Wikipedia:Short description

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Short descriptions in a menu of suggested articles
Short descriptions as a subheading below the article title

The short description of a Wikipedia article or other mainspace page is a concise explanation of the scope of the page. Eventually all articles should have a short description template, even if it is empty, so that it is easier to keep track of new articles which still need to have one added.

The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) initially arranged for short descriptions to be drawn from the Description field in Wikidata entries. Later, WMF made provision for these to be overwritten by short descriptions generated within Wikipedia.

Pages which should have a short description[edit]

  1. Most mainspace articles should have a short description. Where there is no useful short description possible, leave it out.
  2. Mainspace pages that are not articles, like redirects, disambiguation pages and the like, should usually also have short descriptions, though there may be cases where this is not true. A generic short description transcluded by a common template is very often suitable for this class of page, and has been done for a large number of pages.
  3. There is no policy or style guidance stating that specific pages or namespaces may not have a short description. Use your discretion, and the Bold-Revert-Discuss procedure. Not all namespaces are targeted by the gadget (see next section), but that is not based on any policy or guidance. The gadget was made to do what is needed, not what may not be relevant.

Editing procedures[edit]

The short description is part of the article content, and is subject to the standard processes for content decisions, including but not limited to Bold–Revert–Discuss and the rules on edit warring and vandalism. Short descriptions are subject to many Wikipedia standards of content, including those found at Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons and Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, though, like the title, they are not able to be referenced inline. Just like article titles, they are decided by editorial consensus.

The most convenient way to create and edit short descriptions is using the short description gadget. Please do not create or use redirects/shortcuts. The gadget does the job better, and redirects break the gadget's function. If you need to do a manual fix, please use the correct template name {{short description}}.

This restriction does not apply to the use of {{short description}} inside other templates for special purposes, like redirects, where a generic short description is added to a whole category of pages by transclusion in an existing template.

Content[edit]

  • The short description may be used for several purposes, including as a disambiguator in searches and as an annotation in outline articles.
  • The short description should be as brief as possible. A target of 40 characters has been suggested, but this can be exceeded when necessary.
  • The short description should focus on distinguishing the subject from similar ones rather than precisely defining it.
  • The short description will be the first point of contact for many readers, so it should be readily comprehensible.
  • Because some applications may abbreviate longer descriptions, the most important identifying information should be placed first.
  • The short description should not be a full sentence unless absolutely necessary. Whether it should have an initial capital remains undecided, but is favored at present.
  • The short description is intended to be used in conjunction with the article title, and should be written as though it follows the title. Duplication of information already in the title is to be avoided.
  • Links should not appear in a short description. All relevant links should be located in the associated article. (This has been contested as some useful functions for wikimarkup in the short description have been proposed. There is no definitive consensus on this point.)
  • The short description is not required to provide an adequate definition of the article subject.
  • WikiProjects may find it useful to suggest standard formats which may be applicable to categories of articles.
  • Wikidata has English descriptions of a significant fraction of Wikipedia articles. Where these are good, they may be copied to the relevant article. The Wikidata descriptions are all public domain, so there is no need for attribution. If you use a Wikidata description, check that it is appropriate and accurate. Wikidata descriptions may not comply with all Wikipedia content policies, and it is the responsibility of the editor to ensure that Wikipedia content complies. This is particularly relevant for biographies of living people and medical articles.
  • Avoid anything that is, or could reasonably be construed as, controversial or judgemental. Use universally accepted facts wherever possible.
  • Use sentence case for short descriptions. It is technically problematic to have to convert case when there may be proper nouns in the text.

History[edit]

Background/overview[edit]

Wikipedia's mobile interface uses descriptions to augment searches, and the Wikipedia App also uses them below each article title. These short descriptions were implemented by WMF developers using the description for the article from Wikidata. (See Wikidata's "Wikipedia" entry: the description is below the title line.)

After concerns were raised about their accuracy, suitability, and the potential for sneaky vandalism on Wikidata, WMF developers created the SHORTDESC magic word, giving editors the ability to override the Wikidata description directly on Wikipedia.

This was discussed in the following places:

If a short description for an article is not defined on Wikipedia, as of May 2018, the Wikidata description is still used. At some point, the Wikidata fallback will be removed.

Implementation[edit]

The magic word {{SHORTDESC: }} has been implemented and works from within the template {{short description}}. According to DannyH (WMF), the implementation will now proceed in two stages:

Stage 1: Wikipedia editors will populate the magic word (SHORTDESC) on Wikipedia pages by using the {{short description}}. During that period:

  • Pages that have a Wikipedia-written SHORTDESC description—{{SHORTDESC:American stage actor}}—will display the new description.
  • Pages that have a blank magic word—{{SHORTDESC:}}—will display the Wikidata description.
  • Pages that do not have a SHORTDESC description will display the Wikidata description.

Stage 2: Once Wikipedia editors write (or import from Wikidata) ~2 million descriptions, we will switch to entirely Wikipedia-hosted descriptions. From that point:

  • Pages that have a Wikipedia-written SHORTDESC description—{{SHORTDESC:American stage actor}}—will display the new description.
  • Pages that have a blank magic word—{{SHORTDESC:}}—will not display a description at all.
  • Pages that do not have a SHORTDESC description will not display a description at all.
  • The Wikidata description will not be displayed on any page.

Help adding short descriptions[edit]

Format and placing[edit]

Use the template {{short description}} to add short descriptions to articles.

