I'm asking this because sincerely it doesn't make sense. If I tag my question with [shell], whatever I'm asking is either, about several shells or is valid on any shell. Then why would I want to use something more specific, even though I'm not using a bash-ism, zsh-ism or weirder? Now, this seems to be the view of other posts when several intrinsically related tags are concerned:

In all cases, try to avoid just throwing a bunch of related tags onto the question.

which makes sense. Why would I use [bash] [zsh] [tcsh] [shell] [ksh] to write an generic for-loop, or using cd, or something more generic? Is there a valid use of several shell tags?

  • Put yourself in the shoes of someone searching by tag: if a particular Q&A would be a valuable return in that query, then it should be tagged as such...
    – jasonwryan
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 19:14
  • @jasonwryan that's what I do... still doesn't make sense having a question with all [bash] [zsh] [tcsh] [shell] [ksh] tags.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 19:16
  • 1
    I see no harm in it: if I'm searching on [zsh] and the answer is applicable, I'd like it to show up...
    – jasonwryan
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 19:28
  • @jasonwryan if you are searching for a zsh answer, why the [ksh] or [tcsh] tag?
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 19:54
  • 1
    [zsh] was just an example: my point is if it is applicable then it is not harmful to include any other tag; it is, in fact, helpful because you can't predict what people will search on.
    – jasonwryan
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 20:54
  • @jasonwryan I think that the idea of what you think tags are for is not actually what they are. We agree if it's applicable you should use the tags, but not for that reason you will just drop all of them, because you have a agnostic/generic shell question.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 21:49
  • Well, read back over my comments: I have not argued for indiscriminate tagging: but if it is relevant to [bash], [zsh], [ksh] etc, then it should be tagged as such.
    – jasonwryan
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 23:02

3 Answers 3


I think it is ok to have both the generic [shell] tag and a specific shell tag on a question. My interpretation of this answer supports this. That question is about tagging programming questions on SO and Shog9 recommends two tags -- language and API. This is essentially a broad topic and a drilled down specific topic.

For the specific case you mention:

  • for the general "language" of shells
  • (or whatever) for the specific shell language dialect you are interested in

I would argue that this continues for each dialect interested in, e.g. having a question tagged and would be fine.

However, in the limit of including all dialect tags (e.g. all of: shell, csh, ksh, bash, zsh) then you are actually dialect agnostic and need only use .

  • I think he's asking more about multiple, specific shell tags. This question is about tagging with both bash and zsh.
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 16:11
  • I would then argue that each specific dialect is appropriate. bash and zsh being present would signify interest in two (somewhat compatible) dialects and disinterest in others like csh, etc.
    – casey
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 16:12
  • 1
    Exactly. What seems very obvious to me is that we can't have sweeping rules like "never combine tagX and tagY".
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 16:15
  • So, you foresee a question tagged with all [bash] [zsh] [tcsh] [shell] [ksh]?
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 16:19
  • 2
    @Braiam At that point you are dialect agnostic and need only the shell tag.
    – casey
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 16:22
  • Can you add that to your answer so I can upvote it?
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 16:22
  • @Braiam edited.
    – casey
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 16:25

Yes there is. First of all, lets have a little background on how tags work and what they should be used for. The tagging guidelines can be found on the main meta site, here and they are also explained in the Help Center, here. The following points are relevant to this discussion:

  • Tag from the general to the specific. Include at least one broad tag and also include some specific ones.

So, for the general and and for the specific.

  • As a general rule, you should try and add as many tags as you can. You are limited to 5 and, if there are 5 applicable tags, you should use them.

This one is nice and clear. If a question is about both bash and zsh, or if it can be, then it can carry both tags.

  • You should try and pick popular tags, those that are used most often.

Again, both and are among the more popular tags so it makes sense to include them.

While you should not attempt to summarize the question with the tags, the tags should give an idea of what the question is about. Tags are used to sort questions into categories, so if a question fits into more than one category, it should be tagged with more than one tag. In addition, many users have "Favorite Tags" and questions tagged with them are highlighted. This means that if you use one of those tags, you are more likely to attract the attention of the people who are most capable of answering you.

So, basically, use as many useful tags as are relevant. In the case of the shells, tagging something that applies to both bash and zsh with and makes a lot of sense since i) these are among the most popular tags, many people have favorited them and will therefore notice the question ii) people often search using the specific shell so it makes sense to have the question tagged with both if both apply and iii) there is absolutely no reason not to. You have 5 places for tags, use them!

That said, on the more specific issue you are raising in this question, of course there are examples of questions that need both tags. Please don't try to make such general rules, they are very rarely valid across the board. The tagging of questions should be decided upon on a case by case basis. To take a silly example, if I were to ask "How can I get zsh feature X in bash?" I would, obviously, tag it as both and . So, yes, of course there are cases where both tags would be needed.


I was led here from this question. There's a big banner across the subject line that reads:

  • Locked by Michael Mrozek♦ 7 hours ago
  • This post has been locked while disputes about its content are being resolved. For more info visit meta.

If you look through the revision history of that question, you'll see the original question was put thus:

Do we have more history for cd? cd - can move to the last visited directory. Can we visit more history other than the last one?

And its only tag at that time was cd-command.

Since then the text of the question has been edited not at all, but the tags have seen 10 revisions.

For whatever reason @Gilles next tagged it with shell, bash, and zsh. While I understand the first one, the other two don't make any sense to me. I could understand if there was some indication in the text of the question that the asker was more interested in a solution geared toward one shell implementation than a solution geared toward another, but there is nothing of the sort there.

Tagging that question with zsh and bash feels a bit like misappropriation. It lends a connotation to the question that it never assumed of its own accord. If the question should be tagged zsh and bash then it should also be tagged tcsh, csh, fish, ksh88, ksh93, posh, yash, ash, dash and innumerable others. Because that would just be silly, instead the question should probably just have a shell tag and the rest dropped - they are only redundant in this context and are more readers' assumptions than anything else.

And what's more, if the question must be locked while disputes about its content are being resolved - then why is it not locked in its original form and is instead locked w/ all of the additional disputed content added in?

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