with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Customizing the WordPress Loop for Excerpt Queries

I talk a lot about the powerful features and ability to customize WordPress on our site. One of the behind the scenes power WordPress “tricks”, if you will, featured on our site is found on our site’s front page. It involves some queries that ask several rather uniquely styled questions, and generates what you see based upon the answers from the database. Let me explain this better.

When you view the “home” page or front page of our site, you are greeted with a combination of excerpts or full short posts. On the left side of each post is a green bar. Each post features the title and post categories. Each post also features the excerpt summary, or first paragraph or two of the post, or the full length short post.

View of excerpts on front page of our website
Each excerpt on our page is defined by a green bar along the left edge. The first excerpt at the top uses the “more” tag to define the excerpt section within the post. The second excerpt is an explicitly defined excerpt using the Excerpt textarea window in the Write Post panel. The third excerpt is the full post. Note there is not “Continue Reading” link at the end of the post.

Now, let me break that down into PHP query talk. Inside of the WordPress Loop, which generates the page results from your database, is a query. The default query states “if there are posts, show the posts”. Very simple. It looks like this:

<?php if (have_posts()) : while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>
<?php endwhile; else: ?>
<?php endif; ?>

A query is a bit of code that begins with an IF and then provides the answers based upon something like this in plain English:

If X then Y else Z

In PHP query language, the terms “if” and “then” are replaced by “if” and “else”. The query looks more like this:

If X else Y else Z

Most people use queries to say something like “if this post is in category 4, print it with a red background” or “if this post is in category 6, don’t show it”. Or they use queries to alphabetize the posts found on the front page, or to only show posts from a specific category, leaving the rest visible through category templates or other means. These are the traditional and most requested types of front page queries.

There are also two other elements to the query that need to be considered. They are two WordPress template tags, the_content() and the_excerpt().

Used within the WordPress Loop, the_content() displays the content of the post. It features a parameter which allows the site administrator to use a tag called “more” in a post. This shows the post’s beginning content until the “more” tag as an excerpt. If the “more” tag is not used, then the whole post is shown on mutli-post pages. The post author or administrator controls where the “more” tag is used.

The other tag is the_excerpt(). It replaces the_content() tag and displays one of two things. Either the explicit excerpt as written in the Excerpt textarea box on the Write Post panel, or the first 120 words of the post. It is used to force only excerpts to be seen on the multi-post pages.

Generally, a WordPress site owner or Theme author will use one or the other template tag. The problem is that I’m not your ordinary user.

That’s right. I had to have something different, something to challenge the WordPress experts. I challenged them, and this is what Michael Adams of MDAwaffe came up with just for me.

I wanted to use the explicit excerpt, the “more” tag, and the two template tags and have WordPress do the work of figuring out when I needed which, and to use it appropriately. The question put forth on the front page of our site is this:

If post content has an explicit excerpt, 
            display the explicit excerpt.
If post content uses the <--more--> to mark the ending post of the excerpt, 
            display this excerpt.
If post content uses NO EXCERPT, 
            display the entire post.

Here is the loop, without all the styles and references so you can see the actual code that asks the three questions. Comments are in place to help you follow the process.

<!-- Start of the Loop -->
<?php if (have_posts()) : ?>
<?php while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>
<?php if ( $post->post_excerpt ) : // If there is an explicitly defined excerpt ?>
  <!-- Display explicit excerpt-->
    <?php the_excerpt(); ?>
<?php else : // If there is not an explictly defined excerpt ?>
  <!-- Display post or post until READ MORE tag -->
    <?php the_content(); ?>
<?php endif; // End the excerpt vs. content "if" statement ?>
<?php endwhile; else: ?>
  <!-- Display Page Not Found Page if post is not found -->
<?php endif; ?>

The key is in the line that says:

<?php if ( $post->post_excerpt ) : ?>

It provides the condition that looks for the explicitly defined excerpt. The rest of the query within the Loop is fairly normal.

The template tag the_content() has a parameter to set the “read more” statement. The template tag the_excerpt() does not.

This created a bit of confusion. It meant that if I set the_content() to say “Continue Reading”, it would only show up on the posts that used the “more” tag and not on the posts that used the_excerpt() template tag. Not very consistent looking. I needed to add the same look and text for the “Continue Reading” tag to the explicit excerpts.

