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When editing a page, a small "Summary" field under the main edit-box looks like this:
It is 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. It's a good idea to set your user preferences (under Edit) to "Prompt me when entering a blank 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.
The edit summary box can hold one line of 200 characters. If you attempt to type or paste more than this only the first 200 characters will be displayed - 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.
When pressing "preview", also a preview of the edit summary is obtained; thus e.g. links can be checked.
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, putting the new lines 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 in the case that some text is deleted. To give a longer explanation, use the Talk page and put in the edit summary "see Talk".
After saving the page, the summary can not 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.
 Places where the edit summary appears
The edit summary appears in black italics in the following places:
* Use the enhanced watchlist to see all recent changes in the watched pages, not just the last change in each page.
See Edit summary legend for a list of commonly used abbreviations in edit summaries.
The search function can not search edit summaries, and they are not indexed by external search engines.
 File upload summary
When uploading an image one can supply an upload summary. This serves multiple purposes:
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 Help:Image page.
 Section editing
When applying the section editing feature the section title is automatically inserted as initial version or first part of the edit summary. Put more details 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. The automatic text appears by default in grey, with the manually typed text being black. If you create a new section before or after an existing section by clicking a section "edit" link, please delete the automatic edit summary to avoid confusion.
For edits made before May 2004, the automatic part of the summary is surrounded by "=" signs.
 Multiple sections in edit summary
From Dec 2004, the section title that forms the automatic part of the edit summary is preceded by a right arrow which links to the section. For this purpose the section title appears within the marks /* and */ in the edit summary box. This code can be manually inserted, and by using the /* and */ syntax, it is possible to include links to multiple sections. This may be useful when editing a section which contains many sub-sections (to list changes made to each section), or when editing an existing section and also adding a new (sub-)section after it.
For example, the edit summary:
/* Foo */ test /* Bar */ test
Is rendered as:
 "Post a comment" 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 here becomes both a new heading and the edit summary.
 Automatic summaries
If the summary is left blank in a few circumstances, an edit summary is automatically generated when the change is saved (as opposed to the automatic edit summary in section editing, which is given when editing starts and can be supplemented by the user).
 Rendering of wikitext; URLs
Text in edit summaries renders internal links, including piped 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.
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.
 Changing an edit summary
Changing an edit summary is cumbersome and requires importing (hence this has to be enabled on the wiki and the user needs to have that user right): export the page with history, delete the page, make the change in the xml file, and import it again. To change the edit summary of the current revision one can also export the page without history, delete the page, restore it except the last revision, make the change in the xml file, and import it again.
The import log shows the import of the page, with user name, date, time, and number of revisions. The deletion log shows the deletion and, if applicable, restoration, with user name, date, and time. The "View and restore deleted pages" feature shows deleted revisions. There is no easy way (like a diff) to see what changes were made. In the case of multiple deletions and imports or restorations it is not recorded which revisions existed when in the regular page history, so it is not possible at all to know what was changed in the last delete/import operation.