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Earlier today I got this message:

Oops! Your edit couldn't be submitted because:

  • Edits must be at least 6 non-space characters; is there something else to improve in this post?

However, the purpose of my edit was to change the formatting for a message to show code. There may have been other grammatical mistakes that could have been, but in general it is possible that there would not be. What's the correct protocol to handle a situation like this?

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17  
I hate this rule. If someone wants to fix only punctuation or formatting, let them. If it screws up the CW stuff, then fix the CW stuff.... /rant –  Adam Rackis Jul 18 '12 at 17:54
1  
    
The question seemed to focus more on "smaller edits" such as punctuation, but I believe that code was a bit more important, since I had probably added somewhere around 40 spaces to the post to format the actual code. Though it might still be considered a duplicate, I felt there was enough reason to ask it. –  ashays Jul 18 '12 at 18:21
    
If spaces were counted, everyone would just add a blank line to get around the size restriction. –  Bo Persson Jul 18 '12 at 21:34
    
@BoPersson: But as it stands right now, people will just add additional small edits to get around the issue. See meta.stackexchange.com/a/140292/191003 as an answer to this post on what to do. It doesn't seem like this rule does much good if everyone's thought is "I'll just change a bit more so that I can get my edit through." –  ashays Jul 18 '12 at 22:12
    
So you created a MSO post that needs less than 6 non-space characters of editing to correct its formatting... :P –  Flimzy Jul 19 '12 at 0:07
    
@ashays - But the idea is to have people consider what else can be improved in the post. If that makes you look through the post for other edits, it kind of works. –  Bo Persson Jul 19 '12 at 7:14
    
Makes it impossible to fix typos. Consider stackoverflow.com/posts/1806327/edit - it references the ObjectOutoutStream class instead of the ObjectOutputStream. Impossible to fix without making unnecessary edits! –  Joshc1107 Apr 23 '13 at 18:59

3 Answers 3

There is some overhead with processing edit submissions. Note that the rule does not apply, when you fix your own post without needing anyone else to approve your edit.

Where the balance between the cost of edit review and the benefit of the edit actually happening lies, and whether a mechanical rule can approximate it, is of course somewhat controversial, but for the time being it is the 6 character rule.

The rule tries to ensure that when you spot a typo and go fix it without much thinking, you should take the same opportunity to revise the whole post, as opposed to submitting all typo fixes into the edit queue as you are discovering them one by one.

If you think that there is nothing else to fix in the post, and that the single letter fix is essential, really absolutely necessary to make the post clear enough, feel free to any of the following, in the increasing order of how much fuss politically you want to make about that kind of typo, and about the 6 character rule.

  • Throw in an additional small edit that does not make the post any worse.
  • Use a comment to ask the post owner to do the fix themselves.
  • Flag for moderator attention.
  • Raise a support case on meta (question on meta tagged with )

Expect that if you involve experienced users, they will typically find other issues (formatting, style, grammar, title searchability, tags) in the post and they will look at your request as something that you could have done as well.

Finally, note that the new edit queues (just launched) are expected to make processing of the edit queue much easier for approvers and they might make the need for the 6 character rule eventually obsolete.

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15  
Your [tag:support] links to Stack Overflow. If you want the MSO tag, use [meta-tag:support]. In one of the cruelest ironies, my attempted edit (the addition of "meta-") is only 5 characters and was thus rejected. –  gobernador Jul 18 '12 at 19:17
    
@gobernador - Thank you! I just learned something crucial here. –  Jirka Hanika Jul 18 '12 at 19:42

If your edit isn't at least 6 characters then it is "too minor". When you suggest edits the purpose should be to significantly improve the post, not to just capitalize an 'i', add a period, etc. There is a cost associated with all edits that are made, and making small changes like this, if they provide any benefit at all, tend to not surpass that "cost" which is why the net effect is negative.

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Are you sure the requirement goes away? I could have sworn I bumped up against it recently. –  Adam Rackis Jul 18 '12 at 18:15
    
Just checked, it is indeed there. Removed that line from the answer. When editing within 5 minutes of a previous edit (or original post) you can make a <6 char edit because the edits are merged. That's what confused me. –  Servy Jul 18 '12 at 18:24
    
And me too. But own posts still seem to be excluded even after more than 5 minutes. –  Jirka Hanika Jul 18 '12 at 18:26

This rule is to enforce an actual edit of the entire question. Jeff Atwood himself has said that there is likely a part of the question that has a possibility for improvement outside of your original edit. And that justifies the limit (for now) on char.

This was implemented to curb people's desires to simply eliminate a period or something finicky to be annoying or gain easy reputation. It also takes time for all the edits to be reviewed, so SO wants them to be semi-substantial.

In your case, where there really only needs to be a one or two char response, it can be a more annoying rule to deal with. Perhaps the post could use a small grammatical error fix or capitalization? If you also add something harmless to the question that doesn't change the meaning of it, then you can bypass the 6 char limit as well. In some cases, people also comment to the OP to change the small problem, and it can be completed without any error messages.

It's all about that 2k :)

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