Wrangling Guidelines > Wrangling Guidelines - Intro and General Concepts


This series of documents (Wrangling Guidelines) are intended to help tag wranglers remain consistent as they go about the business of wrangling tags by providing a set of formatting guidelines. The idea is to standardize canonical tags and synonym relationships as much as possible, while keeping in mind that different fandoms (and people) organize information about their fandoms differently. The aim, then, is not a perfect tagging scheme, but clarity, differentiation between similar tags with different concepts, prevention of single tags with different meanings, and ease of use for as many people as possible.

It is important to keep in mind that these guidelines are specifically for the wranglers to use when connecting tags together. They are in no way meant to recommend or promote any particular tags, and while you are welcome to follow these guidelines when tagging, you are encouraged to use whatever form of tags you prefer. You as a creator or bookmarker can tag the works you create or bookmark with whatever tags you think fit best—wranglers can't change the tags you choose for your works and bookmarks!

These guidelines are an in-progress affair, subject to change. If you have an issue with a specific guideline, or find a contradiction in the guidelines as posted here, please contact the Tag Wrangling Committee Supervisors by submitting a Support ticket or tweeting us at @ao3_wranglers.

Please Note: these guidelines are presently intended for use in the English language interface of the archive only, and will need to be modified for use when interface translation is added.


These are some of the terms we've used around the site while wrangling. In several places, we've found legacy terms on the code—we've listed theses extra terms in parentheses. We're in the process of reviewing all of these terms for maximum clarity, so they may change in the future—if they do, we'll make sure to update them here!

Fandom tag:
A tag for a specific fandom. More information on Fandom tag wrangling can be found at the specific guidelines.
Character tag:
A tag for a specific character or group of characters treated as a single entity. More information on Character tag wrangling can be found at the specific guidelines.
Relationship tag:
Relationship tags on the Archive can involve two or more individuals, and be used for platonic, romantic, or sexual relationships. More information on Relationship tag wrangling can be found at the specific guidelines.
Additional tag (Freeform tag):
Additional tags are added by the creator of a work to provide information they feel is important to the work. These can include warnings, tropes, and commentary. More information on Additional tag wrangling can be found at the specific guidelines.
Canonical tag (Common tag):
A canonical tag is the master tag for a group of synonyms. Canonical tags will appear in the auto-complete and the filters. (Non-canonical tags won't appear in either tool, but you can use the Works Search to find works using them.) All synonyms in a group will lead to a Canonical tag. 'Canonizing' or 'canonicalizing' both refer to making a tag into a canonical.
Synonym (Merged tag):
A synonymous tag is a tag that shares its meaning with other tags and is attached to a canonical tag. This includes tags that are related concepts, spelling variations, or shortened or expanded names. When a user clicks on any synonym in a group, the filter will bring up the merged Canonical tag and all its other synonyms. Sometimes shortened to 'syn' and used as a verb, e.g. 'syn AU to "Alternate Universe".
Disambiguated tag:
Adding a qualifier to a canonical tag to distinguish it from a different but similarly named tagged (e.g. "X-men (Movies)" vs "X-men (Comics)"); sometimes shortened to 'disambig' and used as a verb. Fandoms are disambiguated by media, year, and country of broadcast or publication; other tags are disambiguated by fandom. Some tags that have a duplicate form in another category will have a "- Fandom", "- Character", "- Relationship", or "- Freeform" automatically added by the database.
Ambiguous tag:
A tag that is unclear or has been used in different fandoms, e.g. "The Avengers" being used for both the British spy series and the comic book and movie. An ambiguous tag will usually be turned into a metatag, with disambiguated versions as subtags.
Parent tag:
These show which group or category a tag belongs to. Fandoms will have their media types as their parent tags. Other tags will have their fandoms as their parents.
Child tag:
The opposite of parent tags.
A canonical tag with subtags under it, used to group together similar but not synonymous terms. When a user filters by a metatag, all works tagged with both the metatag (and its synonyms) and subtag (and its synonyms) appear. Some metatags link related fandoms or characters, e.g. "Star Trek", while others serve as ambiguous tags collecting unrelated terms, e.g. "The Avengers". More information on Metatag wrangling can be found at the specific guidelines.
A canonical tag with a metatag over it. When a user filters by a subtag, they will see all works tagged with the subtag and its syns, but will not see works tagged with the metatag.
An unused tag is automagically "raked" from the database by the Archive software when the tag is:
  • Not canonical;
  • Not a synonym of a canonical;
  • Not on any visible works or bookmarks; and
  • Not on any drafts, external works, or other privately-marked data.

Other Guideline Pages