the_content v the_excerpt

If I have a group of posts, it is easier for a user to see what is available, and to choose what to read, if just an extract is shown, rather than, say, 10 posts, all listed one after another.  It seems that, for a Group page (a page which shows a group of posts), it would be a better presentational style to use extracts rather than entire posts.

The next question is then what function to use to achieve the extracts.  There are basically 3 options within WordPress:-

  1. the_content() – Make a practice of starting each post with a snappy introduction, followed by the <!–more–> tag.  Then, on each Group page, use the_content() function when the post content is required.  The page will show just that first section of each post. The whole post only appears on its own page or in loops which are displaying only one post. A handy optional parameter of the_content (the first parameter) is the text which you want to use for the “more” link; if you leave this parameter empty, it will appear as “more…”
  2. the_excerpt() – Make a practice of including a snappy summary of each post in the Optional Excerpt section on the Post edit page.  Then, on each Group page, use the_excerpt().  The page will show just that selected Excerpt, or the first 120 words of the post, if you forgot to enter an Optional Excerpt. There are no optional parameters for this function.  Use of the_content() will continue to display the whole post on any page where it is used.
  3. the_excerpt_reloaded() – This plugin provides a function similar to the_excerpt() except that it supports some optional parameters, thus giving you more choice of format on pages which include extracts.  Parameters include excerpt length, “more” text and allowed tags (the_excerpt shows only text and does not action any format tags; this parameter allows you to specify any tags which you want to be formatted within the excerpt). 

Ideally, I’d like to display the same page using all 3 different options.  And maybe one day, when I have lots of categories and posts to play with I will do just that.  But I think for now I will just have to make a choice. 

Because I want to have the flexibility to display whole posts when it suits me, I shall choose the_excerpt over the_content for now.  And because of the extra versatility it offers, I think I will have to give the_excerpt_reloaded a try.