What You Need to Know About Post Excerpts

If you run a blog, there may be instances where you want to give readers a quick summary of the article. Perhaps you want to promote a few blog posts on your homepage, or create an archive of your content. Therefore, it’s important to know what post excerpts are and how to use them.

Excerpts refer to summaries of posts that contain a link to the full text. Understanding the various ways they’re used can help ensure that you’re using them to their maximum potential.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at post excerpts and where they’re used. Then, we’ll show you how to create them in WordPress, and provide a handful of key tips for using them effectively. Let’s get started!

What Post Excerpts Are (And Where They’re Used)

WordPress post excerpts are text summaries of posts and pages. They help visitors understand what the post is about in just a few sentences. Typically, these excerpts also contain a link so that the reader can easily read the complete post if they’re interested.

Let’s say that you have a blog with 10 articles, all around 1,000 words each. You’re likely not going to want to have a page containing 10,000 words. Instead, it’s much more practical (and productive) to display a page of 10 excerpts, less than 100 words each. 

Excerpts can be produced manually or automatically. You have the option to write your own blurbs (which we recommend). However, if you don’t have the time to write them yourself, WordPress will automatically use the first 55 words of your post as your excerpt. 

Providing post summaries can be an effective way to improve the User Experience (UX) of your website. This may in turn help boost your engagement and conversion rates. If you have a content-heavy site, such as a news blog, post excerpts can even help boost your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and drive traffic to your website

Post excerpts can be used in a variety of ways. In WordPress, these blurbs are usually displayed on blog archive posts, as well as main site pages, such as your homepage:

You can also find them in Google search engine results, under the hyperlinked title of the article:

Sometimes, Google pulls a relevant snippet from the post as an excerpt, rather than the meta description of that page. This normally contains the keyword entered by the user. 

Moreover, you can use post excerpts on social media to let users and followers know what the post you’re linking out to is about. You could also use them in newsletters to summarize the content of round-up posts that you’re sharing.

How to Create Post Excerpts in WordPress

Now that we understand a little bit more about what post excerpts are and why they’re used, it’s time to look at the different ways you can create them. As we mentioned earlier, there are two main methods you can use: the manual approach and the automatic approach. 

If you don’t want WordPress to automatically generate post excerpts for you, you’ll need to use the manual method and enter your own text. Again, there are a couple different ways you can go about this. The best option will depend on a few factors, such as the WordPress theme that you’re using. 

It’s important to note that not all themes enable you to display post excerpts. However, because WordPress itself supports this functionality, there is usually a way for you to take advantage of it, regardless of your theme. The process may just be slightly more difficult than it would be with a theme that comes with this feature built-in.

If your current theme supports excerpts, you can simply enter and edit your own text within the post. Let’s take a closer look at the different ways you can create and manage excerpts in WordPress. 

Where to Find the Post Excerpt Box in WordPress

To add an excerpt to a WordPress post, you’ll need to use the Excerpt box in the Block Editor. This feature is located in the Settings panel on the right-hand side of the screen:

If you don’t see the Excerpt option in the editor, you’ll just need to enable it. This may be the case if you’re using the Classic Editor. To do this, navigate to a new post. Then, click on Screen Options in the top, right-hand corner of the screen:

In the Screen Elements field, select the Excerpt option. An Excerpt box should now appear below the post editor. This is where you can enter your article summary.

How to Change the Post Excerpt Length in WordPress

If you want to change the post excerpt length in WordPress, you can do so in a few easy steps. By default, WordPress will take the first 55 words of your post and use that with an ellipsis as your excerpt.

WordPress does not have a built-in option to change the length. However, you can make your excerpts shorter or longer either by adding a snippet of code to your theme’s functions.php file or by using a plugin to manage excerpts without touching code.

Note: WordPress.com users must choose either the Business or eCommerce plan to use either of these methods.

Let’s start with the easy, no-code method.

Changing the Excerpt Length – Method 1: Using a Plugin

A popular plugin for managing excerpts is Advanced Excerpt

After you install and activate the free plugin, there are a handful of excerpt-related tasks it can help you with. For example, you can use it to modify the excerpt length, add a ”read more” link at the end, disable excerpts on certain pages, and more.

Changing the Excerpt Length – Method 2: For Advanced Users or Those Comfortable Editing Code

If you are comfortable editing code and you’d rather not use a plugin, you can follow these instructions instead. Navigate to Appearance > Theme Editor in your WordPress admin dashboard:

On the right-hand side of the screen, browse to the Theme Functions (functions.php) file and open it. Then, copy and paste the following code


function my_excerpt_length($length) {
return 110;
}
add_filter('excerpt_length', 'my_excerpt_length');

You can change the value to whatever number you like. For instance, you may choose to set a character limit of 150, rather than 110. However, we advise against using long excerpts, as this might make your blog feed look a bit busy and messy. When you’re done, save the file. 

