How to Set and Manage Excerpts in WordPress

Example of a post excerpt on a multiple post pageview in WordPress with the continue reading link.There are three types of basic pageviews on WordPress: front page, single post or Page, and multiple posts. These are the different ways that content is presented within a WordPress site.

A single post or Page pageview shows the entire content. A multiple post pageview (multi-post) may show the full content of each post or an excerpt.

Most WordPress Themes automatically display excerpts on specific pageviews such as Archives, Categories, Author, and Search, but leave the decision to show the excerpt or full post on the front page of the site up to the user.

By default, WordPress displays the first 55 words of a post as the excerpt length.

This tutorial covers how WordPress handles excerpts.

Manually Creating Excerpts with the More Feature

On the WordPress Post or page panel toolbar, you will find a More button.

The WordPress Visual Editor More Excerpt ButtonOn the visual editor, it is the odd button with two boxes separated by dashes. On the Text Editor it is the button with the word “more.”

To set the excerpt length manually using the more button:

  1. Position your cursor at the point you wish the excerpt to end.
  2. Click the More button.
  3. On the Visual Editor, you will see a thin line and small box with the word “More” inside on the right side.
  4. On the Text/HTML Editor, you will see a comment shortcode: <-- more -->.

Example of the More and Excerpt Feature with the WordPress Visual Editor. Example of the more or excerpt feature on the WordPress Text or HTML editor.

To see how the except will look, publish the post and switch to the front page of the site. Refresh and the published post will be shown as an excerpt to that point with the words, “Continue reading,” “Read more,” or a similar phrase or symbol. This is set by each WordPress Theme.

To change the position of the More and length of the excerpt:

  • For the Visual Editor, edit the post and click and drag the More symbol to where you wish the excerpt to end.
  • For the HTML/Text Editor, edit the post and copy and paste the More comment code into the place where you wish the excerpt to end.

To Set An Explicit Excerpt

An explicit excerpt is one that you custom write yourself, introducing the post topic on multiple post pageviews.

To set an explicit or custom excerpt, go to the Post Panel and check the screen for the Excerpt form. If you do not see it below the post textarea or in the sidebar, go to the Screen Options button at the top right corner of the screen. Look for Excerpt and ensure it is checked. Close the Screen Options overlay and the Expert box will be set below the post editing area.

WordPress Screen Options set to display excerpt box on post edit panel.

Inside the Excerpt form box, write your excerpt. When you publish the post, the excerpt will be shown on all multiple post pageviews including the front page of the site.

WordPress Custom Excerpt shown on post panel.

To Change the Full Post to Excerpt on the WordPress Theme

There are times when you will wish to change the entire WordPress Theme to show only excerpts on all multi-post pageviews including the front page. This requires editing of the WordPress Theme.

If you are going to edit the WordPress Theme, it is highly recommended you create a Child Themes, leaving the Parent Theme undisturbed to future-proof it for updates and upgrades. The following includes instructions on how to create a Child Theme in order to change the excerpt template tag.

Following the instructions on Child Themes in the WordPress Codex:

  1. Create a new folder for your Child Theme under the wp-content/themes/ directory.
  2. Copy and edit the style.css file from the Parent Theme to the Child Theme directory per the Child Theme instructions.
  3. Copy the template file you wish to change from the Parent Theme to the Child Theme. In this example, we will use the Front Page template file home.php to set excerpts on the front page of the site. For more on selecting the appropriate template file, see Template Hierarchy.
  4. Edit the home.php template file in a text editor or the WordPress Theme Editor.
  5. Search for the_content() template tag.
  6. Change the_content to the_excerpt.
  7. Set any customization in the parameters if necessary. See The Excerpt in the WordPress Codex for specifics.
  8. Save the file to the Child Theme Folder.

Test the Theme. If you see excerpts on the front page, you’ve done it right.

There are many ways to set up the excerpt on WordPress Themes. You may change the length of the excerpt. You may wish to change the “Continue Reading” or “Read More” to say “Keep reading, you might like it” or anything you wish.

You may wish to have the excerpts only show on searches, archives, categories, and tags, and full posts on the front or author pageviews. You can use conditional tags and statements to create other conditions in which the Theme will show full posts (with or without the “More” option) or excerpts.

Note that some WordPress Themes are not using the_content or the_excerpt but are using custom select queries and other post queries to generate and display content. Check with your WordPress Theme author for the specifics on how to change the Theme to accommodate excerpts.

Things You Need to Know About Excerpts in WordPress

By default, WordPress displays the first 55 words of a post.

Pages do not have explicit or custom excerpts, but you may set the “More” length. Pages are not traditionally not featured in multiple post pageviews, though they are included in search results with the default excerpt length unless set with the “More” option.

By default, WordPress will not display links or images when using the the_excerpt() template tag in WordPress Themes, which generate 55 words automatically.

8 thoughts on “How to Set and Manage Excerpts in WordPress

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  5. I run a blog with a few different post formats, longreads, answers to readers’ questions, short texts etc. And I want my short posts to appear full, without experts, and I want to set a ‘read more’ manually for my long posts. So I installed this Plugin and set the Excerpt Length to 500 words, so my short posts will appear fully and for my longreads I’ll add the ‘read more’ block where I want it. BUT, the problem is if I turn on the ‘remove link if the whole post content shown’ checkbox, it removes not only ‘read more’ link at the end of the short posts, but it removes ‘read more’ link at the posts with ‘read more’ block as well. And if I turn off this chekbox, then ‘read more’ block works as expected, but there is a ‘read more’ at the end of the posts with whole content shown. It would be very nice to have this fixed, or at least have an option to turn off this plugin for particular post or particular tag

    • The addition of the WordPress Plugin overriding your theme functions is problematic. Beat ask in the support area for that Plugin or theme as you are overriding that and not working with the default functionality. Thanks.

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