We have several tags that are hypernyms to other tags. Probably the most prominent are punctuation, tenses, prepositions and terminology all in our top 30 of tags. I want to question the current philosophy behind those tags and unify the approach.

First let's have a look at those four tags and the hyponym tags.

We have several different approaches here.

1. Synonym approach (prepositions)

Community decision to create synonyms thereby merging everything into the hypernym and foregoing any sub-level distinctions. A good solution when the hyponym itself would be rather meaningless.

Pro: One-time solution: Create synonyms

Con: Loss of distinctions

2. Dual-tagging approach (punctuation, tenses?)

Questions are tagged with both the hypernym and the more specified hyponym, e.g. punctuation and comma or tenses and past-tense. There are two directions to this approach. If the hyponym is unknown or irrelevant the hypernym tag certainly suffices. The other way around the hypernym tag should always be added if it doesn't hit the five-tag limit.

Pro: Both fine distinction and grouping easily possible


  • 50:50 chance to search for correct tag if not consequently tagged.
  • Consequent re-tagging necessary

3. Utter chaos (terminology, figures of speech, several others)

While terminology is technically a hypernym of a few dozen other tags there is no mention of it in any of the tag wikis, the tagging behavior is arbitrary and it's in its current shape not a helpful tag. Generally the terminology tag is all over the place. Another example is figures of speech, it's a hypernym of metaphors, simile, personification, hyperbole and synecdoche.

Possible Solution

Obviously the utter chaos is not really a viable approach. The all-synonymous approach means a loss of a lot of information. Currently we operate in the utter chaos with many tags, which makes searching and the general use of tags less viable. There are also a lot of questions affected which makes manual editing a total pain. Still the second approach should be our goal to make those tags more helpful.

Thus, I suggest the following steps:

  1. Community consensus on which tags to cluster according to approach two.
  2. Script-based addition of the hypernym tag to all hyponym-tagged questions
  3. Script-flag questions that would hit six tags.
  4. Regularly repeat from 2. (Preferably regular background job)

Essentially, I am suggesting a SE-technology backed way to create tag hypernyms - likely somewhere in the moderator area. If a regular system-backed solution is not possible more or less regular script based changes by moderators would be my second choice. Third and last choice would be completely community based tag additions.

  • I don't think SE is going to help out with this (see this somewhat similar post on Meta: A proposal for tag hierarchy on SO). An issue with trying to enforce this using any kind of script/automation is that each question can only have a maximum of 5 tags, so there may not be space to add any more tags.
    – herisson
    Oct 13, 2016 at 14:17
  • @suməlic thx for the link :) The max tag count is why I have point three in the steps. I honestly doubt that many questions have five fitting tags. The questions that would hit six tags have to be tended to manually either way.
    – Helmar
    Oct 13, 2016 at 14:43

2 Answers 2


Using synonyms to tie terms that are actually hierarchically related is not going to work. The SE filter algorithm treats synonyms as synonymous for matching purposes. I ran into this just lately. I have a wildcard filter which uses the tag pattern *mail* to represent the set of tags containing the word “mail”. This wildcard filter does not work as intended because someone has made tag a synonym of tag , when actually it is a hyponym. But because the filter algorithm treats synonyms as synonymous, my filter returns all questions tagged .

  • That's interesting and we should certainly consider that when synonymizing words other than prepositions.
    – Helmar
    Oct 13, 2016 at 16:14

It's usually acceptable to have both hypernym and hyponym tags. If you know the appropriate sub level tag, then use it. If a question doesn't have 5 tags already, then the higher level tag can be added, but if there are four other more useful tags, then it's better to have them instead. But often people won't know what the right sub level tag is - they might know they're asking about verb tenses, but not know about pluperfect-progressive-double-future-simple, or whatever other name is in vogue right now! (Yes that would be a ridiculous tense label.) So in such situations it's appropriate to just use the high level tag.

  • That's exactly what I defined as second approach.
    – Helmar
    Oct 14, 2016 at 13:46
  • @Helmar Your second approach sounded like all questions needed to be tagged with both, which is what I disagree with. Oct 14, 2016 at 13:47
  • 1
    I tried to clarify what I meant, which is mostly what you are describing as well.
    – Helmar
    Oct 14, 2016 at 13:52

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