Hello everyone. i'm one of the ao3 tag wranglers for mdzs

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Title: Untitled
Creator: @pumpkinpaix
Date(s): July 10, 2020
Medium: Twitter thread
Fandom: Mo Dao Zu Shi, multifandom
Topic: wrangling of canonical tags in Chinese language fandoms
External Links: Twitter thread, Archived version
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Hello everyone. i'm one of the ao3 tag wranglers for mdzs is the first line of a Twitter thread by pumpkinpaix about Mo Dao Zu Shi fandom tag wranglers' use of tone marks in canonical tags on Archive of Our Own. The thread was retweeted 225 times, quote tweeted 44 times, and liked 596 times as of February 2021, as well as discussed in a 160 comment thread on the anon meme fail fandomanon. It is an example of AO3 Tagging Policy Debate.


Tone marks are diacritics used in pinyin to guide pronunciation of romanized Madarin; "tone" is used in the linguistic sense of the word. Character, relationship, and some freeform tags on Archive of Our Own used tone marks for Chinese-language fandoms since at least 2019. For example, instead of "Nie Huaisang" the canonical character tag was "Niè Huáisāng." In the case of Standard Madarin Chinese, tone marks are almost only used in educational settings (such as when learning how to pronounce things) and every-day use of pinyin usually leaves off the diacritics on both names and words. (See Wikipedia:Pinyin#Usage)

Diacritics are hard for English-language keyboards to type, requiring either memorization of Unicode code points or a specialized keyboard layout. Many users expressed frustration with the tone marks because they made the AO3 search bar and tagging drop down basically useless for the majority of users, as neither would recognize that a user inputting "Nie Huaisang" really meant "Niè Huáisāng" — although frustratingly the tagset interface would automatically turn tags without the tone marks into the canonical tone marked version, dragging the tagging problems encountered when posting a fic into gift exchange sign ups.

A late 2019 discussion of the downsides and reasons for diacritics in AO3 tags can be found here.


we are NOT in agreement regarding the diacrits: some people want to keep them (including me), and some want them gone, for a variety of reasons! but all of us have agreed that redoing the canonicals for mdzs is neither a practical nor useful endeavor at this time


there are ongoing discussions on the subject (i've been involved in several! bc i wrangle 36 chinese language fandoms :')) but nothing formal has been established. wranglers are working together to try and figure something out as we go, but it's not perfect.


chinese people were consulted on this question. I was fucking there. there is no strawman "single racist non-chinese wrangler" who insisted on implementing this standard. out of the wranglers, I am the person who is most vocally supportive of the marks.


this isn't to say that the complaints are unfounded: I know that the diacrits are annoying as fuck. i get it. i don't use them in half my fandoms as per agreements with my other cowranglers for many of the reasons that people have brought up throughout all of these threads


i have seen a lot of racist demands to get rid of the tone marks. many of the complaints will cite things like "this makes the cn fandoms inconsistent with the jp ones." "this is hard". as if two entirely different languages should be consistent to cater to their desires.


chinese is weird, not like japanese, which i understand because i watch anime.

it infuriates me, I hope, for understandable reasons. 8] removing the tone marks, to me, feels like capitulation. i am not interested in making the lives of entitled non-chinese easier.


please understand that my desire to keep the tone marks is yes, partially motivated by spite, but partially motivated by a desire to put care into the representation of my native language to non-speakers. does that make my stance the most practical or the most correct?


no, of course not! a lot of my cowranglers disagree with me, or don't find my concerns to be compelling enough. I understand that! in the same way that I understand the frustrations of users (I was, after all, a user first).


yes, there is a lack of transparency. yes, there are problems with functionality. yes, many chinese people disagree with me, and their concerns are equally valid and justified. but I am asking this: please stop assuming malice where there is none.



I disregarded everything they said after they said the diacritics were a little about spite. Like are you fucking kidding? It's non-functional for the majority of users! The whole point of the fucking archive is to be able to find fic. And being unable to search names/ships without extensive workarounds isn't being able to find fucking fic!


