How To Change Excerpt Length in WordPress (No Coding Required)

When viewing a WordPress theme or a WordPress website, especially WordPress blogs, you’ll see the posts are not displayed fully in the homepage or the blog page. Instead of that, only a part of the content is displayed. That part is called excerpt. Here is a screenshot of our EightyDays theme that uses excerpt in the blog page:

Excerpt in WordPress themes
Excerpt in WordPress themes

Using excerpts in WordPress themes has some benefits:

  • It keeps your homepage or blog page short and focused. Your readers see only the brief description of the posts. When they need to see more information, they can just click on the posts to read more.
  • It makes the WordPress design clean and clear. It gives your readers “a space to breath”. If you’re a designer, you’ll know that using white space well is an important key of a successful design. That’s why most WordPress templates use excerpt.

The Problem With WordPress Excerpt

While using excerpt is very common, it has a problem: the number of characters or words in the excerpt is usually fixed by the theme. A number X might looks fine in a language, but might not in another language.

For example: assuming we use a WordPress blog theme like EightyDays, the design looks good with 3 lines of excerpt content. That is approximately 20 words in English. If you’re Arabian or Russian, 20 words might have only 2 lines because the characters are different. That changes the design and makes your blog looks bad.

Another example: if you’re using a WordPress theme that has option to change the layout of the blog page from 2-columns grid of content (like EightyDays) or 1 column of content (like Floral), the number of words in the excerpt needs to adapt to match the layout. Usually the 2-columns design requires shorter excerpt length than the 1-column one.

And because of that, the excerpt length (or excerpt limit) should be able to change.

Customize Excerpt Length

There are basically 3 ways to change the excerpt length.

1. Manually Customize Excerpt

There are 2 types of excerpt:

  • The automatic excerpt: that is generated from the content of the post. Usually, the automatic excerpt takes 55 first words from the post content. The number of words (55), of course, is what we’re going to change.
  • The manual excerpt that users can enter themselves when editing a post. The manual excerpt is entered in the Excerpt meta box below the main editor as in the screenshot below:
manually enter the excerpt
Manually enter the excerpt

Not many people know and use the manual excerpt! It’s a big mistake.

Using manual excerpt helps you to:

  • 100% control what display in the excerpt
  • Improving SEO score

Regarding the SEO, some SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO automatically takes the excerpt content and display it as the description in the search results. Using manual excerpt, you can customize this description and increase the click-through-rate.

To enter the manual excerpt, simply enter the content in the Excerpt meta box below the editor as shown in the screenshot above. That’s very simple.

But just note that if you use manual excerpt, the read more link might disappear. This depends on the WordPress theme you’re using. It doesn’t always happen, but happens in most cases. If you want to keep the read more link, you should take a look at automatic excerpt.

2. Change Excerpt Length With Code

If you know the code, you can customize the excerpt length easily. Open the functions.php file of your theme and enter the following code:

add_filter( 'excerpt_length', 'your_prefix_excerpt_length' );
function your_prefix_excerpt_length() {
    return 30;
}

Remember to change 30 to the number of words you want to show in the excerpt.

When using code, it’s recommended to use a child theme. Because when your the current WordPress theme updates, your customization will be lost.

3. WordPress Plugins To Change Excerpt Length

The 3rd way and the easiest way to change excerpt length is using a WordPress plugin. We have researched and here are the 3 best WordPress plugins to change excerpt length.

Change Excerpt Length

This plugin is very simple. It adds only 1 option in the Settings → Reading page for excerpt length. You just need to enter the number of words in the excerpt and done!

Plugin settings page
Plugin settings page

Custom Excerpt Length

This plugin is very similar to the plugin above. It also adds an option for excerpt length in the Settings → Reading page:

Plugin settings page
Plugin settings page

Excerpt Length

This plugin not only helps you to customize the excerpt length, but also the excerpt more text. It’s similar to both the plugins above.

These plugins are very simple and very lightweight. They don’t affect your website loading speed, but provide a very good way to customize the website without touching code.

We have tested these plugins and use them for some of our customers. It works nicely.

Conclusion

Excerpt is a small piece, but the important one, in your WordPress design. Customizing it is a common question. We hope the solutions we provided in this article can help you to control it and make it look perfect in your website.

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