Archive FAQ > Tags

What is a tag?

A tag is a keyword or phrase that you add to your works to make them easier to find. On the Archive, we use tags for the majority of the information (metadata) attached to works. Category, Warnings, Rating, Fandom, Characters, Relationships, and Additional Tags (Freeforms) are all treated as tags. We have a Tutorial that further explains tags.

If you click on or select a tag, the Archive will automatically search for all Works or Bookmarks which use that tag.

Tags on the Archive work a little differently from those you may have encountered on other sites: for more information please go to How do tags work on the Archive?

What is tag wrangling?

Tag wrangling is the process of connecting tags behind the scenes. It allows us to link related tags, building a structure which helps make tags as useful as possible to all users.

What (who) are tag wranglers?

Tag wranglers are the team of volunteers who organize ('wrangle') tags behind the scenes on the Archive. Each tag wrangler has three or more fandoms that they are responsible for looking after. Wranglers also work together in teams to wrangle large fandoms, where they share responsibility.

Volunteers are welcome during recruitment periods; please check the Volunteer page if you are interested. You can see the fandoms we don't currently have wranglers for on the Unassigned Fandoms page - but if you can't find anything that meets your expertise, don't despair; this list changes frequently and larger fandoms often have a wrangling team that you could join.

Why isn't a tag I want to use in the Archive already?

No one has used it yet! Tags generally have to be attached to a work or a bookmark before they will appear in the Archive. If you're posting a work or bookmark, you can create a new tag by entering it in the appropriate tag area. Our wranglers will handle the rest!

What is a 'canonical' tag?

A canonical tag is a tag used to build our search and browse features; they are the tags that appear in our browse filters and in the tag auto-complete in the Post Work and Save a Bookmark forms, and the Fandom tags which appear on the Fandom pages. Canonical tags are usually intended to be the most universal and easily understood form of a tag (though this isn't necessarily so, see Which tags get made canonical?), with all other versions linked to it as synonyms.

For example, Once Upon a Time (TV) is a canonical tag. Once Upon a Time (ABC), Fandom: Once Upon a Time, and ouat - Fandom are all synonyms of that canonical tag, and searching for Once Upon a Time (TV) will find works tagged with any of these other Fandom tags as well.

Which tags get made canonical?

Tag wranglers follow a detailed set of guidelines for the canonical forms of tags. Generally, these are designed to describe the most common form of a tag, but this is not always the case. For example, while English is currently the language of the Archive's skins and most canonical tags, we try to use the original language (usually in Latin characters) for the name of the fandom and characters for non-English language sources.

What are the different types of tags?

Ratings & Archive Warnings are required tags on the Archive; please see our Terms of Service for more information.

Fandoms - This tag is required so your work can be sorted. List the fandom or fandoms on which your work is based, e.g., the name of the TV show or video game or band. If your work is a crossover (related to more than one fandom), enter each fandom individually, separated by commas. The auto-complete will bring up any wrangled fandom tags on the Archive which might match; if your work is for a fandom that doesn't come up, simply enter a new tag for it (full titles rather than abbreviations will make it easier for wranglers to understand what you mean and wrangle your tags in a way that helps users find your work). You can check Wrangling Guidelines - Fandoms for information about how wranglers format canonical fandom tags.

The next tags are optional; using them can make it easier for users to find your work, but it's okay to leave any or all of them blank. Tags that don't match the category they're placed in (for example, a relationship in the characters field) can't be wrangled, but you can enter whatever tags you like into any of the text fields (fandoms, relationships, characters, and additional tags - please note that fandom tags are subject to restrictions in the ToS).

Category - There are 6 categories of works on the Archive. While here we have given an interpretation of the abbreviations, the exact definitions of these vary from fandom to fandom and fan to fan; use whichever you feel are applicable, or else none:

  • F/F (Female/Female)
  • F/M (Female/Male)
  • Gen (General)
  • M/M (Male/Male)
  • Multi (Any combination of the above, multiple partners)
  • Other (Other)

Relationships - The significant character interactions in the work, including romantic and/or sexual relationships and pairings (indicated in the Archive's canonical tags by a '/', e.g., James T. Kirk/Spock) and platonic relationships such as friendship, family, teammates, etc. (indicated in canonical tags by a '&', e.g., Alphonse Elric & Edward Elric). You can use whatever notation you like. Separate different relationships with commas. Canonical relationship tags on the Archive will show up in the auto-complete; if your work is for a relationship that doesn't appear in the menu, simply enter a new tag for it. You can check Wrangling Guidelines - Relationships for information about how wranglers format canonical relationship tags.

