Help:Edit summary

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By convention we include an edit summary with each edit to a wiki page. When editing a page, there is a small "Summary" field under the main edit-box.

It's good practice to fill in the Edit Summary field, or add to it in the case of section editing, as it helps everyone to understand what is changed, such as when perusing the history of the page.

On the the Editing tab of your preferences page is an option for "Prompt me when entering a blank edit summary." You can set this and will get reminded if you forget to provide an edit summary.

In the case of applying substitution, providing the line of wikitext containing "subst:" in the edit summary is especially useful, because otherwise substitution does not show up as such in the page history. For example, we welcome editors new to ISFDB by adding "{{subst:Welcome}} ~~~~" to their user-talk page. The edit-summary in this case would be "subst:Welcome" so that others know that you used this template.


The edit summary box can hold one line of 200 characters, which size is no more than 250 octets (the latter restriction never has effect on ASCII-text, but note that in UTF-8 any non-ASCII character occupies 2 or more octets). If you attempt to type or paste more, only the first 200 characters will be displayed and the rest will be disregarded. Also, 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.

In edit summaries internal and interwiki links work, with some limitations, see below.

Other wikitext code is not interpreted:

  • Variables, templates, and parser functions are not expanded.
  • External links do not work
  • HTML tags do not work
  • Italics, bold, etc, do not work (edit summaries are rendered in italics by default)
  • <nowiki> tags do not work;

When pressing preview, a preview of the edit summary is obtained in addition to a preview of the edited page. Also, while the summary may be too long to be seen in the input box without scrolling, its preview is fully shown up to the total capacity of the input box.

Linking to a section

An anchor name enclosed between /* and */ produces a right arrow linking to a specified anchor on the page, followed by the anchor name with CSS-class "autocomment": Anchor text. It is similar to the wikitext "<span class="autocomment">[[#Anchor name|→]] Anchor text</span>"".

The edit summary can make multiple use of the - this may be useful when editing several sections at once, or otherwise referring to them.

Separators are automatically provided when needed (i.e. between /* */ syntax and text in either order). For example, the edit summary:

/* Foo */ test /* Bar */ test

is rendered as:

Foo - test - Bar - test

For more flexibility these special anchor links can be replaced by ordinary links to pages redirecting to the desired anchors; see also below.

Section editing

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 */. Such a summary will generate a link to the section in the recent changes, page history, and user contributions displays, and in other places. The link is displayed as an arrow pointing to the name of the section. (See #Linking to a section, above.)

If the section name is changed it is useful to change it in the edit summary accordingly, so that the section link still works as such (until the name of the section is changed again, as the links do not change retroactively).

If you create a new section before or after an existing section by clicking a section "edit" link, change or delete the text between /* and */ marks, to avoid confusion.

Details of the edit should normally be added after this text. In the case that you provide a long summary yourself you can consider deleting the section title in order to stay within the limit of 200 characters, depending on what is more important.

If a page contains 2 or more sections with identical names, the edit summary link will go to the first of them, no matter which section was actually edited. An internal section link can be forced to link to link to the proper section by adding _<number>, but this doesn't work for the links created by the /* Section name */ mechanism. In such a case, one can rename the sections to make them unique. Or one can dispense with section links in the summary. Or one can use an explicit page link. So if the page "Test Edits" had several sections entitled "Results" and one wishes the summery to link to the second such section, include a link such as [[Test Edits#Results_2|Results]] in the summery. This is often more trouble than it is worth.

If a section name is later changed, previously created links in edit summaries will no longer go to the section. Such links will simply link to the page, as do any section links to a section not present. If a different section is later changed to have the same name as the section in an old section link, the link will then go to that section -- i.e. the link is by name.

It is possible to create an anchor separate from the section title, and have summery links go to that instead. Again, this is often more trouble than it is worth.

Internal and interwiki links in edit summaries

In edit summaries internal links, including existence detection, and interwiki links work. Piping of these links works also.

The links can be checked in the preview of the edit summary.

What links here does not list links in edit summaries.

Percent codes

If a link target contains a %-sign followed by two hexadecimal digits the link does not work, and the link label shows up as plain text without brackets; in the case of a piped link the info what the link target is, is lost.

In a URL, all characters other than [[-:/.]], the digits 0-9, and the plain letters A-Z, a-z, are coded with once or twice a %-sign followed by two hexadecimal digits (follow the link to confirm that these four characters are not affected).

The codes occur in practice when a pagename contains special characters (characters other than those mentioned), and a link to a section of that page is made by copying part of the URL to that section, which in turn is produced by a TOC link. This is not the case if only the section name contains special characters, because in a URL they are coded with a point followed by the hexadecimal digits. So the anchor itself does not give problems, the fact that there is an anchor makes it convenient to use the URL, which gives this problem.

Workarounds to get a working link in the edit summary include:

  • use the URL, but replace the codes by the characters concerned by hand (this is not convenient in languages where many characters are coded)
  • apply a redirect to arrive at the page, apply the TOC link, get the part of the URL from the page name, if applicable add the interwiki prefix again, and use the result as link target in the page as well as in the edit summary
  • assemble the combination pagename, #, section name oneself; the page name can be copied from the page header, or, if it has a short redirect, the pagename can also easily be typed.


