up to this point, you learned to create the two most
essential ingredients of any WordPress site, posts and pages. They’re the vehicles
for your content—the way you’ll reach friends, potential customers, or hordes of
Still left to explore is the WordPress commenting system, which is a keenly important
part of almost every WordPress site, whether it’s a chatty blog or a buttoned-up
business website. Used properly, comments can change your site from a one-way
lecture to a back-and-forth conversation with your readers or customers. Commenting
isn’t just a fun way to make friends—it’s also a serious tool for promoting
your work, getting more traffic, turning casual browsers into repeat visitors, and
even making money.
Allowing or Forbidding Comments
If you haven’t changed WordPress’s factory settings, all your posts and pages already
support comments. You’ve probably already noticed that when you view an individual
post or page, there’s a large “Leave a Reply” section just below your content.
But it doesn’t always make sense to allow comments on everything you publish.
Many static pages don’t lend themselves to discussion. You probably won’t get a
great conversation going on an About Us or Our Location page, for example, so it
makes sense to disable comments for these pages and let people have their say
Posts usually allow comments, but you might want to disable them if you write on
a contentious subject that’s likely to attract an avalanche of inflammatory, insulting,
aggressive, or racially charged feedback. News sites sometimes disable comments
to avoid legal liability (for libelous comments someone posts, for example, or for
trade secrets someone reveals). Allowing comments on posts or pages isn’t an
all-or-nothing decision—you can pick and choose what content allows comments.
NOTE Comments apply equally to posts and pages. For convenience, most of the discussion in this chapter
refers to posts, but everything you’ll learn applies equally to pages.
Changing Comment Settings for a Post
You can turn off comments for an individual post or page by changing the comment
settings when you create or edit that post or page. However, WordPress usually
hides the settings. To see them, you need to click the Screen Options button in
the top-right corner of the Add New Post or Edit Post page, and then turn on the
checkmark next to Discussion. This adds a Discussion box to your post-in-progress,
which offers just two settings.
Changing the Default Comment Settings Site-Wide
To create a site that’s mostly or entirely comment-free, you probably don’t want to
fiddle with the Discussion settings for every post. Instead, you should create a universal
setting that applies to all new posts and pages. Choose Settings→Discussion
on the dashboard, and then turn off the checkmarks next to “Allow link notifications
from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)” and “Allow people to post comments
on new articles.” Then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes.
Now all new posts and pages will be comment-free. You can add the comment feature
back to specific posts or pages by turning on “Allow comments” in the Discussion
There are many more options in the Settings→Discussion page that change the way
The Life Cycle of a Comment
The easiest way to understand how WordPress comments work is to follow one
from its creation to the moment it appears on your site and starts a conversation.
Depending on how you configure your site, comments travel one of two routes:
• The slow lane. In this scenario, anyone can leave a comment, but you need to
approve it before it appears on the post. You can grant an exemption for repeat
commenters, but most people will find that the conversation slows down
significantly, no matter how quickly you review new comments.
• The fast lane. Here, each comment appears on your site as soon as someone
leaves it. However, unless you want your website drowned in thousands of
spam messages, you need to use some sort of spam-fighting tool with this
option—usually, it’s an automated program that detects and quarantines
For most sites, the second choice is the best approach, because it allows discussions
to unfold quickly, spontaneously, and with the least possible extra work on your part.
But this solution introduces more risk, because even the best spam-catcher will miss
some junk, or allow messages that aren’t spam but are just plain offensive. For that
reason, WordPress starts your site out on the safer slow lane instead.