WordPress 201 – Discussion Settings

Welcome back to WordPress 201! I’m glad you could make it.

This series of posts is written for WordPress users who are using the free version of WordPress for their blog. Most of the details will be the same as or similar to the paid version of WordPress, so you’re welcome to join us as well. Just be prepared for occasional differences.

The first post was all about links, why they’re important, how to create them, and how to get them to show up on your blog. If you missed it, you can read that article here.

Today, I’m going to walk you through the discussion settings.

What are the Discussion Settings?

Discussion settings involve every aspect of how your readers relate to you and respond to your posts. As you’ll see below, it covers a wide range of features from giving readers the option to comment on your posts to how the posts are displayed on your blog.

Any time you set up a free WordPress blog, the template comes with default settings. For most of us, those settings will work forever and do a good job without changing them. I’m sure a lot of us don’t pay any attention to them at all. I’d been blogging for quite a while before I ventured into this territory.

But it is worthwhile to at least take a look at the discussion settings. If you’re interested in doing so, continue reading.

Step 1

Sign into your account and go to the dashboard.

Step 2

From the menu on the left, click on “Settings”

Settings menu image

Step 3

A pop up menu will appear (see illustration above). Click on “Discussion”

Discussion settings menu image

Step 4a

You will land on a page that allows you to change the settings for comments. You have a number of options, which I’ll discuss below.

In this illustration, you see a category called Default article settings and a category called Other comment settings. Check the boxes you want to activate. The boxes checked here are the defaults for most WordPress blogs.

Discussion settings page image

Step 4b

In the Default category are the following options.

Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article—check this box to have your blog notify other blogs when you’ve mentioned them in your post. The default setting is shown. If you want other people to know when you mention them, leave this box checked. The advantage to checking this option is that if you mention someone, they receive notification. They may come visit your blog and, if they like what they see, they may send others to your blog. It’s a good passive option for attracting traffic.

Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)—check this box to get notified whenever anyone else mentions your blog. This is the reverse to the option above. It’s helpful if you want to know who’s talking about you and to get links to those discussions. The default for most WordPress blogs is shown.

Allow people to post comments on new articles—if you’re blogging, you most likely are interested in starting discussions with your readers, so the default setting has this box checked.

Note, each of these options can be activated or deactivated for individual posts.

In the “Other” comment settings are the following options

Comment author must fill out name and e-mail—this allows you to decide whether or not comment writers can comment anonymously. The email isn’t usually shown on the comment, but the user ID is.

Users must be registered and logged in to comment—Do you want to allow only people registered with your blog to be able to comment? If you do, check this box. Be aware that this will limit the number of people who can leave comments to those who want to register with WordPress. Many people will not want to take this step and may disengage with your blog.

Automatically close comments on articles older than 14 days—this option allows you to automatically close comments on older articles. Readers can still read those older articles, but will not be allowed to comment on them. The default setting is 14 days, but you can choose any number you wish from 0 upward. I once scrolled upward to see if there was an upper limit. I got to 10,000 and hadn’t hit a limit. If you don’t want to automatically close comments, leave this box unchecked.

Enable threaded (nested) comments 3 deep—this allows you or other readers to reply to comments in a way that keeps the original comment and the replies together. The default setting is 3. The range is 2 to 10. Here is what a nested comment looks like.

The first comment was posted by a reader. The second comment is my response to that reader.

Comment nesting image

Break comments into pages with 50 top level comments per page and the last page displayed by default—this allows you to determine how many comments show up on the first page if there are more than 50. The default is for the 50 top level comments to appear on the same page as the blog post. If there are more than 50, the older comments will appear on the next page.

Comments should be displayed with the older comments at the top of each page—this setting allows you to determine how many comments and what type of comments appear on each page. The default settings are shown. The underlined items are the things you can change.

