When you're editing a post and select a child category or term, and update, the selected terms appear at the top ( leading to potentially confusing situations where 'foo' 'foo' and 'foo' are selected each with different parents and no way to tell them apart ).

How do I prevent this behaviour? Either by showing the parent terms to give context, or stopping them being moved to the top

2 Answers 2


This bugs me too. It is very confusing, so I thought I'd look into it.

That meta box is created in "wp-admin/includes/meta-boxes.php" on line ~399. It uses wp_terms_checklist. The problem codes seems to be this (it is one in source):

<?php wp_terms_checklist(
    $post->ID, array( 
        'taxonomy' => $taxonomy, 
        'popular_cats' => $popular_ids 
) ) ?>

That leaves a couple of options that I can think of.

You could use Javascript to reorder the list. You can't remove the oddball categories because they won't be available in the list. But I doubt that would be either quick or easy.

Or, you can remove the default box with remove_meta_box and add back a near clone with add_meta_box altering the line above to be:

<?php wp_terms_checklist(
        'taxonomy' => $taxonomy,
        'popular_cats' => $popular_ids 
        'check_ontop' => false 
) ) ?>

The checked_ontop part is the key. Removing and adding a metabox seems a long way to go to add those few characters and I sort-of hate to do it because it is pretty close to a core hack (but isn't :) ), though changes to the core could mean a need to rewrite that function. I don't think there is any other real option though.

EDIT: OK. I originally thought that there was no hook that would help with this but there is one. All you need is:

function tst($args) {
    $args['checked_ontop'] = false;
    return $args;

That is going to alter things globally so it may be necessary to alter that so that it only runs on particular pages.

Thanks to Tom J Nowell. Sometimes it is good to be wrong.

  • +1. Bugs me as well. Agree with you that your solution feels pretty hacky, but don't see any better options either. Nov 28, 2012 at 16:13
  • Ah but that's not entirely true, the array passed into the function isn't passed into a filter, but thats because the first thing wp_terms_checklist does is pass it into a filter
    – Tom J Nowell
    Nov 28, 2012 at 16:19
  • Ah... completely missed that! A comment to another function confused me. Thanks.
    – s_ha_dum
    Nov 28, 2012 at 16:21
  • Yeah, I even looked at that source file. I just missed it 0_o
    – s_ha_dum
    Nov 28, 2012 at 16:28

I might be misunderstanding the question, but if you know, looking at the initial hierarchy, which subcategories are appropriate, then you could use a plugin like Parent Category Toggler to auto-select the parent when you select the sub.

  • That would ~semi-solve the problem by applying all the terms ancestors to the post, but it doesn't prevent the behaviour, and doing that has other implications ( you dont need to check the parents for the post to appear in the parent terms anyway). It's also an extra step, any solution should be automated/transparent/effortless
    – Tom J Nowell
    Nov 28, 2012 at 17:16
  • True. Perhaps this is closer to what you need? Category Checklist Tree
    – Chris
    Nov 28, 2012 at 17:20
  • Oddly enough it uses the same fix that is used in @s_ha_dum answer
    – Tom J Nowell
    Nov 28, 2012 at 17:56

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