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How To Use WordPress Excerpts

WordPress Post Excerpts And Post Previews

Depending on your theme, WordPress can display an excerpt, or short version of your post, in different areas of your site instead of displaying the entire post.

Post excerpts are ideal for displaying quick summaries instead of the full content, such as search results, news feeds, archives (e.g. tag, category, monthly and author archives), etc.

You could write these excerpts yourself, but if you choose not to, WordPress will automatically create a basic excerpt for you instead.

Additionally, you can also create Post previews that allow your visitors to preview the content of your post and then choose whether to continue reading the rest of the post of not.

This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to use WordPress post excerpts and post previews.

WordPress Post Excerpts: Step-By-Step Tutorial

Depending on your theme, post excerpts can display in areas of your site such as:

Your search result pages …

Your RSS feeds page (note: to view your site’s RSS feed page add “/feed” to the end of your site’s URL, e.g. http://yourdomain.com/feed, or http://domain.com/blog/feed) …

Your blog posts home page

(Post excerpts display on your blog page)

Your monthly post archives …

(image source: OverACuppaCoffee.com)

Your ‘Category’ tag pages …

Your ‘Tag’ archive pages …

And other areas of your site where displaying summaries is preferable to displaying full content.

Manual Excerpt vs Automatic Excerpt

The manual WordPress excerpt is often confused with the automatic excerpt, or with the “teaser” (i.e. the part of a post that appears on the front page when you use the “More” tag – see further below for details).

While both are related to the manual excerpt, they are interpreted differently by WordPress, depending on the code used inside your theme’s templates.

When a post has no manual excerpt:

We will show you how to use both of the automatic excerpt methods described above, as well as the manual method in this tutorial.

Using Post Excerpts

The Excerpt box displays below your post content in the Edit Post screen and lets you add a brief “teaser” or post summary that will display in selected areas of your site, such as those mentioned earlier …

The Excerpt field is hidden by default if it has not been used before. If you can’t see the Excerpt box, click on Screen Options at the top of your Edit Post screen …

Make sure that the checkbox next to the ‘Excerpt’ option is selected …

You should now see the Excerpt box displayed below your post’s content editor area …

Note: Not all themes display post excerpts by default. If your theme displays excerpts, WordPress will automatically use the first 55 words of your post content as the Excerpt, or any content you add before placing the <!–more–> quicktag (see further below to learn how to use the “More” Tag).

If you add content into the Excerpt field when editing your posts, WordPress will use this information instead of its automatic excerpt method.

Let’s take a look at how this works …

Here is an example of a couple of posts that were published without manually adding an excerpt to the posts. WordPress simply takes the first 55 words of the post’s content and publishes it as the post summaries …

The same thing happens wherever summaries are displayed. For example, here is how WordPress would display the automatic excerpt in your site’s RSS feed page if no excerpt was manually added to the posts …

Now, let’s add some content into the Excerpt box for each of the example posts shown above.

Here’s the excerpt we’ll add for example post #1 …

Here’s the excerpt we’ll add for example post #2. Note that the excerpt we’ve typed into the Excerpt box is longer than 55 words …

When we update the posts and go back to the blog post summaries, you can see that WordPress is now using the post excerpts that we have added manually to the posts …

The same thing happens wherever post summaries are displayed. For example, here is the site’s RSS feed page for the posts with manually added post excerpts …

Note: WordPress will ignore the 55-word limit and publish whatever content you enter into the Excerpt box.

Additional Information Related To Post Excerpts

Post excerpts replace the full content of your posts in RSS feeds when the option to display summaries is selected in your WordPress Reading Settings

WordPress Post Previews

In addition to being able to customize your post excerpts and increase the length of your post summaries by entering your own content into the Excerpt box, you can also control how your posts display to visitors on your site using the built-in “More” tag and various post preview plugins.

WordPress “More” Tag

The “More” tag (Alt + Shift + T) let’s you specify a post “preview” for your content, followed by a link that allows your site visitors to continue reading the rest of your post.

