The current content of the elisp tag definition is:

Do NOT use this just because your question (or potential answers) involves elisp snippets. Use this for questions about Emacs Lisp as a language (conventions, programming, practices, etc) or for practical questions which go very deep into Emacs Lisp.

Drew corrected my use of the elisp tag on a recent question of mine Methods for examining large/complicated lisp objects. (revision):

"Do not use tag elisp unless you've read its definition and understand it. Thx."

I whole-heartedly agree. Tags need to applied accurately to be useful. Particularly elisp since it is easy for users to apply superficially. Since I've read it many times and still misused it I think there's room for improving the clarity of the intended meaning.

Some cursory thoughts:

  1. s/snippets/code/ (parlance suggests that the length of code is significant)
  2. Eliminate the conjunction in the second sentence. It is unclear how the former is different from the latter.
  3. To emphasize that it should be used exactingly there should be no ellipses or "et ceteras"

What are your thoughts? Examples of topics marginally included and excluded would probably be helpful for discussion.

  • @Drew My apologies if mentioning your revision was rude. I'll gladly revise if you prefer. I had thought the content in that particular circumstance fell firmly under "questions about Emacs Lisp as a language (conventions, programming, practices, etc)".
    – ebpa
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 0:57
  • No, it was not rude at all. Glad to see interest in improving the tag description. The tag definitely gets used for the wrong reasons a lot, but I've noticed that adding the comment I add has led to no one, so far, continuing to use it just for a question that might involve the use of Lisp or might solicit an answer that uses Lisp.
    – Drew
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 23:54
  • Before we settle on this, we need to figure out what the tag should be used for. Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 22:59

1 Answer 1


I think the definition is okay. Sure sometimes someone will read it and use the tag even in cases for which it is not intended, but it is still much more likely that someone uses the tag wrong simply because s/he did not read the definition at all.

But I guess we should not say things like "Do not use tag elisp unless you've read its definition and understand it. Thx." It is possible to misunderstand it without realizing it, and a remark like this can come across as a bit patronizing. But I am sure Drew didn't mean it that way, he probably just was a bit frustrated because many people do not even read the definition.

We could improve the definition to make things clearer, but I don't think the suggested changes make much of a difference. We would have to make the definition longer to be on the safe side. Unfortunately that might have the inverse effect; some people would probably not read it in full if it were longer and the number of invalid uses would increase as a result.

I guess we could append "If you are unsure whether you should use this tag, then don't use it". And maybe also "Nearly everything question regarding Emacs has something to do with elisp in some way, because that's the language used to extend Emacs. That doesn't mean that every question on this site should have the elisp tag - that would make this tag rather useless".

Then again, that might make the description "too long" and additionally this "clarification" could come across as patronizing if one found the preceding sentences to be clear enough.

  • 1
    I don't see what is patronizing about the comment as worded, but if you have a better suggestion I'll consider it. I want to encourage someone not to use the tag unless they know what it means, and I want to encourage them to read its definition. I am not frustrated at all, including not because someone might not have read the definition. Who generally consults a tag definition before using the tag? This case is a bit special. It is 100% understandable that someone expecting an answer that uses Elisp to think that the tag applies. (And FWIW, I did not write the tag definition, IIRC.)
    – Drew
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 23:57

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