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On Stack Overflow, there was a question with an incorrectly formatted list, which lacked a newline before it and thus came out like this: 1. Hello 2. Something else 3. Goodbye

I changed it to the right formatting by inserting a newline:

  1. Hello
  2. Something else
  3. Goodbye

And I got the "Edits must be at least 6 characters" error message. Is there an OK way to trick this rule?

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34  
Just remove "Hello" and "Thanks" in top and bottom of the post :) –  BalusC Mar 3 '11 at 14:49
3  
@Grace Note I just found your comment for your edit in the revs of this question. Thnaks, and it's worth looking at for anyone who is interested in the question: meta.stackoverflow.com/posts/81520/revisions –  vbence Mar 13 '11 at 10:38
    
Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/82534/… –  BalusC May 5 '11 at 21:34
36  
This is annoying for source code changes, where only a ; is missing … –  queueoverflow Mar 6 '12 at 15:41
28  
t pisses me off too. If I see a simple syntax error, like a misplaced comma, I then have to start adding noise to the poist just to make the edit stick. Even worse when a poster doesn't know how to use indenting and then the blank spaces don't even count towards the 6 charactrers. I like SO but this is a stupid rule. –  fritzfromlondon May 7 '12 at 21:56
    
@fritzfromlondon I think the accepted answer has the solution: there is always something else to do even if it is not your primary objective when pushing the edit button. You can change the text a little bit to make it more readable or undertsandable. –  vbence May 8 '12 at 11:57
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Rules with magic numbers (like 6 in this case) are always bad rules. –  Dominik Aug 6 '12 at 7:42
    
@Dominik SO likes to have constraints on pretty much every variable not to get out of control (like daily rep cap or vote cap). It's not necessarily a bad thing. –  vbence Aug 6 '12 at 9:57
13  
@vbence: No, there isn't always something else to do. Sometimes there is, often there isn't. Preventing people from making important edits because they can't find any additional inconsequential edits to make is stupid. –  endolith Oct 10 '12 at 21:39
    
vbence, please, for the love of god (or the hate of god, or the apathy towards god, whichever you like best), accept the better (next-highest) answer. –  codetaku Jul 28 at 17:59
    
@codetaku IMO doing some more work on the post is the better solution. It will make the content better quality. Also, hacking in irrelevant HTML changes will make the quality of the content worse. - Especially with the rep farming going on these days by new users, flooding the site with insignificant edits. –  vbence Jul 28 at 19:08

9 Answers 9

up vote 52 down vote accepted

Sure! Instead of tricking the rule, just look for other changes that can be made. Usually, in a post that forgets that kind of formatting, there's often at least one other error to be found. A miscapitalized letter, an extra space, or often just another formatting error of a different sort.

Remember, when you suggest an edit, it requires multiple other people to look at it and approve it. The character limit is to prevent people from wasting time by looking at exceptionally minor edits. So, don't limit yourself to just a tiny edit: try to see if you can improve the post to a possible state of perfection. If you hit all errors on a post, then no one else will even need to edit it.

Once you hit 2k reputation, and thus your edits don't need to go through the approval process, you can make those tiny changes without the limit in the way.