Characters - The character(s) who appear in the work, separated by commas. Canonical character tags on the Archive will show up in the auto-complete, if your work is for a character who doesn't appear in the menu, enter a new tag by continuing to type. You can check Wrangling Guidelines - Characters for information about how wranglers format canonical character tags.

Additional Tags - Any other tags you would like to put on your work. For some examples, see the tag cloud for the most commonly used Additional Tags on the Archive, but you are encouraged to add new tags. Separate them by commas. Canonical Additional Tags in the Archive will show up in the auto-complete; if the tag you want does not appear in the menu, you can enter a new tag by continuing to type. You can check Wrangling Guidelines - Additional Tags (Freeforms) for information about how wranglers format canonical Additional Tags.

What format can tags have?

  • Tags are up to 100 characters, separated by commas, and can include letters, numbers and some punctuation.
  • Tags can have spaces - so you can put Gundam Wing rather than Gundam_Wing.
  • Tags cannot have commas - commas are used to separate tags, so if you include a comma, then the database assumes you're making a new tag (apologies to fans of At Swim, Two Boys and other comma-loving fandoms).
  • We are also experiencing some problems with tags which include umlauts, accents or other special characters - if you have problems inputting tags which include these, then please input a version without the diacritics for now, and contact us through the Support and Feedback form or via the tag wrangler's twitter account, @ao3_wranglers to let us know we need to fix them (code permitting).
  • You do not have to enter your tags in English, or in Latin script; however, as the Archive interface is in English, tag wranglers may link your tag to a synonymous tag in English for filtering.

How do tags work on the Archive?

The Archive's tags are a bit more organized than you'll find on sites like For those of you who are metadata-inclined, we're using a hybrid of folksonomy (user-defined tags) and classification. What this means is:

  • In most fields, our users can enter any tag, in exactly the form they want it.
  • Behind the scenes, our team of tag wranglers sort and make connections between tags, building a structure which helps make tags as useful as possible to all users.

When there are multiple unambiguous versions of the same tag, tag wranglers will create a 'canonical' tag, then link all the other versions to it. The canonical tag is used to create our browsing filters and subscriptions. For example:

  • Users enter Shakespeare/Nobunaga, Shakesnaga, William Shakespeare/Oda Nobunaga.
  • Tag wranglers create Oda Nobunaga/William Shakespeare and mark all the other versions as synonyms.
  • Oda Nobunaga/William Shakespeare appears in filters and on works. Searching on this tag also finds all works tagged Shakespeare/Nobunaga, Shakesnaga, William Shakespeare/Oda Nobunaga.
  • Tags are given connections which put them in context. So, character tags Aang and Katara belong to the fandom tag Avatar: The Last Airbender, and when you post works for Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang, Katara, and other characters from the series will appear first in the auto-complete.
  • Some tags are 'ambiguous'. These are the tags which could mean more than one thing. For example, the tag Bianca could refer to Bianca in Dragon Age, Bianca Reyes in Blue Beetle, or a whole host of 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.

What is a metatag?

A metatag is a tag which acts as a container for other tags, but still behaves as a tag in its own right. While there are metatags in all categories, you will most likely notice these in Fandom and Freeform tags.

For example, Tintin - All Media Types is a metatag for Tintin (Comics) and Adventures of Tintin (2011). If you're tagging a work or a bookmark in the fandom Tintin (Comics), you only need to use that one tag, not both - your work will automatically appear under Tintin - All Media Types. If you're searching the Archive, then browsing or filtering the fandom Tintin - All Media Types will give you works in Tintin (Comics) as well as Adventures of Tintin (2011).

You can read more about metatags in the Metatag Wrangling Guidelines.

How should I tag my works on the Archive?

You can tag your works however you want! Feel free to use the tags that show up in the auto-complete, but if you prefer a form or other tag not listed, use those instead! The goal of our tag wrangling system is to embrace all varieties of fannish descriptions, while creating background structure to make browsing easier.

If you want to make it easier for users to find your specific works, try using tags that are not ambiguous (such as a character's full name, rather than only one part of their name).

How should I tag my bookmarks?