How to Enable Post Excerpts in Your Theme’s Code

Earlier, we mentioned that some themes come with built-in functionality for displaying excerpts. However, that’s not always the case.

If you’re using a theme that doesn’t offer this feature, you can go the manual route. This will involve editing your theme files to force it to use excerpts. 

CAUTION: We only recommend that you use this method if you’re comfortable working with your website’s code. If not, you also have the option of displaying an excerpt using the More tag, which we’ll be discussing in the next section. 

Note: WordPress.com users must choose either the Business or eCommerce plan to have the ability to edit your theme’s files.

Also, before making any changes, we highly recommend that you back up your website. You may also want to consider creating a WordPress child theme.

Once you complete those important steps, you can start editing your template file(s). It’s important to note that the names of these files may vary depending on the theme you’re using. However, in most cases, you’ll want to look for the following:

  • home.php
  • index.php
  • archive.php
  • category.php

Once you locate these files, you’ll need to look for the section that contains the following line:

?php the_content(); ?>

When you find that line, replace it with the following:

<?php the_excerpt(); ?>

That’s it. When you’re done, save the files. Now post excerpts should be enabled on your WordPress site.

How to Add Post Excerpts in WordPress Using the More Tag

Another option is to use the More tag to create a summary at the beginning of your post. Technically, this is not the same thing as an excerpt. However, it essentially serves the same purpose. The main difference is that WordPress considers this a “teaser” rather than a traditional excerpt.

The advantage of using this approach is that you won’t have to edit any of your theme’s template files. On the other hand, you don’t have as much flexibility since you can only pull the content from the beginning of your post. 

To use the More tag in the Classic Editor, you’ll need to click where you want the excerpt to end, then select the Insert Read More icon:

If you’re using the Block Editor, select your excerpt and click on the three vertical dots in the toolbar. From the list of options, choose Insert After:

Next, click on the plus sign (+) to add a new block, and type in “more” in the search field: Then, click on the More block to insert it in your post:

Alternatively, you can type “/more” in the editor, then select your Enter key. This will automatically insert the more tag into your post. 

How to Add Excerpts to WordPress Pages

By default, WordPress does not offer a way for you to add excerpts to your pages. However, there is a workaround that you can use to enable this feature across your entire site. 

Unfortunately, there is no checkbox that you can click to enable it, as we showed you with posts. Therefore, the easiest way to show excerpts in your WordPress pages is to edit your theme’s functions.php file. Again, you can do this by navigating to Appearance > Theme Editor from your admin dashboard.

CAUTION: We only recommend that you use this method if you’re comfortable working with your website’s code.

Note: WordPress.com users must choose either the Business or eCommerce plan to have the ability to edit your theme’s files.

Once you have located and opened your theme’s functions.php file, you can insert the following snippet:

function wploop_pages_excerpt() {
add_post_type_support( 'page', 'excerpt' );
}
add_action( 'init', ' wploop_pages_excerpt' );

When you’re done, make sure to save your changes. Now, if you navigate to a WordPress page, you should be able to use the excerpt feature. If it’s not there, you can enable it by browsing to Screen Options and selecting the Excerpt box. 

Key Tips for Using Post Excerpts Effectively in WordPress

At this point, we’ve covered just about everything there is to know about creating excerpts in WordPress. However, there are some tips that you might want to keep in mind when using this feature. 

For example, we recommend aiming for a word count of between 55 and 100 words. Of course, you want to make sure that you’re including the most important information about the post. Basically, your excerpt should hook the reader and pique their curiosity.

However, keep in mind that it’s an excerpt, not a full article. You don’t need more than a few sentences. Plus, you want to make sure that it is short enough to appear in full in the search results, or when the post is shared on social media platforms like Facebook.

Also, a good rule of thumb is to compliment your post title rather than repeat it. You only have a certain amount of space to work with. Therefore, you don’t want to waste unnecessary words by repeating the article title.

Conclusion

When you’re creating a website, it’s important to provide your users with a solid UX. If you have a content-heavy site, displaying the full text of articles in your blog feeds or post archives isn’t a practical strategy. That’s where post excerpts come in.

As we discussed in this post, these brief summaries of your posts can help you increase engagement and conversions, and drive more traffic to your site. There are a handful of ways you can create them, depending on the theme you’re using. However, we recommend keeping them around 55 words and incorporating key terms that are relevant to the post.

Let our experts build your custom WordPress.com website.

Whether you need a landing page or a full ecommerce site, an online learning academy or an interactive informational site for your business, we can build it for you.

Apply now

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The WordPress.com Team

At WordPress.com, our mission is to democratize publishing one website at a time. Create a free website or build a blog with ease on WordPress.com. Dozens of free, customizable, mobile-ready designs and themes.

More by The WordPress.com Team

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: