The above is a famous riddle from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, [ref1], [ref2], [ref3], [ref4-∞], …

But seriously,

How is unlike ?

I recently reviewed this suggested edit, which added the tag to this question, which already had the tag.  And I scratched my head and looked them up:

     18 followers, 732 questions
Questions related to the use of proper writing style in English

The style of a sentence, phrase, or construction, is its general expression of meaning as a whole, apart from the actual categorical meaning of the constituent words.

Use this tag for questions asking about the style of a particular sentence, phrase, or construction.

Sounds good.

      22 followers, 387 questions
This tag is for questions specifically related to written English.

Examples of questions using this tag

(Cont’d) …                  [Order changed for effect.]

Ah, I thought, refers to the thoughtful authoring, composing, preparing and rendering of ideas, information, knowledge, etc., into prose words (or, perhaps, verse) intended for non-vocal delivery and/or presentation, while refers to the physical/visual representation of text.  But the list goes on:

… (Cont’d)

and so I wondered, why isn’t the most appropriate tag for a question about capitalization?  Why isn’t the most appropriate tag for a question about dates?  And why aren’t and/or the most appropriate tags for a question about which variant of English to use?

And finally, if we need tag(s) for the physical/visual representation of text, what’s wrong with (8 followers, 132 questions), (26 followers, 1.1k questions) and (4 followers, 97 questions)?

A quick scan of recent questions tagged [writing] reveals questions about

  • document (e.g., bibliography) formatting (which should probably be covered by , although that has no tag wiki / usage guidance yet),
  • formality (e.g., use of pronouns in papers for publication)  (which should probably be covered by and/or ),
  • politeness (e.g., salutations in letters and emails) (),
  • indentation (),
  • word choice (an issue for spoken English as well as written, covered by ),
  • use of “a” vs. “an” before symbols (which is an issue for spoken English as well as written, and probably covered by ),
  • punctuation (which is also a tag: 44 followers, 1.9k questions),

etc.  It’s a tag about everything, so it’s a tag about nothing.  (By the way, of the 387 questions tagged [writing], 52 are also tagged [writing-style].

So, should the tag be deleted?  Or should it be defined to something useful?  (I guess questions currently bearing that tag would need to be revisited/re-evaluated either way.)

Related: Should the typography tag and typesetting tag be merged?

  • 1
    Oh, the irony. When I clicked on [Post Your Question], I was presented with a CAPTCHA featuring this image. Mar 19, 2017 at 20:03
  • P.S. I’m a visitor to EL&U (and occasionally ELL); I live on Planet Super User.  On Meta Super User, punny/witty titles for discussions of dubious/obsolete tags are de rigueur.  I apologize if my attempt at levity is unwelcome here. Mar 19, 2017 at 20:03
  • We did something similar recently sorting out "currency" -- which was disambiguated into [contemporary-english] and [money]. The questions' current tags need to be sorted (removing [writing] and substituting something else if necessary) before [writing] is deleted and blacklisted, if blacklisting is desirable. 387 questions is a tall order, and would cause significant upheaval on the front page.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Mar 19, 2017 at 21:17
  • 'writing' is not as vague or meaningless as 'grammar' or 'English'. Yes, it could easily be removed from many questions but I don't think it is terrible.
    – Mitch
    Mar 19, 2017 at 23:00
  • I think 'orthography' is apt, but not everyone will know that term. That said, the 'writing' tag is not used as an appropriate synonym for 'orthography'.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Mar 20, 2017 at 12:36
  • wants to give answer so bad
    – Mitch
    Mar 20, 2017 at 17:08
  • 3
    Why? Be-CAWS!     :-)     (I actually just thought of that.) Mar 20, 2017 at 17:16
  • can't... stand... it ... I KNOW! I KNOW!! I KNOW!!!
    – Mitch
    Mar 20, 2017 at 20:42
  • 4
    They both have quills, although one's are used for fancy flights and the other's for flights of fancy. Mar 21, 2017 at 17:56
  • Oh... @PeterShor.
    – Mitch
    Mar 22, 2017 at 0:19
  • Um, did you look at [ref2] and [ref3] in the first line of the question? Mar 23, 2017 at 3:51

1 Answer 1


"Writing" should definitely disappear. For the rare question for which it would be appropriate, for questions on written registers of English and their differences from spoken English, "written-english" would be a much clearer tag. Or maybe it could be renamed, I just don't know how many questions would then be mistagged.

"Orthography" is a separate topic. I'd suggest that it be used for discuss how the Latin script has come to be used to transcribe spoken English. This topic has a lot of history and quirks and many very interesting questions.

I've suggested this for the wiki for writing-style because the current wiki doesn't really make sense. But the edit was knocked back. Anyone want to make some improvements to it and then we can try again?

Writing style is hard to define definitively - but when you see good style, you know it. Good style is elegant rather than clumsy, powerful rather than weak. It takes practice to develop.

Use this tag for questions asking about the style of a particular sentence, phrase, or construction. But be warned, many of these questions are what we call Primarily Opinion Based, and are likely to be closed.


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