used. So I was advised to consult the community to discuss, and hopefully, to resolve the issue.
We need to decide how to use this Usage guidance (excerpt) section in order to move forward and create consistent, professional-looking tags pages. At the moment there seems to be some confusion as to what it is meant to be used for.

This is what we are discussing:
Image of Tag Wiki page
Image showing the Usage guidance (excerpt) section on the Tag Wiki edit page
You would have seen these excerpts beneath the tags on the tags page, when hovering over tags and when adding tags to a question.

The Different Uses

-Remember that we are part of a larger community and we have guides in-place and expectations to uphold. Your answer should reflect your interpretation of those guides and expectations.
I know it's a big post, but please try to read the whole thing before replying.

Should the Usage guidance (excerpt) section be used for;

A - A short explanation of the concept to which the tag is referring.
i.e. our current microphone tag's Usage guidance (excerpt):

a device that converts a physical vibration (such as sound) into an electrical signal, that can be stored and/or processed

B - A short guide on usage of the tag in our community (plus a short explanation (equal to 'A') for specialized tags)
i.e. A proposed Usage guidance (excerpt) for the microphone tag:

Indicates the question is directly or indirectly related to microphone usage, technique, issues and general advice. If it's possible, a more refined tag should also be added e.g. "microphone-technique", "microphone-stand" etc. "Do you like using the SM58?" or "What's your favorite mic?" are both Off-Topic. "Which mic do I need to capture low energy sounds?" is On-Topic.

These are just two examples to apprise you of the two uses that are available. 'A' simply explains the concept, any concept to which the tag refers,
while 'B' gives usage guidance for the tag and if the tag is specialized(see bottom), a brief explanation too.

In case you aren't sure what is mean't by "usage guidance", It means how the tag should be used in our community, what is the scope of the tag? It's basically a guide to anybody thinking of using the tag, but it also tells users what the tag name means to our community in particular.

What Do the Help Guides Tell Us?

I have scrolled the help guides on this subject and have found some very useful guidance on the matter.
This is how the help is worded on the actual edit page(above image):

"What Are Tag Wikis?

The usage guidance, or tag wiki excerpt, is a short blurb that describes when and why a tag should be used on this site specifically.

The full tag wiki is a detailed introduction to the topic, suitable as a destination for those curious about it: ...

While scouting around, I found a blog which is actually linked in the help dialogue above. It's a blog called "Redesigned Tags Page" By Jeff Atwood, Co-Founder (Emeritus) and it seems to be the de-facto guide according to a few tag-related answers I have read on Meta.SE. I recommend you read this, but here are a few direct quotes;

"The excerpt should define the shared quality of questions containing this tag — boiled down to a few short sentences."

"Avoid generically defining the concept behind a tag, unless it is highly specialized. The “email” tag, for example, does not need to explain what email is. I think we can safely assume most internet users know what email is; there’s no value in a boilerplate explanation of email to anyone."

"...if the tag is common knowledge — that is, if you walked up to any random person on the street and said the tag word to them, and they would know what you were talking about — then don’t bother explaining the tag at all. Stick to usage of the tag within your community in the excerpt."

Jeff Atwood, Co-Founder (Emeritus)

From this it seems we should declare the usage for the tag only, unless the tag refers to something "highly specialized", in which case a small explanation is suggested along with usage guidance.

Other SE communities

For those of you who would like to see what other communities are doing, rather than interpreting the SE guides alone, I've looked into a few of them.

As the email tag is mentioned in that blog, I thought the real email tag would be relevant here.
So I checked on the 'mother site', Stack Overflow and on Server Fault too to see how they use the Usage guidance (excerpt) section.

SO - email tag:

Email is a method of exchanging digital messages from a sender to one or more recipients. Posting to ask why the emails you send are marked as spam is off topic for StackOverflow

SF - email tag:

The server configuration of email, including POP3, SMTP, IMAP, and popular server software packages that control email.

So SO appears to have done one of the things the blog said not to do, which was to explain a boilerplate explanation of what 'email' is, but they do also include question advice relating to the tag.
While SF on the other hand has explained in a short sentence what the email tag means to their community, listing the server protocols with regards to email, giving users a defined scope on which to base their use of the tag.

So I continued my common tag search on other popular SE sites and found that most Usage guidance (excerpt) dialogue starts with "use for" or words of a similar meaning:

But there are communities who seem to use it as SO does:

Could it be, however, that these sites simply have more specialized tags that need explanation? Take a look and see what you think.

Strangely, our friends over in Video Production seem to explain not only specialized concepts, but every concept... even video:

Video is the technology of electronically manipulating still images that represent motion.

Specialized Tag

I suppose one of the bigger questions here is what constitutes a specialized tag? Well, to make things easier, we will define a specialized tag as Jeff Atwood's blog does;

Specialized tag:
"If you walked up to any random person on the street and said the tag word to them, and they would know what you were talking about" [then the tag is not specialized]

So I put it to you, fellow members, to help make this decision. We need to have a full understanding within the community of what the tag wiki Usage Guidance (excerpt) is for, so we can have professional, consistent tag pages.

  • Funny enough, I was going to use the tags tag, but there was no usage guidance defining scope, so I was unsure and left it. I thought it might be only for tag requests or edits. True story.
    – n00dles Mod
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 20:35

2 Answers 2


Personally, I have no objection to either approach. I think either can be useful, however I think it is noteworthy that even major tags on SO have not been redone under the type B approach, so it doesn't seem that reworking as the second type is something we "need" to do.

We've been using case A and I don't really see any strong need to switch to B as I don't think the contextual use of the tags is unclear for the ones that are currently written. Both cases are used throughout the network, so without a stronger need to switch, I don't see why it is worth the effort to do so.


I think it's pretty clear form all the official guides and help gathered that the correct use is use B.

I think the confusion has come from sites like Video Production using it incorrectly. Maybe the fact that we were once one community with VP(AVP) explains how we assumed the incorrect usage.

If we want to change to the correct usage, we are better off doing it now, while there are hardly any excerpt write-ups. If you look at the tags pages, it woulds take very little effort at the moment. I'd be more than happy to do it myself, because I know it would help this community. I think we need to make these changes in order to better the site.

I don't think explaining what a speaker is helps anyone. I think explaining the scope of the tag helps everyone (i.e. professional use, monitor, PA etc, not Hi-Fi etc).

I feel I should also remind members that specialized tags, e.g, midi, audacity, di-box, dac, daw etc are fine as they are. They tend to define their own scope.

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