When I have typed a commit message with vim and, in haste, typed :Wq instead of :wq I get an error:

E492: Not an editor command: Wq

from which I can (falsly?) recover, meaning the editor seems to function as normal and I can try to properly write and quit the buffer with :wq. However, git-commit fails with:

error: There was a problem with the editor 'vi'.
Please supply the message using either -m or -F option.

What has happened? Is this a misinterpretation in git's part? Can I somehow recover and actually save the commit message after accidental :Wq? Besides copy and pasting what I've written…

My vi is actually symlinked to vim and version is 8.0

  • You can work around this issue by fixing the typo before the error occurs. A simple way to do this is with a command: command -bang Wq wq<bang> . (If you ever pass arguments to :wq you can instead use an abbreviation: cabbrev <expr> Wq (getcmdtype() == ':' && getcmdpos() == 3) ? 'wq' : 'Wq' )
    – Rich
    May 4, 2018 at 15:12
  • 1
    I'm not sure if your :Wq typo is related to the git error. As for recovering, git commit starts the editor on.git/COMMIT_EDITMSG, so check the contents of that file. You can use git commit -eF .git/COMMIT_EDITMSG to continue with that message. May 6, 2018 at 18:36
  • @Carpetsmoker great! COMMIT_EDITMSG indeed does have the message I meant to use. That's how I can recover from this, thanks. Any thoughts on why (or how) git interpretes vi had a problem? Technically, yes, it did have a problem and apparently the strategy is to be more safe than sorry; but where git gets "vi had a problem" status? From some metadata/variable, return state or what? I mean: is it some standard vi/vim way or just (too) fuzzy logic on git's part? May 7, 2018 at 9:47

1 Answer 1


Git actually checks the exit code of whatever editor you have configured and outputs that error message if it's non-zero.

I couldn't replicate the problem with your commands but you may have better luck. Simply run vim normally (i.e., not via git), enter the :Wq and :wq commands (and whatever else you did in between those two), then check the exit code with (for Linux) echo $?.

If that's not zero, you at least have a repeatable test you can use for further investigation, at which point you can start experimenting with vim options (as shown in this question for example).

You could also opt for a different editor which doesn't return non-zero. There's probably no reason to need the massive power of Vim for composing what are (hopefully) one-liner commit messages.

In fact, I don't use any editor, instead relying on the command-line bevaviour only. For one-liners:

pax$ git commit -m "Fixed my co-worker's atrocious code :-)"

or, more more complex messages:

pax$ git commit -F - 
(reading log message from standard input)
Fixed my co-worker's atrocious code, specifically:
- no comments;
- unreadable formatting;
- bad variable names.

As to how you easily get at the comment you just tried to use, that should be stored in .git/COMMIT_EDITMSG so you can just use:

git commit -F .git/COMMIT_EDITMSG

(or -eF if you want to check or further edit the message).

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