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Best Practice: Use rdfs:label and rdfs:comment in RDF Vocabularies

State: Approved

Contact: Nick Crossley


This Best Practice recommends appropriate usage of rdfs:label and rdfs:comment in RDF vocabularies.

This Best Practice is closely related to Best Practice: When to Use rdfs:label Versus =dcterms:title= which discusses when to use similar terms defined in the Dublin Core vocabulary.


The RDF Schema vocabulary defines the terms rdfs:label and rdfs:comment, which have a similar meaning to Dublin Core vocabulary terms dcterms:title and dcterms:description.

The RDF Schema terms SHOULD only be used in vocabulary documents. The value of rdfs:label SHOULD be the part of the URI that comes after the final hash or slash. The value of rdfs:comment should be a brief description of the term.

On the other hand, the Dublin Core terms SHOULD be used in descriptions of individual document-like resources, e.g. those defined in Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) specifications. dcterms:title SHOULD be a one line summary of the resource, e.g. the title of an article or the headline of a bug report. dcterms:description should be a longer description, possibly containing multiple paragraphs. If either term contains markup then the datatype MUST be XML Literal. The preferred markup for text is XHTML. Note that RDF Schema 1.1 introduced a new literal type for HTML, so this Best Practice needs to be revised.


Here is an example snippet of an RDF vocabulary document:

@prefix oslc: <http://open-services.net/ns/core#> .
@prefix rdfs: <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#> .

oslc:ServiceProvider a rdfs:Class ;
   rdfs:isDefinedBy oslc: ;
   rdfs:label "ServiceProvider" ;
   rdfs:comment "The Service Provider resource" ;
   rdfs:seeAlso <http://open-services.net/bin/view/Main/OslcCoreSpecification#Resource_Service_Provider> .

See Also

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