Since edit summaries cannot be edited after saving the page, a move of the content of a link target can be a problem, and this frequently happens: the move to an archive is often even predictable.

  • In the case of a page move a redirect is created; however, when the old name is needed for a new page, the link is not targeted correctly anymore.
  • In the case of a link to a section, when the name of the section is changed, an anchor can be made with the old name of the section.
  • In the case of a link to a section, if content is moved to another section, the link will still target the old section.
  • In the case of a link to an explicitly put anchor, the anchor can be moved with the content, provided that other links to the anchor need to target the other position too.

Anticipating these problems one can do the following:

  • make a link to a page with a name that accurately and unambiguously describes the required target
  • if this page does not exist, create a redirect to the desired page, possibly with an anchor

While the edit summary remains the same indefinitely, the redirect can be changed whenever needed.

This method is also useful for replacing the automatic section link: it provides flexibility with regard to renaming of sections.

"Post a comment" feature

When starting a new thread on a Talk page or page with __NEWSECTIONLINK__, the "Post a comment" feature can be used. Click the plus sign next to the Edit link (MonoBook skin). A box labelled "Subject/headline" appears before the main editing box and the "Edit Summary" text box will not appear. 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.

See also Help:Section#Adding a section at the end.

Automatic summaries

In certain circumstances, an automatic summary is generated when an edit is saved without one. This is slightly different to the summary added when editing a section, as that can be modified by the user before saving.

Situation Page Text
Creating or replacing a page with a redirect
('$1' is replaced with the target of the redirect)
MediaWiki:Autoredircomment Redirected page to [[$1]]|Redirecting to [[$1]]}}
Removing all text from a page MediaWiki:Autosumm-blank Blanked the page|Blanking page}}
Removing most of the text from a page, or editing a short page
('$1' is replaced with the page text)
MediaWiki:Autosumm-replace Replaced content with "$1"|Replacing page with '$1'}}
Creating a new page ($1 is replaced with the page text) MediaWiki:Autosumm-new Created page with "$1"|New page: $1}}

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.

Places where the edit summary appears

The edit summary appears in black italics in the following places:


  • Page history - list of edits of a specified page; also shows the size of the wikitext in bytes, for edits from 19 April 2007 (for Wikimedia wikis).
  • User contributions - list of edits by a specified user

Temporarily (controlled by the $wgRCMaxAge variable):

  • Watchlist* - list of recent changes to watched pages (logged-in users only); also shows the change in size of the wikitext in bytes
  • diff page - shows the difference between two edits
  • Recent changes / enhanced recent changes - list of all recent edits; also shows the change in size of the wikitext in bytes
  • Related changes - list of recent changes to pages linked to a specified page; also shows the change in size of the wikitext in bytes
  • List of new pages - shows the edit summary of the creation; also shows the current size of the wikitext in bytes



The Wikimedia search function can not search edit summaries, and they are not indexed by external search engines.


Always fill in the summary field. This is considered an important guideline. Even a short summary is better than no summary. An edit summary is even more important if you delete any text; otherwise, people may question your motives for the edit. Also, 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 change(s).

Accurate summaries help people decide whether it is worthwhile for them to check a change. We've found that summaries often pique the interest of contributors with expertise in the area. This may not be as necessary for "minor changes", but "fixed spelling" would be nice even then.

In the case of a small addition to an article, it is highly recommended to copy the full text of this addition to the summary field, giving a maximum of information with a minimum of effort. Put ft in front, as an abbreviation of "full text" (see the Abbreviations section for other abbreviations). This way, readers of the summary will be unlikely to check the page itself as they already know the extent of the edit. It also makes it easy for color-blind or visually impaired readers to see punctuation and other tiny changes that may be difficult to discern. It also helps users to check Recent changes, Page history and User contributions (see below) very efficiently, and reduces the load on the servers.

If the addition is more than 200 characters, so it does not fit fully in the edit summary box, you should write a short summary of the changes you have introduced into the article. For an addition of, say, 400 characters you can also save time by simply copying that into the summary field. The excess will fall off, and the first 200 characters will usually be acceptable as a crude "summary".

Unfortunately you can copy only one line of text from the edit box into the edit summary box. The contents of further lines can be pasted at the end of the line. Thus, for example, a bulleted "see also" list is cumbersome to put in the edit summary box. One possible workaround for a new list is putting the list on one line, separated by the asterisks for the bullets, copying it to the edit summary box, and then, in the main edit box, inserting line breaks before the asterisks.

In addition to a summary of the change itself, the summary field may also contain an explanation of the change; note that if the reason for an edit is not clear, it is more likely to be reverted, especially if you have deleted some text. To give a longer explanation, use the Talk page and put in the edit summary "see Talk".

After saving the page, the summary cannot be edited — another reason to avoid spelling errors.

In the case of important omissions or errors in the edit summary, you can make a dummy edit just to put the correction in the edit summary.


Experienced users, especially those with many edits to make, will often use abbreviations in edit summaries (as well as log entries), in order to save time; for example, "rv" for "revert". These should be used with care, as they can be confusing for inexperienced users, but they are generally fine for small edits such as formatting and grammar changes. See the Edit summary legend for some commonly used abbrevations in edit summaries.

This page is derived from the MediaWiki help page on Edit summary