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Are you sure of "no limit over 2k"? I seem to be hitting the limit, even at 16k - but as it does prompt me to make other changes, it makes me realize that any edit should improve the post considerably, therefore I do more editing. –  Piskvor Mar 3 '11 at 15:04
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@Piskvor Quite positive. Even if I didn't have first-hand experience of it, Jeff and waffles have stressed, multiple times, that if you find that rare instance that it's just a minor edit of under 6 characters, just let a 2k user handle it. Because 2k users don't need to bother 2 other users just to get their edit through. –  Grace Note Mar 3 '11 at 15:08
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@Piskvor - I can confirm that the 6 character limit doesn't apply to 100K users. ;-) ok, technically, 133K users, but I doubt anyone would pick 133K as an arbitrary cutoff, maybe 128K, but not 133K. –  tvanfosson Mar 3 '11 at 15:15
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I beg to disagree just because code snippets need spaces in front. So space only changes are not uncommon. In fact, you got it the wrong way around: When all you do is add spaces then then you can't do any evil with it. No 2k users needed. BTW: not knowing the background all i did make a useless 6 character change and a rant in the explanation. Now there will be some 2k users having fun now. –  Martin Apr 27 '11 at 16:52
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But what if there aren't any other changes to be made? The people who make up these rules don't seem to think them through before implementing them. –  endolith May 5 '11 at 21:18
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As a new user I can say this limit is rather annoying. In StackOverflow I saw a code snippet where someone had an extra e in their code. All I wanted to do was remove the extra e so the code would compile. It would not let me change a reference of Neested to Nested to prevent a compile error. –  JSWork May 19 '11 at 19:45
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@Grace: How do we "let a 2k user handle it" if they aren't aware of the problem? I thought the whole point of this limit was to prevent bothering 2k users who have to review every edit anyway. –  endolith May 27 '11 at 21:22
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@Kate Gregory: If I recall correctly it was more of a "try this solution" post. The solution was right, there was just a typo in one of the variable names in the form of an extra e. –  JSWork Jun 29 '11 at 19:34
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Small changes can make the difference between correct and incorrect code. For example, this XAML here needs quotes to work: stackoverflow.com/questions/2948290/… I didn't see anything else to improve, but it would be a convenience to other people copying and pasting the code to try it out, if the code were correct. –  Edward Brey Aug 19 '11 at 15:14
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try to see if you can improve the post to a possible state of perfection That is the dumbest thing I've read all day. If you edit a post, you should ONLY change specific and clear problems. such as un-highlighted code, or spelling the word "string" as "dtring". When you try go beyond discrete problem areas, you risk changing the question to something that the OP didn't intend. –  Sam I am Mar 21 '12 at 19:57
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I would argue against the "state of perfection." Perfection doesn't matter. Editing to that extent has diminishing returns. –  Austin Henley Dec 27 '12 at 19:54
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At first, your answer is dumb. It just proves that dumb requirements are supported by dumb arguments. Secondly, I could understand if you say that this filter stops minor edits. But, you recommend doing extra useless exits to pass the filter. This is opposite of saving everybodies time! –  Val Jul 2 '13 at 15:38
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I'm surprised that the comments on this answer are almost exclusively negative. I think the motivation is that setting a minimum does more good by preventing a flow of extremely minor / pedantic edits (especially from new users), than it does evil by bothering users (who were already willing to click and punch a few buttons to edit) to find 1 or 2 more things to edit. I get that one character makes all the difference in code, but most edits are not of that nature, and even among the ones that are, we can almost always find something else to edit, in less than 15 seconds, and –  Andrew Cheong Dec 14 '13 at 9:48
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usually for the benefit of all. And if you don't? That is, if you come across that rare post that absolutely needs a few characters to change (and otherwise readers will be totally misled), but is otherwise perfect? Well, tough luck! You've been had! You've been took! You've been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok! By the universe. And no >2K user finds it (or finds it important enough) to edit it? Sorry it happened to you, but personally, I still prefer the minimum to exist. –  Andrew Cheong Dec 14 '13 at 9:49
2  
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Most people understand things just fine despite bad spelling and/or grammar (and if it's really that bad, then you're gonna have more than 6 characters to edit). And most mindless typos in code will reveal themselves as errors (and if not, i.e. a missing semicolon after a class, which may trigger error messages that send new users barking up the wrong tree, then just leave a comment). –  Andrew Cheong Dec 14 '13 at 9:49

To circumvent this counterproductive rule without confusing the recipient of your edits, just add a   at the end of a line, where it won't make any difference to the formatting.

If Stack Exchange adds a rule to ban that (because they really prefer that you don't fix typos and mistakes), then you'll have to be creative with other non-printing or whitespace elements.

