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my objective is to define a custom excerpt length. I know that I can do it defining a new function in my functions.php located in the child theme of the Twenty Eleven.

It should override these lines :

 * Sets the post excerpt length to 40 words.
 * To override this length in a child theme, remove the filter and add your own
 * function tied to the excerpt_length filter hook.
function twentyeleven_excerpt_length( $length ) {
    return 40;
add_filter( 'excerpt_length', 'twentyeleven_excerpt_length' );

By :

function new_excerpt_length($length) {
    return 20;
add_filter('excerpt_length', 'new_excerpt_length');

But it does nothing. Even if I change the default value 40 by another.

Any idea?

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Well I finally solved the problem. The excerpt_length function is NOT use with the excerpt box of the WordPress editor. You have to put all your content in the main area.

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This drove me up the wall, so illogical! – Osu Apr 25 '12 at 6:59

Also dont forget to remove the twenty eleven filter:

remove_filter( 'excerpt_length', 'twentyeleven_excerpt_length' ); 
add_filter('excerpt_length', 'new_excerpt_length');
function new_excerpt_length($length) {
  return 20;
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This allows you to set the length for each tag individually.

// nouveller.com/quick-tips/quick-tip-8-limit-the-length-of-the_excerpt-in-wordpress/
function custom_excerpt_length($string, $word_limit) {
    // creates an array of words from $string (this will be our excerpt)
    // explode divides the excerpt up by using a space character
    $words = explode(' ', $string);
    // this next bit chops the $words array and sticks it back together
    // starting at the first word '0' and ending at the $word_limit
    // the $word_limit which is passed in the function will be the number
    // of words we want to use
    // implode glues the chopped up array back together using a space character
    return implode(' ', array_slice($words, 0, $word_limit));
function custom_excerpt_more($more) {
    global $post;
    return get_permalink($post->ID);
add_filter('excerpt_more', 'custom_excerpt_more');

// Call Function Like This:
// echo custom_excerpt_length(get_the_excerpt(), '25');
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