Archive FAQ > Tags

What is a tag?

A tag is a keyword or phrase that provides information about a work, and can be made by anyone creating content such as works or bookmarks on the Archive of Our Own (AO3). These tags are used to specify which Rating, Warnings, Fandoms, Categories, Characters, and Relationships apply. Other information can be added using Additional Tags. For clarification on what these kinds of tags mean, check out What are the different types of tags?

Tags also allow you to search or filter works. Selecting a tag will automatically return all works or bookmarks on the site that are using that specific tag, or the canonical tag it's been linked to. This is a little different to how tags work on other websites. Please check out How do canonical tags work? for more information.

How are tags organized?

Tags are organized by tag wranglers (volunteers in the Tag Wrangling committee) according to the Wrangling Guidelines.

Tag wranglers build tag relationships which nest in the following structure:

  • Media - TV Shows
    • Fandom - 쓸쓸하고 찬란하神 - 도깨비 | Goblin (TV)
      • Characters - Choi Tae Hee, Happy (Goblin), Kim Sun | Sunny
        • Relationships - Choi Tae Hee/Ji Eun Tak, Kim Sun | Sunny/Wang Yeo | Grim Reaper
      • Additional Tags - Inspired by Goblin (K-drama)

Tag wranglers are responsible for creating and properly formatting canonical tags. They also attach tags referring to the same fandoms, characters, relationships, or additional information to canonical tags. For a more in-depth explanation about canonical tags and what they do on the Archive of Our Own (AO3), refer to How do canonical tags work?

How are tags that aren't in English organized?

Tags are made canonical according to the Archive of Our Own (AO3) Wrangling Guidelines. Generally, the guidelines are designed to describe the most common form of a tag, but this isn't always the case. For example, fandoms and characters from non-English sources often include the original language transliterated in Latin characters.

You are welcome to create tags (and works!) in whatever language you wish. However, due to technical and human resource limitations, tags are organized in the Latin script and according to their meaning in English. When you create a tag in a language other than English, it's translated or transliterated by our volunteers and then organized the same way it would be in English. Refer to How are tags organized? for more information.

For example:

  • If you post a work in Spanish and you tag with muerte temporal de personajes this will be translated and then made synonymous with the English canonical tag Temporary Character Death.
  • If you post a work in Chinese and use the relationship tag 沈巍/赵云澜, this is transliterated in Latin characters and made synonymous with the Shěn Wēi/Zhào Yúnlán relationship tag.

Why can't I find a tag I want to use?

Tags must be attached to a work or bookmark before they appear in the Archive of Our Own (AO3). Additionally, only canonical tags will appear in autocomplete fields. (For more about these, check out How do canonical tags work?)

If you can't find a tag that you want to use, you can create a new one yourself. Simply ignore any autocomplete suggestions and enter the tag in full. Make sure you use "Enter" on your keyboard, or insert a comma after each tag! You can repeat this process until you have all desired tags listed. Check out How do I tag my works to make them easy to find? for tips.

What are the different types of tags?

Each Archive of Our Own (AO3) tag belongs to one of several different types. Each type of tag communicates different information to users.

Ratings measure the intensity of a work's content and give users an idea of a work's suitability for them. The ratings and their definitions are as follows:
Not Rated
This is the default option. For searching, screening, and other AO3 functions, this may get treated the same way as mature and explicit-rated content.
General Audiences
The content is unlikely to be disturbing to anyone, and is suitable for all ages.
Teen And Up Audiences
The content may be inappropriate for audiences under 13.
The content contains adult themes (sex, violence, etc.) that aren't as graphic as explicit-rated content.
The content contains explicit adult themes, such as porn, graphic violence, etc.
Accessing a Not Rated, Mature, or Explicit rated work will show a warning that the work may contain adult content. The warning can be turned off in your preferences; refer to How can I turn off the confirmation to access adult content? for details.