All articles should have a short description. If many articles share the same short descriptions, it may be a good idea to add the {{short description}} template to a template used by all these articles instead.

Per MOS:ORDER, place the {{short description}} template as close to the top of the page as possible, for ease of finding it. This means that it should be below any hatnotes, but above Deletion/Protection tags (CSD, PROD, AFD, PP notices), Maintenance / dispute tags, and English variety and date style.

  • If the {{SHORTDESC: }} magic word or Template:Short description is used generically inside another template, e.g. an infobox, then please add a second parameter | noreplace to the magic word, which will allow it to be overridden by a manually inserted instance (for example, at the top of the article) that does not have the | noreplace keyword. (Note: this functionality is not implemented yet, see phab:T193857, but adding the 'noreplace' keyword in templates would still be helpful in anticipation. This modification is likely to be implemented around 12 June 2018 implemented).

Making it visible in the page[edit]

The short description is normally invisible when visiting Wikipedia using a desktop browser. It is visible and used by the mobile interface.

There is no special code or alternate templates that make short descriptions visible in desktop browsers.

To see short descriptions from desktop browsers, you need to enable MediaWiki:Gadget-Page_descriptions.js from your Preferences in the Gadgets menu Testing and development section: Show page description beneath the page title (not compatible with the Page Assessments gadget). This makes the short description visible to you, but not to other Wikipedia readers using desktop browsers.

Instructions[edit]

Red means that the short description is missing; orange means it's from Wikidata (you can click it to go there).

Editor hints are only available for those who are auto confirmed, and only work for Vector and Monobook skins. Coded by User:TheDJ. May contain bugs. (Display is somewhat erratic, you may have to refresh the page a few times to get it to show.)

For a more direct and robust approach that is compatible with the Page Assessment gadget, see user CSS instructions at § Testing; the code snippet there can simply be copy-pasted. This does not provide Wikidata color highlighting, however.

Seeing a short description but can't find the code in the page?[edit]

If the page isn't [directly] using {{Short description}}, try these steps:

  • Look for manual <tag> markup.
  • Failing that, see if the Infobox template on the page has a short description parameter.
    • If not, it may generate one automatically from metadata; see the template's documentation page and, if necessary the page of the meta-template used by the topical infobox. If you find that the meta-template has such a parameter and the derived topical template does not, please add it and documentation for it to the derived template(s). Automated short descriptions frequently need to be overridden.
  • At portals, look for the template {{Portal description}} in the portal's code. You can add a |topic= parameter to override to auto-generated topic name.
  • Still can't find it? Look for other transcluded templates or Wikidata-related code.

Taking scuba diving (Q1096878) as an example:

  • {{short description/test|Underwater diving where breathing is from equipment independent of the surface }}Underwater diving where breathing is from equipment independent of the surface
  • {{short description/test|none }}
  • {{short description/test|wikidata }}underwater diving where the diver breathes from apparatus (scuba) which is completely independent of surface supply

Tool for making short descriptions visible and importing useful descriptions from Wikidata[edit]

  • User:Galobtter/Shortdesc helper is compatible with Page assessments gadget, shows the short description if it exists, allows editing of only the short description, shows the Wikidata description and allows it to be imported and if desired, edited.
  • This script introduces the short description as a class .mw-page-description which can be highlighted by a line of css like .mw-page-description { background-color: #FF80FF; }

Using short descriptions in Wikipedia[edit]

Annotated links[edit]

The template {{Annotated link}} can be used to automatically annotate a link in a list using the associated short description. This can be used in outline and index lists, and in shorter lists in articles such as "see also" sections, which will be automatically populated with annotations using the associated short descriptions. These will remain up to date when the short description is edited. Annotated link does not work via redirects, so if the link is to a redirect, check if it is a redirect with possibility of becoming a full article. If so, add an appropriate short description to the redirect page – this will also help when someone wants to make it into an article – or change the link to a direct link. Both of these options can be appropriate, and it is a matter of judgement which is better in a specific case. (Bold-Revert-Discuss applies)

Short descriptions on redirect pages[edit]

{{Short description}} conflicts with the magic word #REDIRECT if placed in the standard position at the top of the page. If there is a short description first, the redirect becomes functionally a soft redirect – it will not take the reader directly to the target, but will work if the link is clicked on the redirect page. It also generates an edit summary that the redirect has been removed.

This may be fixable, but the workaround is to ensure that #REDIRECT is above {{Short description}}.

The short description helper gadget no longer causes this problem, as it now inserts the short description below #REDIRECT. Manual addition can still be done incorrectly, but the problem is trivially avoidable, and easily fixed.

Functions

A short description on a redirect page has two functions:

  1. It provides an annotation for an {{annotated link}}, which do not go to the final destination of a redirect to get a short description, and that is often better, because there are a large number of redirects for which the destination page short description would be confusing, ungrammatical, or otherwise slightly weird if used in conjunction with the redirect page title, and
  2. the presence of a short description indicates that the topic described may be a valid article topic, so a short description should not be used for common misspellings etc. The short description also indicates the scope of a potential article more clearly than the title alone.

This is the way a short description can be made available for annotated links without having to creating a full article, which is useful if there is not enough reliably sourced information available to create the article yet, or insufficient time or inclination. The short description of a Redirect to section should refer to the section content, and should not generally be the same as the short description of the main article containing that section.

See also[edit]