Pending Review or Draft? What’s the Difference in WordPress?

Review Draft

Here at PublishPress, our focus is on creating publishing workflows in WordPress. This includes allowing you to create custom statuses in WordPress.

However, before moving on to more advanced workflows, people often need some clarity on the basic workflow features in WordPress.

For example, what exactly is the difference between “Pending Review” and “Draft”?


Video guide to Pending Review and Draft


Published, Pending Review and Draft

To see “Pending Review” and “Draft” on your site, login as an Administrator and go to the “Posts” screen on your WordPress site.

Click the “Quick Edit” link under a post. There will be three statuses you can choose for each post:

Quick Edit Statuses
Quick Edit Statuses

The purpose of the “Published” option is clear. However, the “Draft” and “Pending Review” options are not so obvious. What is the difference between these statuses? What happens if I choose “Draft” instead of “Pending Review”? Those are the questions I'll answer in this blog post.

Pending Review for Contributors

A good way to learn the different between “Draft” and “Pending Review” is to test the “Contributor” role. Click here for an overview of Contributor permissions.

When a Contributor writes a post, they only have “Save Draft” and “Submit for Review” options. Contributors don't have permission to publish posts.

So for the Contributor, there is a very real difference between these two statuses:

  • Save draft” means “I'm still working on this post. It's not ready yet.”
  • Submit for Review” means “I think this post is ready for someone else to approve and publish”.

If a Contributor is working on a post, they will see the Save draft” option in the top bar, as in this image below:

Save Draft Contributor
Save Draft Contributor

If a Contributor want to choose “Pending Review”, they click “Publish” and then “Submit for Review”. Once they do that, an Administrator or Editor can come along and update the post.

Pending Contributor
Pending Contributor

It's worth noting that,  if the high-level user does chose the publish the post, then the Contributor will be locked out. They can not edit the post after it's been published.

Posts locked in WordPress

The difference between “Pending Review” and “Draft” only really matters for Contributors. This is because users in the Subscriber role don't have the ability to write posts (click here to see Subscriber permissions). And users in higher roles, such as Author, have the option to publish their own posts.

For the Editors and Administrators, they can easily see all the posts and pages in “Pending Review” status. This allows them to see which posts they can edit and publish.

  • Go to “Posts” or “Pages” and click the “Pending” tab.
the Pending tab in WordPress

One limitation to this is that you can't sort these posts by author, so it's hard to see your own posts. Click here to see how to view your Draft or Pending Review posts in WordPress.

One limitation to this is that you can't sort these posts by author, so it's hard to see your own posts. Click here to see how to view your Draft or Pending Review posts in WordPress.


The History Behind Pending Review and Draft

Mark Jaquith, a key WordPress core developer, explained the background for these two status. The Contributor role was added to WordPress back in 2004. When it was first introduced, Contributors could only use the “Draft” status. They had no way to indicate when a post was ready to publish. So to solve this problem, the “Pending Review” status was added three years later in WordPress 2.3.


Modifying or Expanding on Pending Review and Draft

These two statuses are the default options in WordPress, but it is possible to modify or expand these options.

  • Download and install the PublishPress plugin from WordPress.org.
  • Go to “PublishPress” then “Settings” and click the “Statuses” tab.
  • You'll see that several more statuses are available. Each status has its own color and icon to make it easy to identify.
The statuses screen in PublishPress

Using PublishPress, you can easily edit each status. For example, you might think that “Pending Review” is a confusing name. Here's how you can fix it:

  • Click “Edit” under “Pending Review”.
  • You can change the color and icon used for the status.
Color Icon Status
Color Icon Status

Now when use the Calendar feature in PublishPress, you'll be able to see your color and icon used to show all posts in the “Pending Review” status.

Calendar Status
Calendar Status

It is possible to add permissions to these statuses with the PublishPress Capabilities Pro plugin.


Summary

The key to understanding the difference between “Draft” and “Pending Review” is understanding the Contributor role in WordPress.

For most users, there's no practical difference between “Draft” and “Pending Review”. However, for Contributors there is a major difference. These are the only two statuses they can use. One status means “I'm still working on this” and the other status means “This is ready to publish”.


Comments (26)

  • Is there a way to get web address of pending post?
    I have few posts mentioning each other and would love to link them in their texts.
    However this post are waiting editor response, so they are not published yet.
    And coz of that I cannot find their addresses…
    Are there any or there won’t be before publication?

  • I work with clients that would love to be able to review a draft without having to sign into the WordPress account. Is there a way to send a link they can see vs. having to sign in? 404 is the usual answer

  • Thanks for the explanation. I was hoping for some discussion of changing a published post to “draft” in order to hide it from the public. I would plan to revise and update that post to republish it later. Is that a way to use draft?

  • According to scientific journal approach a post for pending review could be rejected and a comment should be sent to the contributor (author of the post). How a wp editor/reviewer/administrator can comment the rejected post?

  • Ah, thank you for this explanation. This status will be useful to us, even though we don’t have “contributors” on our blog.

    We want to focus on publishing our best and/or most urgent content, but we have some articles that are “back-ups” for weeks when we don’t happen to have anything more urgent to post. The “Pending Review” status will be perfect for distinguishing between completed posts that are back-ups from those that are actually incomplete.

    Although I’m sure our situation is not a common one, this at least tells you that you don’t have to have Contributors in order for this to be a useful status to understand. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Super helpful. Thank you. This is exactly what I was looking for.

    BTW, the PublishPress plugin ROCKS. I only wish I had found it earlier. It is exactly what I needed to manage posing in a routine manner. Invaluable.

  • I’m trying to replace an old Joomla website that had a version control plugin for site content. This was very useful for my employers, who wanted employees to be able to edit their own department pages, but for an editor in the communications department to review their edits before they went live, because not everyone is a great or attentive writer and they didn’t want grammar mistakes to be made live.

    Are there any plugins for WordPress that allow the following workflow:

    User edits existing page (not limited to posts)
    User hits save
    Updates are saved but not published; the live page remains on the previous version
    Admins are notified by email of the edits
    Admins approve the edit, at which point it becomes live OR Admins amend the edit before making it live OR Admins reject the edit.
    In the mean time the actual page is still live but without the new corrections because they are still waiting for approval

  • Hi,

    If we have a published page, how can an Editor make changes to the page, and save it for an admin to approve it, but the current (un-edited) page still should show publicly in the meantime?

    Thanks.

  • I was wondering how to REJECT a post that has been submitted as is “Pending Review”. What if after review, the admin decides to reject the post. Is there a plugin for this. Also the writer needs to be notified that their post was rejected.

    • Hi. We are just now releasing a “Reject” feature” in our Revisions plugin. For Pending Review in core WordPress, perhaps you could the our PublishPress plugin:
      – Move the post back to “Draft” or just leave an editorial comment.
      – Send a notification to the user.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Professional publishing plugins for WordPress! Get PublishPress