The How to Edit box next to the edit window encourages exactly these kinds of changes:

How to Edit

► fix grammatical or spelling errors

► correct minor mistakes

So it's pretty hypocritical for the site to reject your helpful contributions after explicitly asking for them.

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3  
Technically, for starters,   is already 6 characters, so you don't really need a whole bunch. –  Grace Note May 5 '11 at 21:28
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Your comment obviously came in the @Grace period and looks somewhat out of place to the casual observer :-) –  Hendrik Vogt May 6 '11 at 8:26
    
Another thing you could add: meta.stackexchange.com/a/91535/130885 –  endolith Nov 21 '12 at 18:47
8  
Nice hack. It's a completely stupid rule when you want to change a code error such as "dict*" to "*dict" –  martinjbaker Feb 14 '13 at 14:08
2  
... or "dic_" to "dict" –  Runemoro Jun 20 '13 at 3:00
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This needs to be the accepted answer for so many reasons. –  codetaku Jul 28 at 17:55

Some people feel there should be an exception to this rule for single-character errors in code. (There is a general consensus that single-character errors in sentences are highly unlikely to matter.) My approach to this is:

If it's not your question, and you see a one-character typo, your ANSWER is "hey, OP, you have a one character typo: you have [line paste] where you should have [corrected line].

If it's your question, you update it and add "Update: Sorry, when sanitizing this code I made a one-character typo: the code that causes the problem did not have [error] where it should be [correction] and I've corrected my sanitized version in this question." Now the 400+ answerers who are telling you about the typo can delete their answers.

Either way, you avoid the single-character edit.

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11  
If it's your own question, then there is no 6 character limit. –  Grace Note Jun 9 '11 at 18:06
    
@Grace - Thanks. I still feel people who edit typos out of the code in their questions should, if there are answers or comments referring to the typo, add explanatory text identifying the typo as a red herring. –  Kate Gregory Jun 9 '11 at 20:18
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@KateGregory: That's why you can flag comments as "obsolete" and have them removed. One of the big things that makes Stack Exchange better than forums is that you don't need to wade through pages of discussion to get the information you need. Users have a discussion about some point in an answer, the outcome of the discussion is edited back into the answer, and then the obsolete discussion is deleted. Distill out the important content and delete the chaff. –  endolith Nov 23 '12 at 2:22
    
But then there are the idiots who get upvotes for /answers/, rather than comments, that achieve nothing other than pointing out the typo. How do we mark those as obsolete? –  codetaku Jul 28 at 17:57

I encountered the same problem, where the person that answered the question did a great job with the answer, but the links were off. So I had to edit just 3 characters.

It was even an old post, I believe no one ever fixed it because of the 6 characters limitation.

It seems rather counterproductive that in order to fix a small problem you have to look around to be able to add valuable information.

What if you are like me? I found that question because I am learning on the subject. How can I add valuable information to an answer that was correct already except for the links being off? (btw just 2 links were off, so the answer had enough information to be understood).

I understand that there is people that reviews the corrections, and minor changes, like correcting a typo that is easy to understand would be hard to review, but I don't know, maybe something should be done for special cases like the one I had with the links.

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I suppose the passive-aggressive approach would be to flag the post for ♦ moderator attention and describe the needed correction in the flag description. Overkill, sure, but at least the mods can make the edit. Not that I'd seriously advocate actually doing this. –  Ilmari Karonen Dec 27 '12 at 20:39
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More practically, you could describe the problem in a comment. If the author of the post is still around, they'll be notified about it, and in any case the comment will at least inform readers about the issue. –  Ilmari Karonen Dec 27 '12 at 20:40
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Well we could do all that and more. I looked for an additional link in my case. But It is an overkill! And it kinda goes against the website goal: "Stack Overflow is as frictionless and painless to use as we could make it." –  Dzyann Dec 28 '12 at 12:41
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Similar thing happened to me: I had a problem, found an old Q&A, followed a link to "more info", corrected the link as it didn't work, and ... had my edit rejected as being insignificant! That rejection was a greater time-waster (and insulter) than if it would have been accepted. Shame on the petty, hypocritical pedants at SO! –  martin f Dec 24 '13 at 22:49

It is incorrect for a 6 character limitation to be imposed. When you edit at top of the page there is:

We welcome all constructive edits, but please make them substantial. Avoid trivial, tiny one-letter edits unless absolutely necessary.