If a work isn't rated appropriately, it may be reported to the Policy & Abuse committee in accordance with the Terms of Service.
Archive Warnings
AO3 requires that creators either warn for—or explicitly choose not to warn for—a short list of common warnings: Graphic Depictions of Violence, Major Character Death, Rape/Non-Con, and Underage. We've also provided options to warn for other content in the Additional Tags or to not warn for content at all. The warnings and their definitions are as follows:
Graphic Depictions Of Violence
The content contains gory, graphic, explicitly described violence.
Major Character Death
The content contains the death of a major character. Whether or not a character counts as a major character is up to the creator's discretion.
The content contains non-consensual sexual activity.
The content contains graphic descriptions or depictions of sexual activity by characters under the age of eighteen.
A creator can also select Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings if warnings may apply but they don't want to use them (for example, to avoid spoilers), or No Archive Warnings Apply if none of the warnings apply to their content.

If a work isn't tagged with appropriate warnings, it may be reported to the Policy & Abuse committee, in accordance with the Terms of Service.
Category tags indicate what kind of romantic and/or sexual relationships are depicted in the work. The available categories are:
Female/Female relationships.
Female/Male relationships.
General: no romantic or sexual relationships, or relationships which aren't the main focus of the work.
Male/Male relationships.
More than one kind of relationship or a relationship with multiple partners.
Relationships not covered by the other categories.
Fandom tags specify the source material for the work in question. Works and bookmarks tagged with a fandom will appear in the listings for the fandom's canonical tag.

Multiple fandom tags, separated by commas, may be added to the same work, as long as those fandoms are represented in the work. These works will appear in the fandom tags' listings, and will generally be filterable as crossovers.

If a work is tagged with fandoms that aren't represented in the work, it may be reported to the Policy & Abuse committee, in accordance with the Terms of Service.
Relationship tags specify which characters are involved in a romantic or platonic relationship in the work. Canonical relationship tags are generally listed using the full names of the characters involved (for example, Elizabeth Bennet/Fitzwilliam Darcy or Alphonse Elric & Edward Elric). Different relationship tags must be separated by commas and can involve more than two characters, but a single relationship tag can't be both romantic and platonic. For details on how to differentiate between romantic and platonic relationships in your tags, refer to How do I tag a romantic or platonic relationship?
Character tags specify one or more characters who appear in the work. Full names (personal name and family name) are preferred to avoid ambiguity. Characters with only one known name will often be canonized with the fandom in parentheses for the same reason—for example Gabriel (Ghost in the Shell), Gabriel (Good Omens) or Gabriel (Supernatural).

If you are including original characters, you can choose to use the existing tags for those—just start entering "original character" for a list. Different character names must be separated by commas and any number of character tags can be added to a work.

Canonical character tags are created following specific guidelines, so they may be different than you'd expect, depending on the fandom. For more details about which tags are made canonical, refer to How do canonical tags work?
Additional Tags
Additional (or freeform) tags cover any details not specified by other categories, including any warnings for content not covered by the Archive Warnings. Useful additional tags indicate things like genre of the work, fandom concepts contained in the work, the community the work was created for, when the work takes place in relation to the source material, or fandom-specific locations or concepts. These tags are also used to modify character or relationship tags; for example, Cole Cassidy (Overwatch) is a canonical character tag, but for works about him as a merperson, the additional tag Merperson Cole Cassidy (Overwatch) exists. Additional tags aren't attached to character or relationship tags. For more information about how tags relate to and filter content, go to How do I tag my works to make them easy to find?

How do canonical tags work?

Canonical tags appear in the filtering features on Archive of Our Own (AO3)—that means they appear in the autocomplete when creating works or bookmarks, and when searching and filtering for works. Tag wranglers give tags connections which put them into context. For example, we assign character tags to fandom tags and make them canonical so that when you post works for that fandom, characters belonging to it appear first in the autocomplete.

Generally speaking, the most unambiguous, accessible form of a tag is made canonical and all other tags referring to the same concept are linked to it as synonymous tags. Searching for or selecting a synonymous tag will find results from the canonical tag and all tags attached to it. Canonical relationship tags usually list the characters involved in alphabetical order by surname, with a few exceptions. Check out the Wrangling Guidelines - Relationships for more details.

