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Either/Or: Full Posts vs. Excerpts

Sometimes, simply checking a box or clicking a button can make a subtle, but significant difference in the way your…

Sometimes, simply checking a box or clicking a button can make a subtle, but significant difference in the way your audience reads and reacts to your blog. In these posts we’ll dig deeper into the Dashboard, and explore some either-this-or-that decisions that are as low-stress as they are high-impact.

Some blogs tease the reader with excerpts from each post. Others display entire posts from the get-go. Which option is the right one for you?

Go with full text

If your posts tend to be brief, or are image-heavy, full text might be best. It’s a good idea to give visitors to your blog a satisfying bite of your content, not just a crumb. Most of us don’t enjoy clicking on a post only to find out we’ve already seen all there was to see, so presenting your post in its entirety will save your visitors a few extra clicks. This way, you encourage them to spend their time at your blog doing what matters: reading your content.

Another point to consider: if you’re a recent or infrequent blogger, going full text will give your blog a heftier feel as you add more and more content.

Go with excerpts

if you write long posts, or if you publish very frequently, maximize your space with excerpting. Scrolling down a blog full of long posts can become a pain if you include the full text of each one. It might also reduce the overall number of posts your reader sees at any given visit to your blog.

There are a couple of ways to control how much of a post your readers see when they enter your blog. Some themes allow you to define an excerpt for each post as you write it, and the excerpt is then featured on your homepage once your post is published. Anyone who wants to continue reading can click the post title to go to the full post.

Alternatively, you can easily add a More Tag to your posts, cutting off the text your reader sees. Even better: you yourself choose the point at which the excerpt ends. Clicking ‘More’ will take your reader to the rest of the post.

  • Good to know: you can limit the visible amount of your post not only on your homepage, but also on your followers’ feeds. In your Dashboard, click Settings >> Reading, and choose whether the feed shows your entire post or a summary.

To use or not to use… Infinite Scroll?

With the format of your homepage posts – Full Text or Excerpt – settled, here’s one more thing to think about: should your homepage last…forever? (Or at least until your very last post?)

  • Go with infinity: some types of content — photos, videos, quotes, short texts — can be consumed quickly, and in great quantities. Why not give your readers more of what they like, more quickly? To activate Infinite Scroll, go to your Dashboard, and click Settings >> Reading. All you need to do is check the Infinite Scroll box, and you’re set.
  • Stick with pages: other types of posts (for examples, longer essays) can be savored more easily with some pacing. Making your readers click on the next page allows them to take a breath — and prepares them for more great posts.

Note: sometimes, you have to forego Infinite Scroll, namely, when you’ve selected footer widgets, which, alas, can’t be displayed when there is no footer.

These easy either/or tweaks can really shape the way your visitors navigate through your content. Which option do you use? Why?

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  1. I’d never really thought about that… I’m still quite new and getting to know my dashboard… I think mine is an infinity list though by default. It’s some good advice, I will have to have a play about! :)

  2. Like, like, like, like, like!!!!!
    I use excerpts for the feed because I want folks to come to my site, if they’re interested. I need the hits right now for impressing a future publisher.
    For that reason, I think it would irritate a reader to come to my site and find STILL excerpts, so my site page has the full text, which is usually longish. (300-500)
    And I limit page length there, because I prefer that, myself, when I land somewhere. Sorta subjective. I should do a comparison. In my spare time, eh?
    Thanks so much!

  3. I have both photo essays — a lot of them– AND long written pieces (not as many as photos). Maybe I’ll go back to the long form … but I wonder if anyone bothers to come and see the blog that way. Anyone really know?

  4. Nice tips. My content is usually of the shorter kind: photos, links and quotes; so full display of posts is what I’m using as you’ve suggested. The nature of my posts would also dictate I use infinite scroll but my theme, with its footer widget area won’t allow that. Hmm. I might consider switching themes but I really love the one I’m using now (Vintage Camera).

  5. The template of my blog is uber important to me. It’s right up there with content. My stuff has to be legible, enjoyable, and easy-to-follow, so I have done a lot of customization and experimenting with other blog templates. I like how SIGHT has excerpts because I had a lot of long poems and pictures, but at that time I didn’t write a lot. Now, I have HUM because there is an option to scroll down as my readers read each full-length blog post. Pictures also come up very nice on the blog template too making giving it a nice break from the written posts. I also like it because it is so simple. There’s nothing on it that will distract the reader from the content. I’ve opted for a full-length view because it just looks better. Thanks for the advice and the information. I love reading the Daily Posts!

  6. I use the More tag because my posts tend to be giant (~1000 words isn’t giant, but you know what attention spans are like these days). I always write a little intro paragraph, so it fits nicely after that.

    (It’s also good for stat-tracking: means I get an actual viewcount for the post rather than just loads on “the homepage”.)

    Otherwise, infinite scroll because I don’t care much for footers anyway.

  7. Good tips and guidelines. The only thing I consider when using full text is that they still need to click through to leave a comment. Often people won’t take the time to do that or just not paying attention. Having that comment box at the bottom, visibly, does encourage comments more in my opinion.

