Today in a meeting of LHM’s masterminds regarding WordPress, my supervisor attempted to explain the difference between categories and tags as they relate to blog posts. After a brief hesitation and a few jeering jokes made by the staff, he dropped the subject and moved on.
But I kept chewing on the idea for a moment after and thought of a metaphor that might work. In the physical sense of information, one would likely store records in a file cabinet. The category would be like a drawer of that cabinet, and the tags would be like labels on the folder.
The function for each of them is basically the same: make it easier for others to find your posts. Categories organize pages into relevant lists of information, whereas tags pull out specific pieces of the writing that another might plug into a search engine.
Therefore, if you are writing a story about a little Guatemalan boy who just received a donated wheelchair, you might categorize it with other stories from South America or among those about children. To tag it, you might use “wheelchair” or “disabled” or “donation.” That way, anyone who searches for any of those things has a chance at seeing your brilliant article!