For example:

  • Users enter Shakespeare/Nobunaga, Shakesnaga, William Shakespeare/Oda Nobunaga.
  • Tag wranglers create Oda Nobunaga/William Shakespeare as a canonical tag and link any other synonymous tags to it.
  • Oda Nobunaga/William Shakespeare appears in filters and on the Post New Work autocomplete fields. Searching on this tag will also find all works that use tags linked to the canonical tag, such as Shakespeare/Nobunaga, Shakesnaga, William Shakespeare/Oda Nobunaga.

Some tags are too ambiguous to be assigned a specific fandom, but are used so frequently that tag wranglers do need to make them canonical. On these occasions, we create a metatag that collects all the related tags together. For example, the tag Bianca could refer to Bianca from Dragon Age, Bianca Reyes from Blue Beetle, or several other Biancas. If a user inputs just Bianca, this is then linked by tag wranglers to the other Biancas we know about, but it can't be connected to a single fandom.

There may be other reasons for tag wranglers to choose to create metatags as well. For in-depth information on how this works, you can check out the Wrangling Guidelines - Metatags.

You aren't required to use canonical tags for your fandoms, characters, relationships, or additional tags; however, using canonical tags ensures works and bookmarks show up in the correct filters right away.

To learn more about the different types of tags, go to What are the different types of tags?

What format can tags have?

Tags on the Archive of Our Own (AO3) may be up to 100 characters long and can include characters from most languages, numbers, spaces, and some punctuation. Tags can't contain commas as they are used by AO3 to separate tags. This means that tags including commas will be automatically split, resulting in multiple tags.

There are some technical limitations when it comes to using diacritics or capital letters to distinguish tags from each other. Refer to Why did the capitalization or diacritics on my tag change when I saved my work? for more on this.

What is a "Favorite Tag" and how can I use it?

When you're logged in, you can add a tag as a favorite tag, which will then show up on your homepage, providing quick access to works that use the tag.

To add a favorite tag, select the tag to navigate to its works listing and then select the "Favorite Tag" button towards the top of the page. You can add a maximum of 20 tags to your favorite tags list.

To remove a favorite, return to the tag's works listing and select the button again, which will now be "Unfavorite Tag".

How do I tag my works to make them easy to find?

You can tag the works you create with whatever tags you think fit your work best. Where possible, tags with related concepts are linked together by our tag wranglers, so that users can easily find your work when they use our search, browse, and filter features. For a simple explanation of how we do this, refer to How are tags organized?

There are a few things you can keep in mind if you want to make the most of those features and attract interested users to your work.

The quickest way to ensure your work is easy to find is to use tags that already exist on Archive of Our Own (AO3). Start entering a term in the Fandom, Characters, Relationships, or Additional Tags fields, and the autocomplete will offer suggestions of canonical tags that match. If you find a tag in this list that fits your work, go ahead and add it!

However, sometimes you won't find anything in the autocomplete that really matches what your work is about. That's fine; users on AO3 can create new tags!

When creating new tags, it's important to be aware that all tags on the AO3 are shared—there are no two identical tags. This means that if a user in one fandom tags their work with Hiro as a character tag, they're using the same tag as every other work tagged with Hiro, and vice versa. Anything that happens to a tag will affect every work tagged with it. For example, tag wranglers won't link Hiro directly to Big Hero 6's Hiro Hamada, even if it's clear that's who you mean, because it might be equally clear that another user has used Hiro to mean Heroes' Hiro Nakamura. Making your tags as clear and specific as possible will help others find your work in the long run.

With this information in mind, you can take the following steps to maximize the value of the tags you include on your work:

  • Enter your tags in the correct tag categories when posting your works. That is, fandom names go in the Fandoms field, relationships listed in the Relationships field, and character names in the Characters field. For anything that doesn't fit well into those categories, use Additional Tags.
  • Ensure your tags are correctly separated. When you enter a number of tags, they can be separated by commas or you can use "Enter" on your keyboard. Be aware that the comma separator behavior means you can't enter any one tag that contains a comma; it will be split into two tags.
  • Ensure each tag contains just one concept (one fandom, one character, one relationship, one trope, etc.)
  • Ensure tags can stand alone (that is, no additional context is required to understand what the tag refers to). Like the Hiro example in the previous paragraph, that includes using full names for characters.
  • Use the Additional Tags field to include any themes, genres, tropes, squicks, triggers etc. that you think a user might want to know when deciding whether to access your work or not.
  • Spell-check and double-check your tags before posting.

