How to Customize WordPress Excerpts (No Coding Required)

Do you want to customize your WordPress excerpt? An excerpt is a short snippet from your post that you can display in a list of blog posts or on other key pages of your website.

In this article, we will show you how to customize your WordPress excerpts without writing any code.

Customizing WordPress excerpts without coding

When and Why You Should Use Excerpts in WordPress

First, let’s talk about when it makes sense to use excerpts, and why it’s a good idea to do so.

By default, WordPress shows full posts on your home page, blog page, and archives of your site.

This makes your site slower, and it can also cause issues with search engines because it means you’ll have duplicate content on your site.

Using excerpts will make your pages load faster because you will only be loading a small part of each article. You may want to use excerpts on:

  • Your website’s homepage, if it displays blog posts.
  • Your various archive pages for categories and tags.
  • Your blog post page, if you have a static home page.

Many WordPress themes are configured to use excerpts by default in places like your home page. With premium WordPress themes, you may have the option to choose whether you want to display full posts or excerpts.

For more details, see our article on full posts vs excerpts for more reasons to use excerpts.

Why You May Want to Customize Your Excerpts

If your WordPress theme uses excerpts by default, then WordPress will automatically generate an excerpt for you. By default, WordPress uses the first 55 words of your post, though many themes will show a little more.

So what’s wrong with that? Can’t you just save time by letting WordPress come up with the excerpt for you?

Here’s the problem. The auto-generated excerpt will begin with whatever text is at the start of your post. This can be fine in some cases, but it doesn’t work so well if you have anything before you start your post’s introduction.

Here’s an example, from a site using the Ribosome theme:

A post excerpt shown in the Maxwell theme. Post text reads'Image credit: 200degrees This post was last updated in April 2020. What's the best way to build your email list? We've come up with 35 great options for you. Whether...''

As you can see, the excerpt shows the text from the very start of the post. This includes the featured image credit plus a note about when the post was most recently updated. This does not look very good.

If your theme does not handle excerpts very well, then you may want to customize them so that they are easier to read and help you get more clicks for posts.

That being said, let’s take a look at different ways to customize excerpts in WordPress.

1. How to Add a Custom Excerpt in WordPress (Default)

Adding a custom excerpt in WordPress is quite simple. First, create a new post or edit an existing one.

In the right-hand panel of the WordPress content editor, you should see the ‘Excerpt’ dropdown. Click the downward arrow next to it.

Expand the Excerpt tab in the Document pane

It’ll expand to show the excerpt box. You can type your custom post excerpt here. We simply copied the first paragraph of our post itself.

Adding custom excerpt for a WordPress post

Note: If you’re still using the old classic editor, click the Screen Options tab in the top right corner. Then, put a check in the ‘Excerpt’ box. You’ll now see a space for your excerpt below the box where you write your post.

Your WordPress theme will now use the custom excerpt for this post.

Preview of a custom excerpt added to a WordPress post

As you can see, the Read More link is not displayed after the excerpt. Depending on the theme you use, custom excerpts may not have this link.

The reader can still click on the post title or post featured image to read your full post.

Displaying Excerpts in Your Theme

Most popular WordPress themes comes with built-in support to display custom excerpts on your posts.

However some themes may not have excerpt support. If that’s the case for yours, then you’ll need to manually modify your theme files by creating a child theme and adding some code.

This adds some complexity to the process and if you are uncomfortable with that, then you can use method 3 in this article which does not require you to add any code.

In your child theme, you’ll need for the template used to display pages you want to modify. See our guide to WordPress template hierarchy to figure out which template you need to edit.

The filenames will differ slightly depending on your theme, but you’re likely looking for home.php, content.php, archive.php, and category.php.

In each of these files, you’ll need to locate this line:

<?php the_content(); ?>

Next, you will need to replace it with the_excerpt tag like this:

<?php the_excerpt(); ?>

Important: We don’t recommend this method for beginners. Even if you’re quite experienced with WordPress, you might well prefer to avoid creating a child theme and editing your template files.

The next two methods are great alternatives.

2. Showing the Start of Your Posts With the More Tag

Another way to create a short version of your post for your WordPress homepage and archive pages is by using the ‘More’ tag.

This works a bit differently from an excerpt. Instead of creating a text-only snippet of your post, the More tag lets you break off your post at a certain point.

This means only the first part of your post (up to the tag) will show in the list of posts on your homepage, categories page, and so on. The benefit of the more tag is that it keeps all your formatting.

At the point where you place the More tag, WordPress will show a ‘Read More’ link. Readers can click on this to go to your whole post. They’ll be automatically jumped to the right point in the post, too.

To create a More tag, write a new post or edit an existing one.

Next, add a block where you want the More tag to go and select the More block from the Layout Options section, or search for it using the search bar.

Adding the More block

This is how the more tag will appear inside the content editor. Optionally, you can choose to hide the content before the more tag on the actual post.

More tag in content editor

Note: You can also add More tag in the old classic editor. Click where you want to place the tag in your post itself, then click the More button in the visual toolbar.

Virtually every theme will be able to use the More tag anywhere that posts are displayed. Note that if your theme displays excerpts, though, you’ll need to customize the excerpt itself. You can’t change it by adding a More tag to posts

3. Adding Custom WordPress Excerpts Using Plugin

What if WordPress’s built-in custom excerpts functionality doesn’t do what you want … and you don’t want to use a More tag either?

There’s an easy solution. You can use a plugin to create and display custom excerpts.

First, install and activate the Advanced Excerpt plugin.

If you haven’t installed a plugin before, take a look at our step by step instructions on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Once you’ve activated it, you can go to Settings » Excerpt to set up how it works.

Advanced excerpt settings

Here, you can change things like how many characters or words the excerpt will display. You can decide whether to allow the excerpt to cut off mid-word or mid-sentence, too.

You can also restore the ‘Read More’ link that normally disappears from the custom excerpt. You can even change this to whatever text you want, and change how it functions:

Restoring and customizing the'Read More' link using the Advanced Excerpt plugin

Tip: To use custom excerpts with this plugin, uncheck the box ‘Generate excerpts even if a post has a custom excerpt attached.’

Use custom excerpts with the Advanced Excerpt plugin

After making changes to the Advanced Excerpt settings, make sure you click the save button at the bottom of the screen.

With the Advanced Excerpt plugin, your excerpts will preserve your post’s formatting. Here’s an auto-generated excerpt, with the plugin activated. As you can see, the line break and italic text have been kept in.

Post excerpt produced by Advanced Excerpt plugin

By default, the Advanced Excerpt plugin will use excerpts on your home page, RSS feed, and other archive pages.

It does not make any changes to your content and if you want to turn it off, then you can simply deactivate the plugin.

We hope this article helped you easily customize WordPress excerpts without any coding. If you want even more control over how posts display in different locations on your site, check out our guide to the best drag and drop WordPress page builders.

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