GitHub specify in a blog post how commit messages should be written, even down to the tense. This is contentious and there is a debate around how they should be written, but the majority go with GitHub.

On the Stack Exchange network, I've seen edit summaries written in the past, present, future, present perfect, ... ad nauseam. Is there any particular style guide or a set of recommendations for this type of thing?

  • An edit summary should be what you want it to be. I prefer edit summaries like 'Added 27 characters to body'. If you're reviewing an edit, you should look at what the edit actually does, now what the edit summary says. But that's just my opinion.
    – Mithical
    Nov 27, 2016 at 12:20
  • @Mithrandir Yes, I agree, as long as it describes the edit sufficiently it shouldn't matter, even if it's "This will correct a typo" or "Typo". However, I'd like to know is there is a guide or official recommendation. Nov 27, 2016 at 12:23
  • 1
    It's an interesting question. I've never thought about it. I've just used Past Tense as if I knew this is right. I don't know.
    – Rathony
    Nov 27, 2016 at 15:08
  • 1
    Second person plural, future perfect passive subjunctive. "So that all you damned grammatical errors will have been fixed." Stream of consciousness is also acceptable.
    – jscs
    Nov 27, 2016 at 15:50
  • @random Your 'duplicate' does not mention the tense in which you write the summary. It is a great resource for all other things edit summary-related but not this question. It would be better that it was a comment linking to it. Nov 27, 2016 at 16:43
  • Next we need questions asking about length, language, punctuation, audience, abbreviations, humour, casing
    – random
    Nov 27, 2016 at 16:58
  • 1
    @random Perhaps this is superfluous but, if it helps people, it is surely worthwhile. Nov 27, 2016 at 17:00

2 Answers 2


Considering that the default edit text which is added when no edit summary is input is in the past tense, I suppose that if you absolutely must have guidance on this, go with that.

Added 34 characters in body.
Edited tags.
Deleted 4 characters in body.
Post made community wiki.

That being said, just writing anything is better than nothing. Because the system doesn't require this be filled in to submit an edit (providing you have sufficient reputation), I'd think that any content would be better than the default, regardless of tense.

  • 1
    Past tense makes the most sense considering it's also the summary of the revision in the revision history
    – Cai
    Nov 27, 2016 at 13:40

No, as far as I know (and I've been a member for more than 6 years and reviewed thousands of edits), there is no guide or recommendations for edit summaries. Stack Exchange lets people use their common sense.

If it was up to me, these would be my guidelines, if I were to leave a summary (many times I leave it blank, letting the system put the default "added/removed [x] characters..."):

  1. Describe what you actually edited. Not "code formatting" for fixing some grammar.
  2. Be as focused as possible, e.g. don't put "Saw a typo so decided to fix it after long thought."
  3. As for tense, I'm using the present form, e.g. "Rewording to make it more clear", "Making it into a discussion", etc. However, this is more of a personal taste; I'm not ruling out past tense (e.g. "Made into a discussion") and future tense sounds like a weird choice, but might work as well.
  • 2
    Honestly, I'm with this point of view. It really doesn't matter what tense your edit summary is in as long as it gets the point across.
    – Nissa
    Nov 27, 2016 at 16:26

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