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.

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 all Wikipedia standards of content, including those found at Wikipedia:Biographies of Living Persons, Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, and Wikipedia:Verifiability, though, like the title, they are not referenced inline.


  • 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 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.
  • The short description is not intended 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.



Wikipedia's mobile interface uses Wikidata descriptions below each article title and in searches. (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, the ability to define short descriptions directly on Wikipedia was added. If a Wikipedia short description for an article is not defined, as of May 2018, the Wikidata description is still used. At some point, the Wikidata fallback will be removed.


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. 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 ~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]

  • The format for a short description uses a magic word {{SHORTDESC: }}, which takes the short description as a parameter (link to technical information when available).
  • The template, {{short description}}, is used to populate ordinary articles in mainspace. Eventually all mainspace pages should have a short description. Some pages may be better served by embedding the short description template in a disambiguation template or similar, where the short description is valid for all pages using that template.
  • As the short description is the first thing that will be shown after the title when it is used, there is a reasonable argument for putting it at the top of the page before anything else. However, this may conflict with ease of editing article content, other templates and hatnotes which are usually placed right at the top, and it may make the contents of the short descriptions particularly vulnerable to vandalism and edit warring.
  • 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 an 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).

Template:Short description[edit]

The Template:Short description has been created to manage short descriptions in articles. For example at Nitrox the first line is:

{{short description| Breathing gas mixture composed of nitrogen and oxygen }}

It currently does not display its text by default, but it can be enabled (and styled, if desired) by using the class shortdescription , or by enabling a gadget (see below).

Any registered editor can show the text of short descriptions by adding this line to their Special:MyPage/common.css:

.shortdescription { display:block !important; }

For more detailed experimentation, a test version of the template which displays its text by default is available at Template:Short description/test.

Making it visible in the page[edit]

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).

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 Template:Short_description#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 link}} is up and running. This template 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. Currently does not work with redirects.

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}}.

A short description on a redirect page has two functions: It provides an annotation for {{annotated link}}, and 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.

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]