      1. There should be an option when you are writing the post, at the bottom, along with tags, categories etc a place where it says ‘allow likes and comments’ or similar. Click this/these and it will show up on your published post.
        I always allow that on mine, as I find it very annoying if I don’t have anything to say but want to show I was there by liking the post, so I give my readers all the options.

  8. Are you able to change the font size or color of the “More” tag or is it tied to something in the theme? I’d like to include the More, but afraid it may get lost and not easily seen.

    1. It’s theme-specific, though, if you’ve bought the ability to use custom CSS, you can change it. Personally, I’m a cheapskate and just live with it.

  9. I was wondering about this!! My home page has a whole lot of scrolling to get through. Going to have a play around later and try to sort that out. I’ve got the same question as joyce… how do you get that comment box at the bottom of posts!?

    1. I think I figured something out. The comment block is there until the first reader comments. Then subsequent readers have to click “Comments” to add their comment. Is this correct? So, more specifically, my question is this: is there a way the comments block can show right under a post but before other approved comments?

  10. Currently, all my posts are full text because they aren’t terribly long or have images. Once I start posting my writings, I’ll probably have those under a read more since they’ll be much longer.

    I’ve never been a fan of infinite scroll. I like to know how much of a blog I’ve gone through and how much is left. Plus, if I need to bookmark it for later, I can easy find the page I was on. So, my blog has pages for that reason. That and it’s got a bit of a notebook/desk theme going on.

  11. I would definitely choose infinite scroll, but (as you said) that’s out when, as I did, the post has widgets in the footer (I chose the no-sidebars look). I’ll definitely apply your other tips in future posts; as you explained, I found obstacles to successfully adding the “more tag” in already published posts!

  12. Thanks, Heather. I’m going to use the more widget like you suggested. I went back to add it but had a problem. Then, I read the help page. It said adding the more button after publishing can really screw up the blog. Yikes. So I’ll start using it in the future.

    Kerry

    kcm

  13. I mainly write longer blog posts, and use the ‘More’ option on every post, somewhere in the beginning, to grab the interest of the reader. It’s often only a few sentences, which makes scrolling through my blog easy and quick. I try to get the essence of the post in there, along as keeping it interesting, and not too long.

    I also have footer widgets enabled (only a few though), and I like them, so no infinite scroll for me.
    Wouldn’t want it either. I only post longer things, anyway! I have decent navigation, that’s good enough :)

  14. I’ve been displaying entire posts, even when they get a bit long. When I’m reading something, I’d rather have it all right in front of me than have to click links and wait for pages to load. But I might try using excerpts for some of the longer posts, maybe ask my readers what they prefer. Thanks for the ideas!

  15. Wow. This will make an extremely helpful easy-readin’ checklist. Please don’t delete it; I’m saving it in my browser extension for reference. It’s good enough to print and tape to something, but somehow I get emotionally attached to paper and electronic files (I forget ‘em), so I’m using my browser extension. I bet you have it all down, your system’s well-oiled, and I read technologically ignorant, but my intentions are good! I’ll be referencing your article for a while. More please and thank you tons

  16. Many of my readers use their phones to read my posts. After several complaints about the excerpts, I stopped using them. Readers don’t want to wait for their phones to go out to the Internet to get the rest of my post.

    Nancy

    1. That’s a really important point. Luckily, you can choose between full posts and excerpts specifically for mobile viewing, independent of other settings: on your Dashboard, go to Appearance >> Mobile, where you can choose between the two options.

  17. I’ve found this an important post Ben, not saying others’ aren’t, especially the mention of the More Tag and it’s linked explanation.

    I struggled with choosing a Blog Theme that only displayed Exercpts or not – in two minds about it. Now though I am glad that I did Not go for pure Exerpts because I can split longer posts with the More Tag option and keep my short posts as they are. So if I went for an Exerpt only theme, I don’t think I would have made the right decision.

    Good post and an important one at that leaving me very much relieved!

  18. I would prefer this to be an option the reader can set, personally. I generally prefer the whole text blogs, as I prefer scrolling to clicking. But mostly I don’t see that view because I go to the individual post from the blog reader for blogs I follow. (Except that it sometimes annoyingly resets and loads the whole blog rather than the post and I have had no help fixing this despite trying to report it.)

  19. I don’t know what my readers see… is it an excerpt or the whole text? I want to know now. I didn’t even know bloggers have options.

    1. Hello renxkyoko – you can absolutely change your blog’s settings in whatever way works best for you. Having taken a look at your blog, it seems like your settings are full posts, infinite scroll (generally, unless you specified otherwise, your posts will be shown in their entirety).

  20. As a reader, I find excerpts, and particularly the magazine formats extremely irritating. Anything that means an extra click is a potential click away from your site, so I always go for full. Even though I write long posts.

    Same with scroll. Having to click to see more posts is a pain, but on the other hand, I did read that infinite scrolling affects loading times. Which is also annoying.

    As most of my readers are regular, I’ve got scroll now set for ten, or something like that on the grounds that they will have seen the previous posts anyway. If new readers really want to go back to 2006 … there is always the archive.