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I sometimes see a clear, well-framed question with one tiny but glaring error, for example "have" instead of "had" or "loosen" instead of "looser". It's a good question, but a good answer is going to have to compete with a lot of nit picking. I can't just fix the error because of the minimum five character limit.

I have seen posts where somebody has fixed the glaring error and made other subtle changes in order to exceed the five character limit. This is well-meaning but must be very confusing for newcomers.

What purposes do the five character limit serve? Is it really beneficial to the site?

[test]

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    You only need 2,000 rep to have your edits applied immediately and the 6 character limitation goes away. I try not to make trivial edits even though I have the rep to do so (corrections of typos in answers are the exception). Usually, I find that the title of a question can almost always be made more specific, or the tags improved, or some formatting applied. – ColleenV Mar 19 '16 at 11:42
  • I removed 2 letters and added 7. StackExchange reports "added 9 characters in body" – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 23 '16 at 11:30
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    @TRomano: Interesting... I didn't know that the 6-character limit goes away when you reach 2000 rep: in that context, the 6-character limit seems more sensible. – JavaLatte Mar 23 '16 at 11:50
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It's six characters, and yes, it's useful. You have stuff to read for the rest of the day:

And a thousand others. Per Shog's answer to Why are trivial edits discouraged?:

The Stack Exchange model for editing is a hybrid of these two approaches. While it falls somewhat closer to the wiki model than the forum model, it deviates from the latter in a few key areas:

Edits made by the same editor in a short period of time are collapsed: no matter how many times a post is edited within a 5-minute window, only one revision is stored (as long as only one editor is involved). This largely eliminates the need for a "minor edit" feature.

Tools for comparing revisions are much more limited: only revisions directly adjacent in the chronology can be compared.

Outside of Community Wiki posts, an original author is always maintained and clearly identified even if substantial changes have been made by other editors since the post was created.

Together, this hybrid system allows for a much simpler, much easier-to-read, easier-to-navigate user interface. However, this comes at a cost: trivial one-off edits must be discouraged in favor of more comprehensive edits.

If merely maintaining a simple UI were the only concern, it might be worthwhile to consider an optional "expert" mode that allowed minor edits at the cost of a more involved UI. However, there's a much bigger concern...

This is deep into the design of the system. Your edit must be non-trivial. This has already been discussed enough, and you can find out more by searching in meta.SE or meta.SO.

You can instead

  • Leave a comment pointing out the error
  • Leaving the post for the higher-rep users to edit
  • Ping someone in chat and ask them to edit
  • Make your edit more substantial. I rarely edit less than 6 characters while being a privileged user myself.

I hope this clears things up.

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    If the error is very distracting, one could also flag it for moderator attention. Incidentally, I think there are times when minor edits are substantial edits, like when an O.P. misspells the word being asked about in the title of the question. For example, suppose someone is asking about the expression a frog in my throat, and their title says, Meaning of ‘from in my throat’. (Character counts aren't always a indicator of the substance of the edit. It may be an imperfect system, but it works – it prevents newer users from flooding the system with trivial edits.) – J.R. Apr 3 '16 at 0:08

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