I was hoping to be able to just add a function just to keep the previous/next post links within the same immediate (not parent) category. Everything I've been able to find so far includes modifying theme files which I'd rather not do. If I have to I will, but I thought I'd see if I really have to first. Thanks.

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Yes if you just need to add a function you can put that in a new plugin.

Plugins don't have to be complicated: a single file with a header comment will do. e.g. see the Hello Dolly plugin bundled with WordPress.

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