SimpleQuiz › Heading and List › Conclusion

This question was intended to divide the results more so than the first two. While there isn’t much context included with the examples, I think what I got out of the discussion that followed is that either method is good depending on the situation.

Notable Comments

Robbert Broersma:

“I choose A, ’cause a definition-list consists of a term and a description. “Robots” is not a description of the term “A List of Stuff”.”

While this is true, others defend the use of a definition list for other applications, later in the discussion.

Dave Shea asks:

“…what constitutes a term/definition pairing? Is the term a word, can it be a phrase, can it be an image?”

A good question, and again I think is cleared up somewhat later on.

Anne van Kesteren:

“How about nested lists?”

Nested lists can certainly be useful as well, as an alternative.

Doug Bowman pretty much writes the wrap-up for me here:

“… My answer: ‘C’: depends.”

And after quoting an important sentence from the W3 specification for dl:

Another application of DL, for example, is for marking up dialogues, with each DT naming a speaker, and each DD containing his or her words.

“Clearly, there are uses for definition lists far beyond the traditional term and description.”

Doug goes on to give some good examples of definition lists with multiple descriptions — creating relationships between terms and multiple descriptions. A nice example of using a defintion list for more than just term/description pairs.


Defining lists with section dividers (I’ll refrain from using the the term “headings” here) has unlimited possibilities. Using the right combination depends heavily on the context. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Definition lists can not only be used for strict term/description pairings, but also for grouping separate lists together that are related.
  • Since search engines treat heading tags with greater importance, that should factor in your decision on whether or not to use them. (The W3 spec prohibits block-level elements within a dt.)

See all quiz questions and wrap-ups in chronological order.


  1. alex says:

    Great stuff Dan, thanks!

  2. Jeremy says:

    Awesome work man. I’m reading these quizes as soon as they are written, and I am really learning alot. :)

  3. Jules says:

    I consider definition lists to be associative lists whereby there is an association or relationship between the dt and the dd, but not necessarily a term/definition relationship. For example, job title and job description.

  4. Chris says:

    This discussion probably isn’t active anymore, but here’s my two cents.
    Having the way search engines work influence your opinion isn’t a good thing, in my opinion. The point of standards and semantics is not to build website for specific browsers anymore, but to build websites that simply make sense. A definition list, being an associative list, makes more sense in my opinion than an unordered list with a section divider. Search engines shouldn’t make the difference (in a perfect world).