In celebration of AO3 reaching 30,000 canonised fandoms, tag wranglers put together a list of tips on accurately tagging your works, which you might find useful. You may also want to check out other questions in this FAQ for more information on any parts of tagging that are specific to your needs.

How do I tag my bookmarks?

Bookmarks automatically include all the tags the work's creator used. If you'd like to add more tags, you can use the "Your Tags" field. If you begin entering your tag, suggestions will appear in the autocomplete. You can choose an existing canonical tag from this list or ignore these and enter the tag in full. Make sure you use "Enter" on your keyboard, or insert a comma after each tag. You can edit or delete any tags you've added by editing your bookmark.

For more information on bookmarks, please refer to the Bookmarks FAQ.

How do I tag crossovers and fusions?

You can tag works which contain content relating to two or more different fandoms with each relevant fandom, separated by commas. These works will appear in the fandom tags' listings and be filterable as crossovers. You may also tag with the Additional Tags Crossover or Alternate Universe - Fusion to show how the fandoms are related in the work.

For clarification on the difference between fandom tags and additional tags, refer to What are the different types of tags?

How do I tag Real Person Fiction (RPF)?

RPF fandoms work the same as any other fandom, except the characters are real people rather than fictional ones. All you need to do is tag with the appropriate fandom, which is usually based on the group the characters belong to, like a sports team or band. If the link between people is less obvious (such as actors from a TV or film franchise, a selection of actors being fancast for a franchise, or radio hosts from a particular station), the fandom tag will usually be the factor that ties the actors together plus the RPF acronym.

For example, Jeon Jungkook is a musician, who's a member of the band 방탄소년단 | Bangtan Boys | BTS. That means works about him are RPF, but the band is a clear group of specific people, so it doesn't need the RPF acronym. Tags for actors may go into multiple RPF fandoms, such as Lee Pace, an actor who's been in several different franchises. His tag is part of Halt and Catch Fire RPF, Marvel Cinematic Universe RPF, Pushing Daisies RPF, The Hobbit RPF, and American (US) Actor RPF fandoms. American (US) Actor RPF is the best tag to use if no other people from the more specific fandoms appear in your work.

Fanworks about actors in a film or TV series shouldn't be tagged with the fandom tag for that film or TV series. When tagging on the Archive of Our Own (AO3), the RPF tags should be used for works that don't take place in or involve characters from the fictional universe. What this means is that if your work is about Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, the correct fandom tag is Supernatural RPF, not Supernatural, which is the tag for the fictional universe.

For clarification about how your tags are sorted in the background, go to How do I tag my works to make them easy to find?

How do I tag a romantic or platonic relationship?

Romantic and/or sexual relationships are indicated by using a slash ("/") separator (for example, Mickey Mouse/Minnie Mouse). Nonsexual, non-romantic relationships—such as platonic relationships between friends, family, teammates, etc.—are indicated with an "&" separator (for example, Hinata Shouyou & Kozume Kenma).

Platonic and romantic relationship tags are separate, so searching and filtering by Aerith Gainsborough & Sephiroth won't show results tagged with Aerith Gainsborough/Sephiroth unless both tags are added to the particular work or bookmark.

Relationship tags can feature more than two characters but shouldn't refer to both a romantic relationship and a platonic relationship at the same time. For example, you could tag Envy Adams/Ramona Flowers/Kim Pine or Mark Cohen & Thomas B. Collins & Angel Dumott Schunard, and tag wranglers could make those relationships canonical. However Katsuki Hiroko/Katsuki Toshiya & Katsuki Mari & Katsuki Yuuri couldn't become canonical as it mixes romantic and platonic indicators.

Why did the capitalization or diacritics on my tag change when I saved my work?

