An edit summary is a brief explanation of an edit to a Wikipedia page. When you edit a page, there is a small text entry field labeled Edit summary located under the main edit box and above the Save page button. Edit summaries are displayed in lists of changes (such as page histories and watchlists), and at the top of diff pages.
It is good practice to fill in the Edit summary field, or add to it in the case of section editing, as this helps others to understand the intention of your edit. To avoid accidentally leaving edit summaries blank, you can select "Prompt me when entering a blank edit summary" on the Editing tab of your , if you have created an account.
Always provide an edit summary
It is considered good practice to provide a summary for every edit
, especially when (undoing) the actions of other editors or deleting existing text; otherwise, people may question your motives for the edit.
Accurate summaries help other contributors decide whether it is worthwhile for them to review an edit, and to understand the change should they choose to review it. When a major edit (e.g. deletion of a substantial amount of text) doesn't have an edit summary, there are fewer reasons to and busy editors may be more inclined to revert the change without checking it in detail. Summaries are less important for minor changes (which means generally unchallengeable changes such as spelling or grammar corrections), but a brief note like "fixed spelling" is helpful even then.
How to summarise
Summarise. Summarise the change, even if only briefly; even a short summary is better than no summary.
Explain. Give reasons for the change, if there is a reasonable chance that other editors may be unclear as to why it was made.
Abbreviations. Abbreviations should be used with care. They can be confusing for new contributors. For an explanation of some commonly used abbreviations, see this .
Talk pages. When editing , consider copying your comment to the edit summary, if it is brief; this allows users to check Recent changes, Page history and User contributions (see below) very efficiently. It also reduces the load on the servers.
Expand on important information. Readers who see only the summary might not get the entire picture. Prevent misunderstanding: If an edit requires more explanation than will fit in the summary box, use the to give more information, adding "See Talk" or "See Discussion Page" to the summary.
Avoid misleading summaries. Mentioning one change but not another one can be misleading to someone who finds the other one more important; add "and misc." to cover the other changes.
Avoid inappropriate summaries. Editors should explain their edits, but not be overly critical or harsh when editing or reverting others' work. This may be perceived as uncivil, and cause tension or bad feelings, which makes collaboration more difficult. Explain what you changed, and cite the relevant policies, guidelines or principles of good writing, but try not to target or to single out others in a way that may come across as an attack or an insult.
Use of edit summaries in disputes
Proper use of edit summaries is critical to resolving content disputes
. Edit summaries should accurately and succinctly summarize the nature of the edit, especially if it could be controversial. If the edit involves reverting previous changes
, it should be marked as a revert ("rv") in the edit summary.
Avoid using edit summaries to carry on debates or negotiation over the content or to . This creates an atmosphere where the only way to carry on discussion is to revert other editors! If you notice this happening, start a section on the talk page and place your comments there. This keeps discussions and debates away from the article page itself. For example:
- reverted edits by Example, see talk for rationale
After you save the page, you cannot change the edit summary, so be careful with it, particularly if you are in a heated content dispute – do not write things you will regret.
If you make an important omission or error in an edit summary, you can correct this by making a dummy edit (an edit with no changes), and adding further information in its own edit summary.
In the extreme case of an edit summary containing certain kinds of harmful content, the summary can be deleted on request. They may be removed from public view by using ; such edit summaries remain visible to administrators. In even more limited circumstances the entire edit may be , leaving it and its edit summary visible only to the handful of users with the Oversight permission.
Edit summary properties and features
Limited to 250 characters. The edit summary box can hold one line of 250 characters. If you attempt to type or paste more, only the first 250 characters will be displayed – the rest will be discarded. For example attempting to add 10 new characters (at the end or in between) to a summary already containing 245 characters will result in the first 5 new characters being inserted and the second 5 being disregarded.
Show Preview. The "Show preview" button also provides a preview of the edit summary to facilitate checking links.
Can't be changed after saving. After you save the page, you cannot change the edit summary.