To insert a “more” tag, decide where your post preview should end and click on the spot with your mouse to add a cursor …

Next, click the “Insert More Tag” menu button in the visual editor as shown below, or hold down the Alt + Shift + T keys …

The tag will be inserted into your post …

You can also add the “More” tag below directly into your content using the Text editor …

Here’s how the “more” tag will look when inserted correctly into your content …

After your post has been published or updated, only the content that appears before the “more” tag will show in your preview, with a link to continue reading the post …

When your visitors click on this link, the full post will display …

Note: If you can’t see the post preview when you publish your post, do this to troubleshoot the issue:

1 – Check That Tag Has Been Inserted Correctly

Go back to your editor screen and make sure that you have inserted the “more” tag (i.e. <!–more–>) into your content via the Text editor, not via the Visual editor.

The visual editor will convert the characters “<” and “>” into their HTML entities (i.e. “&lt;” and “&gt;”) and publish the tag incorrectly, as shown below …

2 – Check Your Blog Page

The more tag is used only on the page you have set to display your latest posts (i.e. your blog page).

So, let’s say that you insert the more tag into a post …

(‘More’ tag inserted into post)

When you preview your full post page, you won’t find your content split where you have added the more tag, because this is not what the tag is supposed to do (see our tutorial on how to split your content into different pages) …

(The ‘more’ tag doesn’t work on regular posts or pages)

If, however, you visit the page you have specified to display your latest blog posts, you should find that the ‘more’ tag is working correctly …

(The ‘more’ tag works on the page that displays your latest blog posts)

WordPress Plugins – Post Excerpts

In addition to using the “more” tag, there are also plugins available that can give you more control over your post excerpts. Let’s have a look at some of these plugins …

Advanced Excerpt

This plugin adds several improvements to the default method used by WordPress to create excerpts:

Simply install the plugin, then navigate to Settings > Excerpts, and configure the plugin options. Save your settings by clicking on the “Save Changes” button and you’re done …

Summy

If you don’t want to use the automatic excerpt feature of WordPress, and you are not keen to write your own post summaries, you can try letting a program write your excerpts instead.

Summy is an excerpt extraction plugin. It generates excerpts for your posts by applying various algorithms for automatic summarization extraction. It then scores your text’s sentences, based on extended configuration options, and returns the highest ranked …

Summy will analyze your post’s sentences and use the highest ranked sentences using its built-in algorythm and your setting options to decide what best describes your post. The plugin developer warns that “Summy’s summaries are not perfect and you might also need to do some editing before publishing your content but they are a lot better than random 55 words”.

WordPress Plugins – Page Excerpts

Some plugin developers have also created plugins for users who may have a need to display page excerpts. Here are some you can check out:

Page Excerpt

This plugin adds the same functionality to pages as the excerpt feature in posts. This is useful for certain themes and plugins that make use of custom page excerpts.

One use for page excerpts, for example, is if you use a plugin like Content Views Pro to customize the layout of your content …

(Content Views Pro – Content Layout & View Plugin)

If you use Content Views Pro to create custom content layout using pages, you can customize the excerpt of the pages displayed in your layouts with the page excerpt feature enabled.

For more details, see our tutorial on using post categories to improve WordPress SEO, user navigation & content layout.

Page Excerpt Widget

This plugin comes in the form of a widget that lets you display an excerpt of a page in a sidebar area of your choice. You can configure options in the widget settings …

And the page expert will be displayed on your sidebar as shown in the example below …

You can also have multiple page excerpt widgets active at the same time, so you can use different excerpts to point to different pages.

WordPress Plugins – Post Previews

Evermore

The Evermore plugin automatically displays short previews of your posts on your home page. Each preview includes a link to the full post, which can be added either at the end of the paragraph, or on a separate, new line.

Evermore is very simple to use – just install it and it will start working straight away. You can customize the length and appearance of the previews globally, by specifying the minimum number of paragraphs or characters to display for a post …

Sometimes, the first paragraph of a post can be very short (just a short sentence, or a picture). The settings allow you to add extra paragraphs and make your previews a more reasonable length.

Using the settings shown in the screenshot above would result in post preview like the one shown below …

Useful Tip: To stop Evermore creating a preview for a particular post, include the tag below somewhere in the post …

The above tag won’t appear when people view your post, but Evermore will see it and display the full post to visitors instead of just a preview.

Seemore

If you plan to use the Evermore plugin, a good companion plugin to add as well is Seemore.

After clicking a (more…) link in a post preview, readers often find themselves scrolling up the page to make sure that they haven’t missed anything.

Seemore changes the (more…) link so that visitors see the entire post, and not just the content after the (more…) link.

Congratulations! Now you know how to use WordPress excerpts and how to create post previews.

(Source: Pixabay)

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