So what to do when absolutely necessary? That limitation needs to be removed and normal approval process take place or the above text needs to be changed with other suggestions.

P.S. I liked the answer to add non-printable characters to post. I didn't think they were counted.

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3  
But the point is that SO won't LET you do a 1 letter edit without resorting to these silly hacks. And it isn't "trivial" if there's a typo in a code example that simply won't work because of it. –  martinjbaker Nov 20 '13 at 18:34
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A tiny edit is not necessarily a trivial one (if you ask a compiler). –  Anders Lindén Dec 14 '13 at 8:14

I have used the   trick a few times, but I find myself adding the backticks: ` for code formatting around missed inline formats.

By highlighting these it only takes a few of them to help with the char count, but it also emphasizes often missed inline code examples.

NOTE: This is not a hack...
Rather, this is a way to add to char count by observing often overlooked formatting techniques.

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If the downvotes here are to indicate "please don't abuse code formatting", please note that that's not what the author seems to be suggesting. If I understand correctly, he's merely stating that authors tend to occasionally forget to properly format their in-line code. In which case formatting it would be appropriate. Of course it isn't a general highlighting tool. –  Bart Feb 28 at 21:06
    
Thank you @Bart for clarifying.. I will update the post as such. i do not mean to "hack" the system, just add another suggestion for ways to add to character count that is often overlooked in the fury of typing the question first time through. –  Phlume Feb 28 at 21:25
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It's just that we have rather a lot of formatting abuse @Phlume, where users highlight every other word with code formatting. So I can see how users might misinterpret your suggestion. If it's not code, don't format it as such. If it is, then it's a valid suggestion. –  Bart Feb 28 at 21:28
    
@Bart Agreed. Thank you for the help clarifying for the users.. not perhaps a reversal could be in order from the DV peeps?? –  Phlume Feb 28 at 21:40

I disagree with the premise that small edits are a bother to the reviewers. I only recently hit the threshold (for having edits applied directly and for reviewing others) and I think the smaller the edit is, the easier it is to approve. If I see a small typo being fixed, code formatted, or a sentence properly capitalized, I can see right away what it is and approve it.

The bigger the edit is, the longer it takes to check.

I say the 6 character limit needs to be abandoned.

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It is easier and quicker to review one edit rather than several - you have to read the whole question/answer to make sure that it is a reasonable edit - if you are not doing this then you are not reviewing –  Mark Mar 1 at 20:01
    
@Mark But I'm not suggesting to spread out one big edit among several small ones, I'm arguing that sometimes a small edit is all that's needed. And if I see that the only difference is a typo being fixed, I don't have to read the entire post to judge the edit. –  SQB Mar 1 at 21:45
    
The issue raised by others is if there is an error in formatting then there is likely to be other errors - so a small edit is likely to be a too minor edit –  Mark Mar 1 at 22:17
    
@Mark Yes, but that's not always the case. Sometimes it's just the one typo that needs to be fixed to have the answer make sense. –  SQB Mar 1 at 22:21
    
I agree with your premise, @SQB, and let me say also that the two rules "Edits must be at least 6 characters long" and "Above all, respect the original poster" could potentially be at odds with each other. Sometimes scouring the post for multiple mistakes or making some picky formatting change just to rise above 6 characters can be disrespectful of the author, unless it actually does improve something about the post; and likewise the correction of a "minor" error (as measured by the number of characters) can be much more respectful of the original poster. Just a thought. –  Brian J. Fink Mar 3 at 0:49
    
I don't think that changing a single "i" to "I" is worth 2 reputation points. This alone is reason enough to leave the limit in place. –  Shadow Wizard Jun 24 at 7:04

Wouldn't it be better if edits were instead approved by the original author? Then the reviewers could do other things to improve the world besides reviewing.

