<shortdesc>: Why is the <shortdesc> element valuable, and how do you write effective short descriptions for DITA topics?

The <shortdesc> element in DITA XML is invaluable for providing concise and informative summaries of DITA topics. Writing effective short descriptions is essential as they serve as brief previews that help users quickly understand the content of a topic. Let’s explore the significance of the <shortdesc> element and how to craft effective short descriptions for DITA topics.

Value of the <shortdesc> Element

The <shortdesc> element offers several advantages:

  • Enhanced usability: Short descriptions aid users in deciding whether a topic is relevant to their needs, allowing for more efficient navigation.
  • Improved search results: Search engines often use short descriptions to provide snippets of content in search results, making it important for search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Clarity and context: Short descriptions provide a clear and concise overview of a topic’s content, helping users quickly grasp its main points.

Writing Effective Short Descriptions

To create effective short descriptions:

  • Be concise: Keep short descriptions brief, typically a sentence or two, to provide a quick overview.
  • Highlight key points: Focus on the most important information, such as the topic’s main subject or purpose.
  • Use clear language: Write short descriptions in a clear and understandable manner to ensure users can quickly grasp the topic’s content.


Here’s an example of how the <shortdesc> element is used to provide a concise summary for a DITA topic:

<topic id="shortdesc_example">
  <title>Getting Started with DITA</title>
  <shortdesc>This topic introduces the basics of DITA XML authoring, covering topics such as topic elements, document structure, and best practices for creating effective DITA content.</shortdesc>
    <p>This topic is an essential starting point for beginners in DITA documentation.

<p>It provides an overview of key concepts and guidance on creating structured content.</p> </body>

In this example, the <shortdesc> element succinctly summarizes the content of the DITA topic, aiding users in quickly understanding its purpose and relevance.