Doesn't appear in searches. The Wikimedia search function cannot search edit summaries, and they are not indexed by external search engines.
Wikilinks always rendered; other wikitext coding ignored. Text in edit summaries renders internal links, including piped links, and interwiki links, even when enclosed within <nowiki> and . Therefore, copying wikitext in the edit summary box may be preferable to copying text from the preview, except when one wants to save space. Other wikitext coding is not interpreted. <nowiki></nowiki> has no effect, so do not sign edit summaries.
URLs. When copying an external link from the preview into the edit summary box then, depending on the operating system, the "printable version" is copied, i.e. how it is normally rendered, and in addition, between parentheses, the URL; hence the same information as in the wikitext, but in a different format, as well as a possible sequential number.
Places where the edit summary appears
The edit summary appears in black italics in the following places:
Page history – list of changes to the page you edited
User contributions – list of all your edits
[Use the enhanced watchlist to see all recent changes in the watched pages, not just the last change in each page.] – list of recent changes to watched pages (logged-in users only)
diff page – shows the difference between two edits
Recent changes – list of all recent edits
Wikipedia IRC channels – real-time list of all edits
Related changes – list of recent changes to pages linked to the page you edited
– shows the edit summary of the creation.
When adding a new section to a discussion page with the "new section" button, the section title is used as the edit summary. When editing an existing section
, the section title is inserted at the beginning of the edit summary, enclosed with /* and */ marks, for example /* External links */. Details of the edit should be added after this text. In the case that you provide a long summary yourself, you can delete the section title in order to stay within the limit of 250 characters.
When viewing such an edit summary, the section name will appear in grey, with a small link next to it: . Click the link to view the section (if the section no longer exists, the link will just take you to the page).
If you create a new section before or after an existing section by clicking a section "edit" link, delete the text between /* and */ marks (or change it to the new section title) to avoid confusion.
[It used to be possible to manually include links to multiple sections using the /* */ syntax – this may be useful when editing several sections at once. This did not work as of June 2009. It was reported in .
For example, the edit summary:
should be rendered as:
but is instead rendered as in the Edit summary for this edit.
"Post a comment" talk page feature
When starting a new thread on a , the "Post a comment" feature can be used. Click the plus sign next to the Edit link. A box labelled "Subject/headline
" appears before the main editing box. Text typed into the subject field becomes both the edit summary and a new heading (which is added to the end of the page), and text entered into the main edit box is inserted below this heading.
In certain circumstances, an automatic summary is generated when an edit is saved without one. This is slightly different from the summary added when editing a section, as that can be modified by the user before saving.
With the exception of the automatic summary when creating a redirect, which usually says all that needs to be said, these are not a substitute for a proper edit summary – you should always leave a meaningful summary, even in the above cases. They are, however, useful in providing some context for edits made by inexperienced users who are not aware of the importance of edit summaries, and for spotting vandalism.
Tags (i.e., edit tags) are brief messages that the software automatically places next to certain edits in histories
, and other special pages. They are implemented by the to help assist vandalism patrollers and other page watchers. They cannot be added or removed manually.
Notes for experienced users
There are standard templates for warning editors who delete content without providing an edit summary: (which assumes good faith) and (which doesn't). is available for notifying users who have not provided an edit summary for other types of edit. These are available via .
When editors , their RfA pages include statistics about how often they have provided edit summaries in the past.
File upload summary
When uploading an image one can supply an upload summary. This serves multiple purposes:
as second part of the automatically created edit summary of the upload log (the first part giving the file name)
as text in the entry of the image history
in the case that the file name of the image is new:
as edit summary for the creation of the image page
as wikitext for the editable part of the image page, which includes the following possibilities:
briefly describe the image
provide internal or external links
specify one or more categories the image is in
The capacity of the upload summary is one line of 250 characters; in the upload log the last part may fall off, because this can contain 255 characters, including "uploaded "filename"".
Note that there is no preview function to check the code for the links, template calls and category tags, but of course, if needed one can edit the image page after uploading, to correct errors and also to extend the text.
See also Image page.