Commit messages are a critical aspect of how WordPress is developed. They are an integral part of the project’s history, along with the changesets themselves. We write commit messages for multiple audiences: contemporaries (fellow core developers, plugin developers, anybody following along with core development), future contributors, and computers. Good commit messages serve each of these audiences well. They describe the what and the why of the changeset; the how is described by the diff itself.
Even if you are not a committer, you can make use of these guidelines while contributing to WordPress, as well as in your own projects. By describing your patch in a way that is sensitive to the concerns outlined here – or even drafting a commit message yourself – you make it easier for the committer process your contribution quickly.
The general format for a commit message is as follows:
Component: Brief summary.
Longer description with more details, such as a `new_hook` being introduced with the context of a `$post` and a `$screen`.
More paragraphs can be added as needed.
Generally, each line in a commit message should begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop. Code, such as the name of a function or a hook, should appear inside backticks, to ensure proper formatting in Trac and Slack. Ticket numbers preceded by a number sign #20202 and revision numbers inside square brackets  will auto-link in Trac, Slack, and here on make/core.
Brief summary Brief summary
The first line of a commit message is a brief summary of the changeset. The brief summary is used for email subject lines, Trac changelogs, and features prominently in most VCS log formats, such as
git log --format=oneline. The high visibility of the summary makes it critical to craft something that is as descriptive as possible within space limits.
- Must be one line; no line breaks.
- Aim for around 50 characters or less, stopping at 70. This is important because log-viewing tools nearly all expect the first line of commit messages to fit within these limits. This difficult restriction may force you to think critically about the essence of your commit; if you can’t describe the change in a short sentence, the commit may not be atomic enough.
- You may prefix the summary with the component or focus of the change. Such a prefix may make it easier for contributors to scan the changelog for commits of interest. See , ,  for some examples. Note that the prefix counts toward the 50/70 character count.
- Use the imperative mood when possible: “Relax term ID comparisons…” instead of “Relaxes term ID comparisons…”
The longer description of a commit should include more details about the commit and its repercussions for developers. These may include new hooks, “gotchas”, other solutions that were considered, or backstory. Consider your audiences when deciding what should go into the description: developers following along with the commit mailing list, volunteers collating information for each release’s dev notes and WordPress Core Weekly, and future code archaeologists trying to figure out who did what and why.
- Must be separated from the summary by a blank line.
- Can be multiple paragraphs if necessary, separated by blank lines. It is not unreasonable for a commit message to be more verbose than the final changeset itself.
- Unlike the Summary, lines should not be manually wrapped – log viewers can take care of wrapping the description themselves, if they need to.
Props should be given to all those who contributed to the final commit, whether through patches, refreshed patches, code suggested otherwise, design, writing, user testing, or other significant investments of time and effort. Usernames are parsed for the credits list and WordPress.org profiles.
- Must be preceded by a blank line.
- Separate usernames by comma + space. Think:
- Copy/paste usernames to avoid typos. (Sorry, rmccue; or is that rmmcue?)
- Err on the side of giving props liberally. Props provide major encouragement for contributors.
Self props Self props
- Prop yourself when the commit is the product of huge efforts involving multiple people, such a major feature, API, or particularly nasty bug.
- Generally, giving contributors feedback on patches and giving them a chance to iterate is the recommended process. However, on the occasions where you as the committer complete the idea of a patch, you could write “props X for initial patch.”
- It is normal for committers to adjust style or rearrange logic before a commit, or to account for a simple edge case. In these instances, omit yourself. Your name on the commit implies that you’ve reviewed and tested it, which is just as important as the contents of the commit.
- If committing your own code, props are assumed, so omit yourself here as well.
Ticket references Ticket references
Trac will add commit messages as comments on all tickets referenced as “fixes” or “see”. If a commit message contains the text “Fixes #12345”, Trac will close ticket #12345 and assign you as the owner if there isn’t one already.
- Ticket references should be on their own line directly below any props. If there are no props, an empty newline should separate it from the content above.
- Multiple tickets should be separated by a comma + space.
- If referencing both fixed and related tickets, begin with “Fixes” and end each set with a period, e.g. “Fixes #19867, #9864. See #31696.”. If there are many items in a set, put it on its own line.
Don’t use strict comparisons for term IDs. props booneiscool. fixes #3398.
Fixing `wp_dropdown_categories()` and other places that use term IDs.
props boonerocks. fixes #20000.
Taxonomy: Relax term ID comparisons.
Term IDs are sometimes provided as strings. This is particularly evident in `wp_dropdown_categories()`, where the `selected` argument was not being respected. Plugin authors should also be wary of using strict comparisons for term IDs.
Other tips for committers Other tips for committers
While these are not about the commit message itself, the following guidelines are good to keep in mind.
Guest committers may commit until RC1. During the RC stage, all commits must be made by a permanent committer with a second permanent committer signing off.
Before a commit Before a commit
- The PHP unit test suite is run by
grunt precommit, but you may need to run it with various flags, depending on the change.
- Check the full diff one last time (
svn diff). If you’re using Git, interactive staging (
git add -p) is a good way to review individual chunks.
- Check the list of modified files (
svn stat), making sure that new files are added. It is also good to double check the contents of new files, as applying patches that add new files can result in the content of new files being duplicated. Also make sure that new files are not named the same as something in the
$_old_filesarray, or else they will be deleted again right away. If one is, comment out the line from the array with a note indicating when a file with the same name was added back. Do not delete the line.
- If deleting files, add them to the
- You can “cherry-pick” commits from
trunkto a release branch via
svn switch ^/branches/4.3 && svn merge -c 12345 ^/trunk. You will be prompted to edit the message prior to committing.
- Bonus: for viewing modified files without including untracked files, add this as a bash alias or function:
svn stat --ignore-externals | grep '^[^?X]'