Step 4c

Email me whenever category

This section allows you to choose the occasions on which you receive an email from WordPress. It’s important to allow some notification, especially of pending comments, so you can moderate them if you have that option set (see below). The options for receiving an email are whenever

  • Anyone leaves a comment
  • A comment is held for moderation
  • Someone likes one of my posts
  • Someone reblogs one of my posts
  • Someone follows my blog

Email settings image

As you can see, I have all boxes checked except the third one. Why? Because I’m more interested in comments, reblogs, and follows than in likes. Likes can be ethereal and, with a popular post, my inbox can be inundated with email notifications if I have everything checked.

Before a comment appears

In this section, you can determine whether or not a comment is moderated before it’s published. The options are

  • Comment must be manually approved
  • Comment author must have a previously approved comment

I have both checked to make sure no spam comments make it into the live blog.

The first option requires that you manually moderate every comment. I recommend very highly that you moderate every comment. That will not keep spam comments from being made but it will keep them from being published without your approval or knowledge.

The second option allows people who have recently left comments on your blog to leave new comments without those comments needing moderation. In other words, if you trust a reader, you can use this setting to allow their comments to publish immediately.

Akismet anti-spam strictness

Akismet is one of the most commonly recognized and effective basic spam blockers available. If you get a free WordPress blog, you also get Akismet protection. It’s an advanced anti-spam service that analyzes data from millions of sites to determine what is likely to be spam. Comments that are suspected of being spam are redirected to a spam folder, where they stay until you approve or delete them.

You can decide whether to let the Akismet software automatically delete the most pervasive spammers or to put them into the Spam folder for you to review.

The default is Safe mode. Every spam message that comes into the inbox is moved to the spam folder. I have to manually review each spam message to determine whether or not it is spam. With a new blog and if you don’t want to run the risk of having legitimate comments deleted automatically, select the safe mode.

Once your blog is found by spammers, however, you may end up with hundreds of spam comments in the Spam folder. Reviewing them can be a time-consuming task. When that happens, switching to strict mode will reduce that burden by letting Akismet automatically delete spammers that send frequent or repeated comments.

Step 4d: Comment Moderation

This is a backup means of keeping suspect comments from being published by letting WordPress software automatically move a comment to the moderation queue if it contains a certain number of internal links.

The number of internal links (the links in the body of the comment) in a comment can indicate spam. Many spam comments are nothing but lists of links. The more links, the more likely it’s spam.

The default setting is 2 but you can change that up or down as you wish.

In the box, you can also add words that you want flagged as potential spam.

Akismet settings image

Step 4e: Comment Blacklist

I confess. This is my favorite part of this page. As you can see, I’ve added numerous words to this list.

When someone makes a comment that contains one of these words, it’s automatically marked as spam and sent to the spam folder. You’ll find after you’ve been blogging long enough that you, too, will end up with a long list of suspect words. Will it be the same as my list (shown here)? No. This is a totally customizable list.

Comment Blacklist image

Step 4f: Avatar Display

Avatars are the little pictures that appear with a user’s name. Sometimes they’re reader images.  Sometimes they’re generated by programs such as Gravatar, Monster ID, or Retro. Do you want to show avatars on your blog post comments? If so, check this box (this is the default setting). If you don’t want avatars to show up, uncheck this box.

Avatar Display image

Gravatar Hovercards—This setting allows you to see a person’s profile when you hover over the avatar. This hover feature will allow anyone to see someone else’s profile.

Maximum Rating—This is your blog’s “movie rating”. G (suitable for all audiences) is the default.

Default Avatar—This allows you to decide what type of avatar appears for people who do not have a custom avatar. You can choose to show no avatar (blank) or any of the other generated avatars.

Step 4g: Comment Form Prompt

This is where you can type any type of message inviting your readers to leave a comment. The default is shown.

Blue Save Button


Congratulations! You’ve now worked your way through the discussion settings!

If you made changes, give them a quick review, then click the blue Save Changes button and you’re set.


The default settings in this section are those that work best for most people. You may want to change them or not, but I recommend you at least familiarize yourself with the options available to you.

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