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  • Writer's pictureBrent Payne

<dl> elements must only directly contain properly-ordered <dt> and <dd> groups, <script>, or <template> elements

At Loud Interactive, we've delved into the intricate details of ensuring web accessibility through properly structured definition lists. Let's break down what we found, why it's crucial for your site, and how to rectify any issues, supplemented by additional resources to further your understanding.

The Issue at Hand: We've identified a common oversight on web pages where <dl> elements—used to create definition lists—are not properly structured. Specifically, these lists must only directly contain correctly ordered <dt> (definition term) and <dd> (definition description) groups, along with <script> or <template> elements if necessary. This structure is vital for the correct interpretation of content by assistive technologies.

Why Does This Matter? The correct structuring of definition lists is more than a matter of code cleanliness; it's about accessibility. Screen readers rely on the proper markup to convey information accurately to users with visual impairments. When a <dl> element is incorrectly formatted, it can lead to confusion, misinterpretation, or even information being entirely missed by those relying on assistive technologies. Considering the seriousness of this impact, ensuring web accessibility is not just ethical but also a legal imperative in many jurisdictions.

How to Correct the Issue: To address this, perform a thorough check of your definition lists for the following:

  • Ensure that <dl> elements only contain <dt> and <dd> elements directly, with <dt> elements preceding <dd> ones.

  • Verify that each term defined by a <dt> element is immediately followed by its description within a <dd> element.

  • Avoid placing other element types directly within <dl> elements unless they are <script> or <template> elements.

An example of a correctly structured definition list is as follows:



<dd>Black hot drink</dd>


<dd>White cold drink</dd>


Further Resources: For those looking to deepen their understanding or address more complex scenarios, we recommend the following resources:

At Loud Interactive, we're committed to ensuring the web is accessible to everyone. By adhering to web accessibility guidelines, not only do we enhance the user experience for individuals with disabilities, but we also improve our sites for all users.

For assistance with your SEO and accessibility needs, visit us at Loud Interactive.


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