ao3 archive warnings in a nutshell [info]

This was originally posted on Tumblr in response to the growing misinformation about what AO3’s archive warnings actually mean. This was meant to educate readers and writers.


“Chose Not to Use Archive Warnings” = May contain nuts (any type of nut or possibly no nuts.)

“Graphic depictions of violence” = Contain cashews

“Major character death” = Contain peanuts

“Rape/non-con” = Contains macadamia nuts 

“Underage” = Contains pecans

“None of these warnings apply” = Nut-free


They are all warnings. They are the very first warning you get when you open a fic. 

The ONLY authors who tag their fics correctly 100% of the time are the authors who choose: “Chose Not to Use Archive Warnings.” Please stop calling them uncaring.

“Chose not to use Archive warnings” warns readers that the fic may contain nuts – any nuts: whole nuts, nut pieces, traces of nuts, or no nuts. If you cannot handle nuts in any way, shape or form, then you must either keep scrolling or consume the fic at your own risk. 

Authors might use that warning because they are afraid of reader backlash for not tagging more specifically later, or not want to spoil plot arcs, or maybe it’s a WIP and they don’t know the ending yet.

These authors are aware of triggers. 

MANY of them choose not to use archive warnings because they do not want to be responsible for triggering readers, so they use the best warning they can to filter out those who may be harmed by their fic. And MANY of them still use as many tags as they can. But you have to understand that some tags might be missing for a variety of reasons as stated above.


Let me tell you why this trend of calling these authors uncaring offends me so much: 

I tagged a fic “Graphic depictions of violence” once. Then I tagged it “self-injury”, “self-harm”, “body mutilation”, and “suicide attempt.” I was privately messaged after it posted and scolded by a reader who said it was improperly tagged. They said that they were sickened by my depiction of a character’s self-inflicted eye injury. They said that my tags were not sufficient enough for them and that I should have added the tag “auto-enucleation” to save them from that horror. 

Dude, I didn’t even know what that meant

I had given my fic an archive warning, and four specific additional tags to keep this from happening.

I felt awful. I felt sick. I didn’t want to hurt anyone or trigger anyone (even though one of the canon characters in my fic is named One-eye, and self-inflicted eye injuries probably should have been inferred). But I added the tag anyway. I still felt awful for weeks because I thought I did everything right, and I still hurt someone. 

From that day on, I decided that I will never use a warning other than “Chose Not to Use Archive Warnings”. I don’t care if no one reads my fics because of it. Having a reader freak out over watching their favorite character hurt themselves in a dream was enough to turn me away from trying to tag anything more specifically. 

I don’t want to be attacked by angry readers. I need the catch-all warning so that I can feel safe with what I post. 

Should I let one reader interaction dictate how I tag? Maybe not, but it was sufficient enough for me to no longer feel comfortable with my tagging skills.

I’d rather use the “there may be nuts” warning so I don’t get berated by readers when I’m just trying to enjoy a fun hobby that lets me work through my own issues.


To be clear: I’m not trying to discourage tagging.

I just can’t stand aside and let people call authors who choose not to use archive warnings “selfish” and “uncaring”. I still try to tag to the best of my ability – most of us do – but some of us use general tags like “death”, “murder”, “sexual content”, “canon-typical violence”, “self-harm”, “non-con”, etc, rather than a wall of tags that depict every single injury, sex act, or squick. I write for a very violent, very psychologically damaged, very cannibalistic show. My tags would be longer than my fics, so I use the “may contain nuts” archive warning to cover my ass.

Selfish and uncaring authors are the ones that draw you into fics with the intent of misleading you. 

Maybe they tag “no warnings apply” and hit you with a major character death or non-con right up front. Or maybe they just didn’t understand what the warnings mean, which is why sharing this info is so important.

No one who uses “Choose Not to Use Archive Warnings” is putting their “precious plot” ahead of their reader’s needs. Frankly, it’s insulting to be lumped into a group that readers assume are trying to hurt them. By using that warning for our “precious plot,” we are essentially halving our potential readers just for their safety.

You don’t know a writer’s intent (or needs) when they tag any more than an author knows a reader’s triggers. Stop turning this into an “us vs them” debate and start listening to each other.

Spread the knowledge of what the archive warnings mean and how to properly use them. 

Spread info about proper tagging. All of that is awesome.

But STOP saying that writers who choose not to use archive warnings don’t care about their reader’s safety because they are literally the only ones telling you to your face: THIS MIGHT HURT YOU, READ WITH CAUTION.

You can’t care about a person’s safety more than that. They would rather you not read it at all than be even slightly triggered. They are misleading no one and still being treated like pariahs, and I think that’s sort of rediculous.

If you enjoy my writing, please consider dropping me a comment here or, if applicable, on AO3 or by supporting my hot beverage habit on Ko-fi. Thank you!

—joanielspeak
Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.