The database treats all versions of a letter as the same character, regardless of whether they are uppercase, lowercase, or have diacritical marks. For example, Wiedźmin and Wiedzmin are considered the same tag. Therefore, tags are displayed with the capitalization and diacritics chosen by the first person to use that tag. This is a technical limitation that tag wranglers can't change.

The only exception is when tag wranglers canonize a tag. At that time, they're allowed to change the capitalization and/or diacritics to match the Wrangling Guidelines.

Why does my work appear in listings for tags I didn't use?

In order to make searching, browsing, and posting as easy and efficient as possible, we connect tags that refer to the same things. This means you might find your work appearing in the listings for the canonical version of the tag, but the tag you entered will always display on your work and can still be found in searches.

You might also find your work listed in a more general tag than what you used, which happens when tag wranglers create a metatag to link together related fandoms. For example, a work posted in Tales of Destiny will also show in the listings for Tales of Series because Tales of Destiny is related to (and therefore a subtag of) Tales of Series. This is true for all metatags and means you don't need to tag your work with the metatag fandom, though you can if you want to!

For more information, refer to How do canonical tags work? and Wrangling Guidelines - First Principles.

Why isn't my fandom tag in the right media category?

When a new fandom tag is added to the Archive of Our Own (AO3), it's automatically added to the category Uncategorized Fandoms. If tag wranglers haven't yet moved your fandom tag into the right category, it should show up there.

If your tag isn't under Uncategorized Fandoms and it's not under the category you expected (for example, you think it should be under TV Shows and it's under Movies), it may mean that a mistake was made by our volunteer tag wranglers when they were categorizing it. Please contact the Tag Wrangling committee through the Support and Feedback form or via the tag wranglers' Twitter account, @ao3_wranglers, and give them details of the problem and the URL of the work you used the tag on.

If your fandom isn't appearing at all, in any category, it may mean that we were unable to make it filterable. Below are some common ways to help make your fandom tag filterable.

  • Enter fandoms. For tag categorization, the fandom is the source media your work is drawing from. Characters or relationships entered into this field will be made synonymous with the relevant fandom where possible. Other concepts entered in this field might not be filterable.
  • Enter the full name of your fandom. Abbreviations may be ambiguous, which means we are unable to properly connect it to its canonical fandom tag.
  • Separate fandoms with commas. Fandoms separated with spaces or other punctuation may merge into a single tag. Tags can't be connected together if they represent more than one fandom or concept.
  • If you have a crossover or fusion, enter all fandoms separately. If you like, you can use the additional tags field to indicate how they relate to each other in the work (i.e. Crossover or Alternate Universe - Fusion).

For more information, refer to Wrangling Guidelines - Fandoms. You may also find How are tags organized?, How do canonical tags work?, How do I tag my works to make them easy to find?, How do I tag crossovers?, and How do I tag Real Person Fiction (RPF)? useful.

What do "- Ambiguous Fandom" and "- All Media Types" mean?

An "- Ambiguous Fandom" suffix refers to a fandom name that's shared between multiple unrelated fandoms. These fandom names are ambiguous because it's unclear which fandom they refer to. One example is The Eagle - Ambiguous Fandom, which could refer to the Eagle of the Ninth movie or the Ørnen: En krimi-odyssé series (which is translated into English as "The Eagle"). Since a work tagged with "The Eagle" could refer to either of these fandoms, the tag is considered "ambiguous". If you want to be sure other users find your work, using more specific, unambiguous tags will help.

An "- All Media Types" suffix refers to a fandom metatag that connects several fandoms from the same franchise together: for example, Les Misérables - All Media Types collects the book, the musical, the movies, and more. When tagging your work in a fandom with metatags, keep in mind that using a subtag automatically includes your work in the metatag, so you don't need to add the metatag yourself. For example, tagging with Les Misérables - Schönberg/Boublil automatically adds your work to the Les Misérables - All Media Types filter.

Due to changes in the Wrangling Guidelines new tags of this type are no longer created, but several still exist on the Archive. For more information on how canonical tags are created and linked, go to How do canonical tags work?.