Bookmarks automatically include all the tags the original poster of the work used. If you would like to add more tags, you can use the "Your Tags" field. If you begin typing your tag, suggestions will appear in the auto-complete. You can choose an existing canonical tag from this list, or continue typing to enter a different tag.

Tags in this field don't automatically have a category (Fandom, Character, etc.), so you can include any category you like. A tag wrangler will assign a category to your tag after you save your bookmark.

More details on bookmarks are available in the Bookmark FAQ.

How can I make my tags easily filterable?

  • Use commas to separate your tags, including the names of fandoms in a crossover.
  • Use the correct tag categories when posting your works: fandom names in the fandom tags box, relationship tags in the relationships box, character tags in the characters box. For anything that doesn’t fit well into those other categories, use additional tags.
  • Spellcheck and doublecheck your tags before posting.

How should I tag crossovers?

If your work is a crossover between two or more different fandoms, or relates to more than one fandom, then please enter all applicable fandom names into the Fandom field, separated by commas. Don't separate with slashes or 'and', as this creates a single, combined tag which we can't wrangle into our search structure. You're also free to add Crossover as a freeform tag.

How should I tag Real Person Fiction?

The best way to tag your fandom is whatever way makes sense to you. You can tag it with a common fandom name - like other fandoms, tag wranglers will review it and sort it as best they can. We have a system of hierarchical metatags that the tag wranglers use to group works so that they are searchable on the Archive. For example, works tagged with Poets of the Fall will also be found when searching in Finnish Music RPF, because Finnish Music RPF is a metatag for Poets of the Fall.

I have another question about how to tag my works.

In general, if you're not sure how to tag your works, just go with what makes sense to you and let the tag wranglers worry about how that fits into the Archive structure. You are the expert for what makes sense in your fandom - it's our job to worry about the technical details! We've made our general Tag Wrangling Guidelines public, so you can see how tag wranglers choose canonical tags and connect them to each other. You can chose to follow these guidelines for some of your tags as well, but you're never obligated to do so. We'll wrangle your tags to the best of our ability regardless of how they're formatted, though keep in mind that ambiguous tags may not be connected in the way you prefer.

You can also always contact the Tag Wrangling Committee through the Support and Feedback form or via the tag wrangler's twitter account, @ao3_wranglers

Why aren't the names of my fandoms or characters in my language in the Archive?

It's likely that no one has used that tag yet. You are encouraged to add tags in your language to the Archive, but be aware that they may be attached to a canonical tag which is not in your language. This is due to a technical limitation we're not able to work around at this time.

Why aren't the names in my language in the original non-Latin script?

The Tag Wrangling Committee does not have the resources to wrangle all tags in non-Latin scripts at the moment, so most canonical tags are in Latin script.

We are currently testing an option for some fandom tags to use both the original script and an English translation or transliteration. Depending on user and wrangler feedback, this option may be extended as wrangler resources permit.

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

The database treats all uppercase, lowercase, and accented versions of a letter as the same character. Therefore, tags which use the same letters but change the capitalization and accent marks are displayed with the capitalization and accents chosen by the first person to use that tag. This is a technical limitation that tag wranglers cannot change.

The only exception is when wranglers go to canonize a tag. At that time, they are allowed to change the capitalization and/or accents to match the wrangling guidelines.

I tagged my work with an abbreviation of the fandom, but in the search filters and fandom lists I only see the full version of the fandom name - why?

In order to make searching, browsing and posting as easy and efficient as possible, we connect tags that refer to the same things. The canonical tag is the one which displays in browse filters and on the fandom lists, but the tag you entered will always display on your work and can still be found in searches. The same process happens with Characters, Relationships and Additional Tags.

For more information, see How do tags work on the Archive?, What is a 'canonical' tag?, and Wrangling Guidelines - Fandoms.

I just posted a work with a new fandom tag and it's not showing up under the category I expected on the 'Fandoms' page - why?

When a new fandom tag is added to the Archive, it's automatically added to the category 'Uncategorized Fandoms'. If your fandom tag hasn't yet been wrangled into its category, it should show up under 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 our tag wranglers made a mistake (they're only human!). Please contact the Tag Wrangling Committee through the Support and Feedback form or via the tag wrangler's 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 more filterable.

