Cut an excerpt length. It is one thing to choose excerpts over full posts on the homepage. You can even choose how you want to generate these excerpts easily enough. Yet with that done, you still have another decision to make every time you write a post; what length should a post excerpt be?

Getting the Job Done

In short, a post excerpt should be as long as it needs to be to get the job done. The job of an excerpt is to give your readers a teaser, a sample of what is to come. It is important to realize that your excerpt is not your article. If you wanted the reader to hear all that you have to say on the home page, you would be using full posts, not excerpts.

A good excerpt is short enough to be consumed quickly, but long enough to give some substance and hint at what is to come. After reading the excerpt, the reader should know exactly what they will find if they click through to the rest of the article.

Make Breaks At Logical Points

By default, WordPress will cut an excerpt exactly 55 words from the start of a post. The problem with this is not the length it cuts, but that it is mechanical. The location at which the post is broken does not make sense.

When splitting an excerpt from the start of a post, the post should be split somewhere natural, i.e. At the end of a paragraph of bullet point.

Furthermore, if you include a subheading in your excerpt, you should also include at least the first paragraph after the heading. If you do not, the homepage will show a heading with no body, causing your readers unnecessary confusion. A subheading is always used between areas of content, not at the end of one.

More Text Than Images

Many blogs use post images to increase the likelihood of post being read. Naturally, these images will appear in the excerpts.

Depending on the size of the image, it may dominate a short excerpt if placed inline with the text. The image should appear as an accessory to the post. If your excerpt is short, it may cause the reader to see it as filler. Using a longer excerpt allows it to be seen that your content far outweighs your images.

As a rule of thumb, I like to have at least one paragraph of text completely below the image. Find what works for your own blog, and go with it.

Cut Consistently

As with any style you adopt on your blog, whilst the style may be important, the consistency of its use can be of even greater importance. If you tend to have excerpts that are 4 paragraphs long, then stick to this rule as often as possible.

Of course, special cases may arise where the excerpt needs to be shorter or longer (Usually due to the logic mentioned in the second point here), at which time it is perfectly acceptable to bend the rules.

What lengths are your excerpts? Do they get the job done for you?

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