Like have diacritics. Have all the diacritics! Just allow it so things with diacritics can be found without typing diacritics![2]

``please understand that my desire to keep the tone marks is yes, partially motivated by spite, but partially motivated by a desire to put care into the representation of my native language to non-speakers.``

(from one of their tweets)

I really don't think spite is an appropriate motivation for this kind of things. Users shouldn't be punished because some of them are dumb or racist, and a lot of actual Chinese users don't agree and feel that this is inconvenient for them also. And I don't really understand why this is "putting care" into it when a lot of Chinese people don't use diacritics when writing pinyin. And I'm not sure what non-speakers are supposed to get out of them.[3]

I don't really get [the part of the thread where pumpkinpaix says, "i am not interested in making the lives of entitled non-chinese easier."] though. Who IS the pinyin for, if not non-Chinese-speakers? People who really speak Chinese can tag in Chinese. I don't really see why tone marks would be needed for people who can't speak Chinese because they don't know Chinese anyway and probably don't even understand tones.

This to me also really illustrates a general problem with Ao3. There isn't a unified policy for these conventions, and Ao3 management doesn't seem to think that it's a problem that there isn't, and at the same time many people in the fandom are angry that an inconvenient system is being imposed on them against their wishes, which I thought was the exact opposite of what the tag wrangling system was supposed to do.[4]

Also, every standard for pinyin omits the tone marks for people's names! (Outside of cases where the text is meant for language learning.) The standard Hanyu Pinyin is Wei Wuxian, not Wèi Wúxiàn. (And even if you include the tone mark, Mandarin Chinese has significant homophony so it doesn't specify which of the 30+ options for wèi it is so there's still ambiguity. This is less of a problem for MDZS, but definitely for some other Chinese canons. If only they'd go for tags of the 魏无羡 Wei Wuxian style, with the hanzi first and the standard tone markless pinyin second...)[5]


This is what I don't understand about what this tag wrangler is saying. If their decision is motivated partially by spite because of racist people...

1. I don't see how that spites them. Frankly, racist people don't give a shit at this level. Chinese names are going to be weird to them regardless of tone marks or not.

2. Including the tone marks don't actually represent how people's names are typically written in pinyin. Right now, the wrangler is extra-foreignising the names in a way which isn't typically done among Chinese just to spite racists. Wtf even.[6]

i am not interested in making the lives of entitled non-chinese easier.

Amazing. They don't want to make the lives of entitled non-Chinese-speakers easier, so they make EVERYONE'S lives harder! Like do they think that typing diacritics are the norm for Chinese users? That Chinese websites use them?

And that's not even going into the fact that AO3 is generally an English-using website. Most of the fic is in English. If they want Chinese... what's stopping them from going to Lofter.

I also strongly dislike how posts like these tend to conflate 'Chinese' with 'Chinese speakers'. Any nuance that they might have hoped to have gets thoroughly bulldozed.[7]


yes, please inconvenience thousands of readers because of your personal vendetta

you know what that's actually worse than it being a decision by white committee thing.

congrats on being dictator of danmei fandom tagging[8]

Eventual removal of tone marks

In February 2021, tag wranglers began to switch canonical tags across several fandoms to versions without tone marks. One nonny on fail_fandomanon said that "Judging by internal chatter, MXTX wranglers took a vote. The majority was against diacritics, that wrangler was outvoted, and that was that."[9] Other anonymous users in the thread expressed both joy, relief, and excitement; many said that searching for what they want on AO3 and tagging works would be easier. The chance also seems to be effecting other fandoms, such as Nirvana in Fire.

I really can't wait for them to be gone from all fandoms. Finally I'll be able to search things easily! Tagging will be a breeze![10]
I am crying tears of joy THANK YOU THANK YOU[11]
Thank you to the rest of the wranglers! Finally, sanity prevails![12]
Wranglers, I salute you! Clearly they didn't feel that "spite" was a good enough reason to diverge from the standard and to make everyone's lives harder.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i pumpkinpaix, twitter thread that starts here(archive) and finishes here(archive).
  2. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1343, 09:44 pm (UTC) (and same-anon reply to themself at 9:45).
  3. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1343, 2020-07-11.
  4. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1343, 2020-07-11.
  5. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1343, 2020-07-11.
  6. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1343, 2020-07-11.
  7. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1343, 2020-07-11.
  8. ^ @kyuu, on twitter, July 10 2020.
  9. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1490, 2021-02-18.
  10. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1490, 2021-02-17.
  11. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1490, 2021-02-17.
  12. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1490, 2021-02-17.
  13. ^ Nonny, comment on FFA post 1490, 2021-02-17.