  • Enter only fandoms. Except in some RPF cases, characters and relationships usually cannot be wrangled in the fandoms category.
  • Enter the full name of your fandom. Abbreviations may be ambiguous and unwrangleable.
  • Separate fandoms with commas. Fandoms separated with spaces or other punctuation will merge into a single, unwrangleable tag.
  • If you have a crossover, enter all fandoms separately. If you like, you can use the freeform field to indicate the crossover.

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

An '- Ambiguous Fandom' is 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 labeled 'ambiguous'. If you want to be sure other users find your work, using more specific, unambiguous tags will help.

An '- All Media Types' fandom is a metatag that connects several media from the same fandom together: for example, Les Misérables - All Media Types collects the book, the musical, and the movies. Some fandoms are small enough that we don't create separate subtags for each medium, so they don't need an '- All Media Types' tag. Some fandoms are large and complicated enough to have dozens of subtags. 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.

For more information, see What is a metatag?.

Do wranglers change my tags?

No, most of the time; wranglers do not have the technical permissions to rewrite any of your tags. (You, of course, can change any of your tags whenever you like!) There are only 3 cases where your tags may be changed by wranglers:

  1. To adjust capitalization: for consistency, most canonical tags on the Archive are capitalized, so canonical tags starting with a lower-case letter may be capitalized.
  2. To change diacritics/accent marks: at present, the Archive tag code reads 'a' 'à' and 'å' as the same letter, so tags may be changed to add the appropriate diacritics.
  3. To swap system-created suffixes (see Why do some tags appear with '- Freeform' or '- Character' after them? for more information): Archive admins can swap these suffixes, so you may see your fandom tag Nero Wolfe become Nero Wolfe - Fandom. (If you don’t like the way '- Fandom' looks, you can always change the tag to another form, e.g., Nero Wolfe books or Nero Wolfe - Rex Stout).

The only other time when your tags may be changed is when a tag is reported as violating the Terms of Service. In that case, the Abuse team may ask you to change your tag.

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

No, tag wranglers can't change tags on works or bookmarks except in the cases listed in Do wranglers change my tags?. If you believe a work's tags violate the Terms of Service, please contact Abuse.

However, if you see a canonical tag that you believe does not follow our guidelines, you can submit a Support request to ask the tag wranglers to change it. This won't alter the tags on users' works, but if wranglers agree, the tag's form in the auto-complete, filters, and RSS feeds will change.

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

Each tag belongs to a category: Relationship, Character, Fandom, or Additional/Freeform. Tag names must be unique, so if a tag already exists in one category, then when it is used in another category, the Archive automatically adds the name of the category 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 the Archive changes it to Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Character.


  • XanderGirl5 can click on Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Character and get only works about the character, not the fandom as a whole.
  • The Archive has unique tag names and so the database does not melt.
  • Everyone is happy!

How do I tag a platonic relationship between friends, family, partners, etc.?

In the Relationships field, you can use the symbol '&' between two or more characters if you want to indicate the relationship is platonic. For example, Aerith Gainsborough & Sephiroth is a relationship tag that's separate from Aerith Gainsborough/Sephiroth. Filtering by Aerith Gainsborough & Sephiroth won't bring up works tagged with Aerith Gainsborough/Sephiroth (unless the work is tagged with both.) The same is true in reverse: Aerith Gainsborough/Sephiroth will not bring up works tagged with Aerith Gainsborough & Sephiroth.

I don't understand what a tag means. Where can I find definitions?

If you're confused by an Additional Tag (Freeform), the fastest way to find out what it means is probably to search the Glossary or Tropes & Genres at Fanlore or to use another common source, such as a wiki or online popular dictionary. You can also check the works attached to the tag - they will sometimes make a term clear.

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

If your challenge does not require prompts, you don't need to do anything. Participants can tag their works as they upload them, and those tags will be wrangled as usual.

If your challenge is an exchange that uses prompts or is a prompt meme, you can use Tag Sets to create any tags you need that aren't on the Archive already. For more information, contact Support.

I think that I found a mistake in a canonical tag or in the way something is wrangled.

Please contact the Tag Wrangling Committee through the Support and Feedback form or via the tag wrangler's twitter account, @ao3_wranglers. The Tag Wrangling Committee will look into the situation and resolve it as best they can. Please note that because we don't change user tags, not every 'mistake' tag can be 'fixed', but they will be investigated. All support requests that include an email address receive a personal response from someone in Support.

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

Some frequently asked questions about the Archive are answered in the broader Archive FAQ. 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 contact Support.