The usage of the “more” within the_content() looks like this:

<?php the_content('<span class="readmore">CONTINUE READING <?>

The addition of a “faked more” tag to work with the the_excerpt() tag looks like this:

<?php the_excerpt(); ?><br />
<div class="readmore"><a href="<?php the_permalink(); ?>">CONTINUE READING </a></div>

Here is the entire customized Loop query. Note the use of the clearfix CSS style which is discussed in the article on WordPress Tips and Tricks on Themes and Templates.

<!-- Start of the Loop -->
<?php if (have_posts()) : ?>
<?php while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>
<?php if ( $post->post_excerpt ) : // If there is an explicitly defined excerpt ?>
<div class="excerpt-post clearfix">
<h2 id="post-<?php the_ID(); ?>">
<a href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" rel="bookmark" accesskey="s"><?php the_title(); ?></a>
</h2>
<div class="catslist"><?php the_category(' and '); ?></div>
<div class="entry">
<?php the_excerpt(); ?><br />
<div class="readmore">
<a href="<?php the_permalink(); ?>">CONTINUE READING</a>
</div>
</div> <!--end of entry -->
<!-- <?php trackback_rdf(); ?> -->
</div><!-- end of excerpt-post -->
<?php else : // If there is not an explictly defined excerpt ?>
<div class="excerpt-post clearfix">
<h2 id="post-<?php the_ID(); ?>">
<a href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" rel="bookmark"><?php the_title(); ?></a>
</h2>
<div class="catslist"><?php the_category(' and '); ?></div>
<div class="entry">
<?php the_content('<span class="readmore">CONTINUE READING</span>'); ?>
</div><!-- end of entry -->
<!-- <?php trackback_rdf(); ?> -->
</div><!-- end of excerpt-post -->
<?php endif; // End the excerpt vs. content "if" statement ?>
<?php endwhile; else: ?>
<h2 class="center">Page Not Found</h2>
<p><?php _e('Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.'); ?></p>
<p><?php _e('To help you find the information you seek,
we recommend you check out our
<a title="Camera on the Road Site Map" href="sitemap.php">Site Map</a>
to help track down what you are looking for.'); ?></p>
<?php include (TEMPLATEPATH . "/searchform.php"); ?>
<?php endif; ?>
<!--end Loop -->

More WordPress Resources

This a powerful example of one of many options and queries possible within the WordPress Loop. For more information see the following resources:

4 Comments

  • Posted October 23, 2007 at 21:39 | Permalink

    Thank you, I used this to prevent the first 120 characters of text from showing up as an excerpt when an optional excerpt hadn’t been filled in. I manage a site with a few unskilled contributors, and they always forget to add an excerpt. As there are hundreds of posts in some of the categories, I’d rather have no excerpt than a long autogenerated one. I just modified the code to remove the ‘display the post’ portion of the if statement as below:

  • Jim Mirkalami
    Posted February 6, 2008 at 15:58 | Permalink

    I have been a frequent visitor of this blog for some time now, so I thought it would be a good idea to leave you with my thanks.

    Regards,
    Jim Mirkalami

  • Posted April 15, 2008 at 9:27 | Permalink

    Excellent info. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make the “Continue Reading” appear when using excerpt. Your method worked perfect. Thanks for sharing.

  • Posted July 3, 2008 at 9:17 | Permalink

    Thanks so much for sharing this information. It’s a great help and a huge improvement on the standard search results in WordPress.

3 Trackbacks

  • […] If this sounds like something of interest to you, I explain it fully, with the solution, in my article on Customizing the WordPress Loop for Excerpt Queries. […]

  • […] Customizing the WordPress Loop for Excerpt Queries Tags:Blogging & Communities, tagging, tags, Ultimate Tag Warrior, UTW WordPress Related (or so the plugin believes!?) Posts: […]

  • By WP MORE Tag Help (lol) - Netpond ? on September 6, 2008 at 9:42

    […] these articles extremely helpful: Display Post Excerpts Only in WordPress ? Lorelle on WordPress Photography and Travel Taking Your Camera on the Road – Customizing the WordPress Loop for Excerpt Q… Basically, these links explained how to do just what I wanted, which was to build The Loop so it […]

Post a Comment

Your email is kept private. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>