Why do some tags appear with "- Freeform" or "- Character" after them?

Tag names must be unique, and each tag can belong to only one category. This means that if a tag exists in one category and is then used in another, the name of the category of the new tag is automatically added as a suffix.

For example:

  • Buffyfan1 enters Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a fandom tag. A new tag is created.
  • Buffyfan2 enters Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a character tag. However, this tag name is taken and can't be reused, so it's changed to Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Character.

Can my tags be changed by someone other than me?

With a few very specific exceptions, we won't modify your tags on your own works or bookmarks. (You, of course, can change any of your tags whenever you like! Check out How do I edit the tags on a work? for help with this.)

The following exceptions will only ever be made in accordance with the site's Terms of Service and the Wrangling Guidelines:

We may change the language tag.
If your work is tagged with an incorrect language and you don't respond to our request to edit it yourself, we may make this change for you to ensure users are able to accurately filter works by their chosen language.
We may remove an incorrect fandom tag.
If your work has been tagged with a fandom that isn't represented in your work and you don't respond to our request to change it yourself, we may remove the incorrect fandom tag. Because works are required to contain at least one fandom tag, if the incorrect tag is the only fandom tag on the work we may change it to Unspecified fandom, otherwise we will never add a fandom tag.

One of the more common errors users make with fandom tags is to tag RPF works in the fictional fandom (or vice versa). Check out How do I tag Real Person Fiction (RPF)? for help with this.
We may adjust the capitalization of a tag.
Most canonical tags are capitalized, so canonical tags starting with a lower-case letter may be capitalized for consistency.
We may change diacritics.
Archive of Our Own (AO3) code reads "a", "à", and "å" as the same letter, so tags may be changed to add or remove the appropriate diacritics. Refer to Why did the capitalization or diacritics on my tag change when I saved my work?
We may swap system-created suffixes.
We avoid having suffixes on canonical tags, so we may swap it with its non-canonical counterpart. For example, you may notice your fandom tag Nero Wolfe become Nero Wolfe - Fandom so the character tag Nero Wolfe - Character can lose its suffix and be made canonical. Refer to Why do some tags appear with "- Freeform" or "- Character" after them? for more information.

I think a user has tagged their work wrong. Can you fix it?

Other than the specific situations outlined in Can my tags be changed by someone other than me?, or if a tag is found to have violated the Terms of Service in some way, we will never change the tags on a work or bookmark.

If you believe a work's tags violate the Terms of Service, please contact Policy & Abuse.

I think a tag has a mistake, what can I do?

If you find a tag you believe has been wrangled incorrectly, you can contact Support or the tag wranglers' Twitter account, @ao3_wranglers. The Tag Wrangling committee will review the way the tag has been wrangled and make changes where required. This won't alter the tags on users' works, but if tag wranglers agree, the tag's form in the autocomplete, filters, and RSS feeds will change.

I'm running a challenge, and I need tags that don't exist yet.

If you're running a gift exchange or prompt meme, you can use Tag Sets to create any tags you need that aren't on the Archive of Our Own (AO3) already. For more information, check out the Tag Sets FAQ or contact Support.

I have another question about how to tag my works.

The Archive of Our Own (AO3) tagging system is built to respect fan behavior while also providing useful search and filter capabilities. When in doubt, you can always tag your works in the way that makes the most sense to you. If you would like to understand how tags are organized in the background, you may find How are tags organized?, How do canonical tags work?, and the Wrangling Guidelines helpful.

You can also contact the Tag Wrangling committee through the Support and Feedback form or via the tag wranglers' Twitter account, @ao3_wranglers.

Where can I get more information if my question isn't answered here?

For more on how to apply tags, check out our Tutorial: Posting a Work on AO3, Bookmarks FAQ, and Wrangling Guidelines. For more information on Tag Sets, refer to the Tag Sets FAQ.

Some frequently asked questions about the Archive are answered in other sections of the Archive FAQ, and some common terminology is defined in our Glossary. Questions and answers about our Terms of Service can be found in the Terms of Service FAQ. You may also like to check out our Known Issues. If you need more help, please submit a Support request.