Without 2k rep, code formatting is impossible, because it just adds spaces, which don't count for the 6-character-ritual-threshold.

This question is related to impossible title-improvements for a similar reason, brought up here: why it is impossible to just change the title of a foreign user

A more or less unreadable and therefore senseless question crossed my way today, which wasn't readable because of missing code-indentation. (Many regex-tools like grep, sed, awk work on a line-by-line basis, so it is essential to see, where a line starts and ends.

I put the indentation in, but got an error: at least 6 changes, not counting: white space. Uhm.

  • I looked for something obvious, which could be changed too - nothing.
  • I looked for something not so obvious, which could be changed too - nothing.
  • I got angry and left the page, because I didn't want to write some foobar, or a disclaimer why this disclaimer, which would be much longer than 6 characters.
  • I had the idea to comment my edit in the question itself - this wouldn't be foobar, but have a bit of sense.
  • When I finished my comment, I was informed, that meanwhile somebody else did edit that question. I left the question, angry. Lost much time in doing 6-character-gymnastics.

Conclusion: The quality of an improvement isn't much related on the quantity of changed characters, especially not, if whitespace doesn't count.

P.S.: I suggest the new "6-character-rule"-tag.

  • 1
    Good question, but I don't think this is necessary. As you found out, someone added the formatting while you were working on it. It usually takes a couple minutes at most for someone with 2K rep to go change it, so we don't need add exceptions to let people without also change it.
    – ughoavgfhw
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 21:31
  • 8
    @ughoavgfhw: This is only true in high-activity tags on Stack Overflow. Elsewhere, allowing low-rep users to clean up badly formatted posts is definitely valuable, and posts that only lack the four-character indent are fairly common from newbies. Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 22:37
  • 1
    In high traffic areas, there is a high traffic of people, trying to indent the code, wasting their time, too. :) Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 23:50
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    There were plenty of other things to change on that post, and others still remain. The system works fine, you just didn't try hard enough. Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 7:38
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    The code was changed 3 times, 1st time, to make just said indentation change (by a +2k user), then few words where changed (an opportunity, missed by the 2k-user), then again by a +2k user, who changed a Which to what (again not 6 characters). Without an smilie, your commemnt is just disturbing noise for me. Please understand, that that single question is only an example. Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 10:25
  • 1
    The point was that if you combine all those edits into a single edit, you'd easily reach the six character minimum. What you're asking for is not going to get implemented. The official line is that there's always something to improve to get over six characters, and I very much agree with it. I was trying to give you an example using the revision history for the very same post you used as an example, but alas that seems to have been lost on you. Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 14:07
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    a) So after improving a post, where there is always something to be improved, and leaving accidently one error, there are again 6 more improvements to make? I'm not a member of this church of always b) Even if there always are 6 characters you could improve, it isn't so, that everybody sees them. I didn't see them. c) The rule encourages needless corrections, and this may lead to unwanted confusion. Maybe I change a < foo.dat to cat foo.dat, just to get to the threshold, now the asker is confused, why he should use cat. I feel silly in this Kafka-world. But it's your decision. Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 15:35
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    I have no idea what problem the 6 character minimum rule is intended to prevent. In fact I think it causes problems. When editing someone else's posts, you should make every attempt to only change what is necessary. this rule encourages the opposite. Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 19:46
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    @CodyGray: I'm trying to see things from your perspective, but I think you're missing the point. Hoping that others will fix the code doesn't solve the 6-char-limit problem. "You didn't try hard enough", again, isn't a solution - see Sam's comment. Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 9:33
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    It is very stupid thing, but you can still suggest an edit by adding a zero width space character (U+200B): -->​<--. You can copy it from the snippet above, paste it and then trim left and right arrow, be careful not to delete the zero width space itself. I'm saying that because not all the SX users are programmers. BTW the rule to force adding a 6 chars edit is very silly also.
    – ivkremer
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 14:06

2 Answers 2


You can get around this, and perhaps even make the question look better, by also using the <!-- language: lang-foo or tag --> syntax that was recently added to specify what language(s) the code in question is written in. (If the language isn't supported by Prettify yet, you can use lang-none instead to prevent it from getting highlighted incorrectly. Also be advised that this doesn't preview correctly yet, so you'll have to actually submit the edit to see it; be ready to quickly re-edit in case you screw it up!)

This syntax is also summarized on the page reached from the "formatting help" link when editing a post; e.g. see MSO's formatting help.

  • 2
    Maybe you can add the <invisible> tag to the answer somewhere; that gives you 11 non-blank characters and a newline. Or, if the <invisible> tag gets spotted, you can get inventive with your own alternative tag names. I have occasionally used such a technique. Commented May 16, 2011 at 21:25
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    @Jonathan: Well, I suggested <!-- filler --> in a different question, but they (e.g., Grace Note) said that this is abuse. (So I removed the suggestion from my answer.)
    – SamB
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 22:20
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    I fail to see how lang tricks could help in cases when there are eg broken lists in text
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 3, 2011 at 13:28
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    This is a way to circumvent the system. If the system is bad, it schould be changed - if not, it should be respected. Gymnastic edits to improve a posting shouldn't be neccessary. Using the review system freqeuntly, and visiting suggested edits my experience is, that there are many edits too minor, which are more than 6 characters. Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 18:31
  • An empty html comment tag works just fine: <!-- -->. See my answer to this question. Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 23:11

You can add XML comments in that case, It's useful.. I have done that once...

<!-- Revision 2:needed more characters -->
  • yes, and maybe say "please delete me"
    – Nat Kuhn
    Commented May 8, 2021 at 14:33

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