How to Deal with Categories and Tags when Things have Gone Agley

Photo by rosamaríabelmonte on Best Running / CC BY-NC-SA

“Agley”:  Scottish for “Awry” or off-track, wrong. 

In my previous post, I talked about how you should only have a FEW categories.  If you’ve done what many of us do, you may have gone a bit hog-wild creating Categories. (Some people go hog-wild in creating a tag that they use ALL the TIME, which really should be a category).  But the first problem we all deal with is that weird, default Uncategorized Category.

In this post, I’m going to go over:

I owe a debt of gratitude to Lorelle on WordPress.. Her post is fairly comprehensive. But I walk you through more of the steps here, using my own blog as a horrible warning, er, good example.

Changing the Default “Uncategorized” to Something Else.

WordPress automatically bins posts into “Uncategorized”– ALL of them, unless you uncheck the box.

One of the first things new bloggers do is publish posts without selecting a category. We may do this for a long time, not realizing that everything we post has “Uncategorized” checked–even if we put in a category.  We may do this accidentally, forgetting to uncheck the box, even though we KNOW better.

When your blog has grown and you want to have menus and submenus, this is a real pain in the neck.

You can stop the madness by setting a new default category for your posts. It’s easy. Here’s how.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 9.47.35 PM

1.) On the very left of your screen on your main dashboard, you’ll see all the primary tools for dealing with your blog.  At the BOTTOM LEFT, you’ll see this CONFIGURE menu. It will look similar to the one shown here (above).

2.) Choose the Settings button (click on it once and you’ll open the General Setting screen).

3. Now you’ll see your site profile.  It looks something like this.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 9.55.37 PM

4. ABOVE the site profile, you’ll see a line of tabs.  They don’t really look very “tab-like” but trust me, they are tabs.  The General tab is selected here.  You want to go click on the Writing tab.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 9.47.49 PM

5.  This is the Writing tab.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 9.48.14 PM

Categories and Tags are there at the very top.  Now that little > mark?   There on the right of the Categories section?  Click it and you’ll find more choices.  Here are my crazy categories.  Look down at the bottom.  See the Uncategorized category?  It’s marked as default with those blue letters (DEFAULT).

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 9.48.21 PM

See the little numbers in the circles?  Those are all the posts that have that category chosen.   

6.) I want to set Blogging as my Default Setting.  I go that category and I click on the three little dots in a line going up and down on the right of the category.  When I do, I get THIS menu.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 9.48.51 PM

All I have to do to set this as the default is click on the choice: Set as default.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 9.48.59 PM

That’s all there is to changing the default. If I forget to put a category down, my next post will have “Blogging” already checked.

Editing a Category

Career change is distressing.  Um, I mean the category is all in lower case! An ugly inconsistency, tsk, tsk! To edit the category name,  I can do the very same thing–click on the three little dots on the right of that category.  I choose the Edit option and make the change.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 10.10.11 PM

Remember to hit the Update button and voila! An inconsistency in capitalization of Category Names has been corrected.

Yes, you can also delete whole categories but WAIT!  If you delete an entire category that still has posts in it, all of those posts will be instantly binned into your DEFAULT category.   You’ll have a mess on your hands, a real mess.

There’s a better way. Convert your unwanted categories into tags.

Converting Categories to Tags

This is a much deeper dive into an older, more tech-savvy version of WordPress.  If you’re using the New WordPress Dashboard (the pretty blue one), you will not see all of the choices you get on the older, “black” WP Dashboard.  The blue one is cute.  Kind of like a tricycle. Hard to hurt your blog using the blue one. The black one?  More tools.  More ways to make mistakes. 🙂  Such is this This Blogging Life.

1.) Below is the blue dashboard on the left. Choose the WP Admin selection at the VERY BOTTOM of your screen, and you’ll get the BLACK Administration dashboard.  You’re wanting to take a look at the Tools Menu, and its IMPORT submenu.

Two Dashboards

The Blue Dashboard (the usual, easy version) and the Black WP Admin Dashboard compared.  The red arrow shows you the Tools menu.

2.) After you select the Tools Menu, select the Import Submenu.  Yes, it’s redundancy day. I’ve said this twice. Choosing that darned Import feature is tricky.  Notice that it’s pretty close to the highly dangerous Delete Site setting, part of the reason its hidden.  New bloggers can get easily frustrated.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 10.34.00 PM

3.)  You’ll see this screen. There’s lots of choices on it.  Converting tags to categories and vice versa is about third from the top.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 10.35.37 PM

Choose Run Importer.

4.)  Here I’ve clicked the Convert Categories to Tags options. Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 10.35.50 PM

5.) I check the categories that I want to change into tags. Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 10.37.14 PM

6.  When I’m done, I click the Convert Categories to Tags button!  AND WordPress thinks about it for a moment—-and I GET THIS MESSAGE BELOW.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 10.37.29 PM

7. And a little later, I get the confirmatory email from WordPress. When i go to my post I now see three categories, and lots of tags.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 11.14.27 PM

Yes, there is more to this–bulk edits and that sort of thing, to change and re-arrange — and did I mention that I demolished an entire 8 months worth of work in an afternoon, dinking with these kinds of settings?

Keep your categories simple.  Keep them few.  Use tagging to your heart’s content.  We’ll revisit dealing with snarls caused by tags in a future post.


Thanks for visiting! I hope this helped you.  Leave a comment!



Feature Photo Credit: Photo by rosamaríabelmonte on Best Running / CC BY-NC-SA

Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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