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 user preferences.
Always provide an edit summary
It is considered good practice to always provide an edit summary, but it is especially important when reverting the actions of other editors, or if you delete any text; otherwise, people may question your motives for the edit.
Accurate summaries help other editors decide whether it is worthwhile for them to check a change, and to understand it if they choose to check it. Summaries are less essential for "minor changes", but a summary like "fixed spelling" is helpful even then.
How to summarize
- Summarize: Summarize 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
- Abbreviations: Experienced users, especially those with many edits to make, will often use abbreviations in order to save time; for example, "rv" for "revert". Abbreviations should be used with care, although they save one editor time they may cost readers much more time to figure out what they mean, they can be confusing for inexperienced users, but they are generally fine for small edits such as formatting and grammar changes. See Edit summary legend for a list of commonly used abbreviations in edit summaries.
- Talk pages: When editing talk pages, consider copying your comment to the edit summary, especially 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.
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.
If an edit requires more explanation than will fit in the edit summary box, use the Talk page instead, and put in the edit summary "see Talk".
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 express opinions of the other users involved. 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 User:Example, see talk for rationale
If you find that you made important omissions or errors in the edit summary, you can make a dummy edit just to put the correction in the edit summary.
After you save the page, you cannot change the edit summary - so be careful with what you write, particularly if you are in a heated content dispute - you might write things you'll later regret.
In the extreme case of an edit summary containing harmful content, a user with oversight permission might hide it from view.
- Limited to 200 characters: The edit summary box can hold one line of 200 characters. If you attempt to type or paste more, only the first 200 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 195 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 </nowiki>. 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.
- 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
- Contributor Help – list of all your edits
- Watchlist* – list of recent changes to watched pages
- diff page – shows the difference between two edits
- Recent changes – list of all recent edits
- Related changes: list of recent changes to pages linked to the page you edited
- List of new pages: shows the edit summary of the creation.
* Use the enhanced watchlist to see all recent changes in the watched pages, not just the last change in each page.
When adding a new section to a talk 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 200 characters.
When viewing such an edit summary, the section name will appear in grey, with a small link next to it: → External links. 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 to avoid confusion.
"Post a comment" talk page feature
When starting a new thread on a Talk page, 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.
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
- call templates
- 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.