Use Python’s built-in `min()`

function with the `key`

argument to find the shortest string in a set. Call `min(my_set, key=len)`

to return the shortest string in the set using the built-in `len()`

function to determine the weight of each string—the shortest string has minimum length.

👉 **Recommended Tutorial**: How to Find the Shortest String in a Python List?

## Problem Formulation

Given a Python set of strings. Find the string with the minimum number of characters—the shortest string in the set.

Here are a few example sets of strings and the desired output:

# {'Alice', 'Bob', 'Pete'} ----> 'Bob' # {'aaa', 'aaaa', 'aa'} ----> 'aa' # {''} ----> '' # {} ----> ''

## Method 1: min() Function with Key Argument Set to len()

Use Python’s built-in `min()`

function with a key argument to find the shortest string in a set like so: `min(s, key=len)`

. This returns the shortest string in the set `s`

using the built-in `len()`

function to determine the weight of each string—the shortest string will be the minimum.

Here’s the code definition of the `get_min_str()`

function that takes a set of strings as input and returns the shortest string in the list or a `ValueError`

if the set is empty.

def get_min_str(my_set): return min(my_set, key=len)

Here’s the output we obtain when running our desired examples:

print(get_min_str({'Alice', 'Bob', 'Pete'})) # 'Bob' print(get_min_str({'aaa', 'aaaa', 'aa'})) # 'aa' print(get_min_str({''})) # ''

If you pass an empty set, Python will raise a `ValueError: min() arg is an empty sequence`

because you cannot pass an empty iterable into the `min()`

function.

print(get_min_str({})) # ValueError: min() arg is an empty sequence

## Method 2: Handling Empty Sets

If you want to return an alternative value in case the set is empty, you can modify the `get_min_str()`

function to include a second optional argument:

def get_min_str(my_set, fallback=''): return min(my_set, key=len) if my_set else fallback print(get_min_str({})) # '' print(get_min_str({}, fallback='EMPTY!!!!!!')) # EMPTY!!!!!!

## Method 3: Not-So-Pythonic with For Loop

A less Pythonic but, for beginner coders, more readable version is the following loop-based solution:

def get_min_str(my_set, fallback=''): if not my_set: return fallback min_str = '' # set is not empty for x in my_set: if len(x) < len(max_str): min_str = x return min_str print(get_min_str({'Alice', 'Bob', 'Pete'})) # 'Bob' print(get_min_str({'aaa', 'aaaa', 'aa'})) # 'aa' print(get_min_str({''})) # '' print(get_min_str({}, fallback='EMPTY!!!!!!')) # EMPTY!!!!!!

## Method 4: Python Min Length of String in Set

To find the ** minimum length** of a string in a given set, use the

`min(my_set, key=len)`

function to obtain the string with the minimum length and then pass this min string into the `len()`

function to obtain the number of characters.**len(min(my_set, key=len))**

Here’s a more detailed example:

def get_min_str_length(my_set): return len(max(my_set, key=len)) print(get_min_str_length({'Alice', 'Bob', 'Pete'})) # 3 print(get_min_str_length({'aaa', 'aaaa', 'aa'})) # 2 print(get_min_str_length({''})) # 0 print(get_min_str_length({})) # ValueError: min() arg is an empty sequence

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👉 **Recommended Tutorial**: How to Get the Maximum String in a Python Set?

While working as a researcher in distributed systems, Dr. Christian Mayer found his love for teaching computer science students.

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