How To: Create descriptions in layer symbology for use in legends


Descriptions are additional text that can be displayed in a legend instead of or in addition to class labels.

Descriptions are especially useful to display labels and other text with different text formatting options. For example, to show the common name of a species with regular text, and the scientific name with italics.

Note: You can create descriptions for layers that use the following types of Symbology: Single symbol, Categories, Graduated colors or symbols, or Multiple Attributes.


  1. Right-click on the layer in the Table of Contents and select Properties.
  2. Click on the Symbology tab.
  3. If the Symbology is set to Single symbol click on the Description button and type in or edit text in the text edit box.

    [O-Image] Layer Properties, Single Symbol

    Type Ctrl + Enter to create a line break in the text edit box.

  4. If the Symbology is set to any of the other types listed above, right-click on a class in the class list and select Edit Description form the context menu.

    [O-Image] Layer Properties, Categories, Descriptions
  5. These descriptions can be displayed in a legend.

    [O-Image] Legend showing label and description

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