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I am looking for evidence on whether adding hyphenated prefixes to tag names has any effect upon their discoverability by askers. Anecdotal evidence is helpful for my purposes, so reports on whether, for instance, you have noticed any difference in question influx after a tag was renamed are most welcome.

Getting one issue out of the way: I am broadly aware of how tag autocompletion works, and that the prefixed tags show up in the suggestions when askers type the "main" part of the tag name. (Still, I'm not quite sure about how effective this mechanism is in practice.)

To better illustrate my concerns, here is an example (fictional, but a very close paraphrase of a real tag renaming case I have been thinking about). Suppose some SE site has a tag. There is a meaning of "ruler" which is both precise and on-topic, but very niche. Unfortunately, "ruler" is a common English word, and people like to include it as an irrelevant tag simply because they recognize it. This usage has no tag-related value and the site plans to burninate the tag.

There is no perfect replacement tag for the precise and on-topic meaning, and the only alternative which is not too awkward, (after a certain Smith who established this meaning), has some currency among users of those rulers but isn't universally known. The worry is that askers unaware of the term "Smith rulers" might miss the tag while formulating the question. I am looking for data or stories about tags with prefixes and their discoverability.

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    why do you think common English words make bad tags and should be burninated? Why can't you just use ruler and explain in the tag wiki that it doesn't mean the piece of wood with inches and cm on it, nor a king. On Travel, SEA means the Seattle Tacoma airport, not the ocean, and life goes on just fine. Jun 2, 2019 at 19:51
  • @KateGregory In my scenario, the issue is that the common English meaning might incidentally show up in on-topic questions, but it is too tangential to the scope of the site to be deemed worthy of a tag. At this point, I guess I can't avoid mentioning the real example: the tag I have in mind is [arrows] at SO, and the broader context is the burnination of [arrow]. Personally, the status quo doesn't bother me all that much, but I'm trying to think ahead of the Meta consensus.
    – duplode
    Jun 2, 2019 at 20:38

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This is where tag wiki excerpts can come in handy.

If you want to more accurately name your tag - from to - then by all means, go ahead. If someone types "Ruler" into the tag bar, will still come up as a suggestion... along with the tag wiki excerpt explaining what it is and when to use the tag.

Clarifying the meaning of a tag so that it's precise in the name of the tag itself is usually a good idea, especially if you have several tags on a site that are similar in name, but only if it'll still come up in a suggestion when someone types in the common name.
This is where synonyms can be useful.

If you can have the precise name of the tag, and the common name as a synonym, that's the best of both worlds. Use the tag wiki excerpt to provide a brief explanation of what the tag is for and when to use it.

But keep in mind that people are pretty much always going to misuse tags, especially new users unfamiliar with the system / that site. You can minimize the misuse with clarifications and precise names, but it's always going to happen that there are tags being misused that someone's going to have to fix.

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  • Yup, misuse is always a factor, specially with the gravitational pull of a highly ambiguous tag that's still lying around. Food for thought for when I eventually get back to retagging stuff; thanks.
    – duplode
    Dec 17, 2020 at 2:55

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