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So what if the OP is gone or isn't going to return for a long time? We wait? –  Bart Dec 14 '13 at 8:34
    
Then it cant be that important? The responsibility of the question is on the OP, isnt it? –  Anders Lindén Dec 14 '13 at 8:34
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Say what now? So the importance of an edit depends on the availability of the OP? That makes no sense. We're not just trying to help the OP out here. We're generally trying to improve the site as a whole. –  Bart Dec 14 '13 at 8:36
    
If the OP is not available, he/she will not be helped by an edit anyway. –  Anders Lindén Dec 14 '13 at 8:41
    
It cant be that hard to motivate the OP to improve his/hers question. This is a system that actually already exists, because the OP can change the question back after an edit. –  Anders Lindén Dec 14 '13 at 8:45
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The point of edits is not merely to help the OP. Edits are there to improve the site and its content. And to in turn help the community (on-site, or general internet users) as a whole. Any change that makes this process slower or more difficult is a bad one. –  Bart Dec 14 '13 at 9:30
    
But improvements can also be made by removing questions where the OP did not actually care about improving the site. And does not take responsibility for the question quality himself/herself. –  Anders Lindén Dec 14 '13 at 10:07
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That should only ever be done in really terrible cases where the content has no business whatsoever to be on the site in the first place. If that is not the case, editing is what we do here, and editing is what should happen. –  Bart Dec 14 '13 at 10:09
    
I don't follow? Are you saying you want to auto-accept edits, and only allow their reversal? –  Bart Dec 14 '13 at 10:14
    
It would make sense to let the OP accept the changes in the first place and if needed let a reviewer do it. –  Anders Lindén Dec 14 '13 at 10:17
    
Often a reviewer is not needed, if I for instance want to put some code in a code block. An edit that any OP would greatfully accept without intervention from a reviewer. –  Anders Lindén Dec 14 '13 at 10:18
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And if you have earned the privilege to make such edits without review, you can do so without problem. But there are reasons to review edits from those users who haven't earned it, and there are reasons to not accept tiny edits, which I won't rehash here. –  Bart Dec 14 '13 at 10:20
    
To let the author of a question still be the author is a wonderful idea, I think. When people talk to each other, they can correct each other without calling for super powers. They can say "oh, did you mean that?" and the other one is accepting the changes. Writing instead of talking makes little difference. –  Anders Lindén Dec 14 '13 at 10:33

This may be bending the rules, but here's a little trick I've found. You can edit the misspelled word, then add an empty HTML comment tag afterwards. For example:

The sum of it's effects

could be changed to:

The sum of its <!-- --> effects

which displays as:

The sum of its effects

It gets the job done for an edit of only one character. Then when the edit has been approved, you can reedit to remove the extra characters, if you want. Or it may be left in place, to be removed at the next legitimate edit.

But use this sparingly; if everyone used it just to circumvent the rule, it would eventually be banned. So use it only when you can change nothing else!

Of course, you don't have to put the comment tag close to the edit; it can actually be placed anywhere in the post.

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@Bart you're the only commenter, so I'll ask you: should I delete the SE suggestion, or is my post completely irrelevant to the question? –  Brian J. Fink Feb 28 at 21:46
    
If you're referring to the downvotes, I can only assume they have been cast in disagreement with your work-around. If you feel it's a valid and acceptable practice, you can leave it in place. But the community doesn't seem to think it is. –  Bart Feb 28 at 21:49
    
One comment about my comment above: it refers to a suggestion to SE which is no longer in this post. I left it in place because it would be even more confusing if I didn't leave some context to @bart's comment. –  Brian J. Fink Mar 3 at 0:31

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