A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

Learn basic HTML formatting you can use to format content in your posts and pages …

An HTML Primer For WordPress BeginnersThe world wide web, your website, your pages and even your web content are built and driven by a language of code.

It is inevitable, then, that sooner or later, you may need something done for your business online, for your web site, or in your pages that will require having some knowledge of code.

HTML is one of the main “code” languages that is used to build the world wide web, websites, web pages and even web content.

You don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress. WordPress has unique features like “themes”, “plugins” and “widgets” that let you manage your website without having to touch code, and a powerful, built-in web editor that allows you to create and easily format content just by clicking on a few buttons.

In this post you will learn the basic HTML codes you can use to format content in WordPress.

A Practical Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For WordPress Users

You don’t have to learn HTML to use WordPress, but having a little HTML knowledge can be very useful as a WordPress user!

Using Formatting Content With HTML In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial

If you are running your own web presence, it’s useful to have a bit of HTML knowledge when composing, editing or formatting content for WordPress.

For example, let’s say that:

  • You want to adjust certain elements in your existing content, add formatted text and an image into an area of your sidebar, or direct visitors to the contact page, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really easily without having to pay someone else to do this for you.
  • You outsource some content writing to a freelance copywriter and receive back files containing formatted content. Having some knowledge of HTML helps you better proof, understand and review the quality of the content before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone creates your web content. You spot a couple of mistakes in the text, like a passage that should have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your copy. Having some basic knowledge of HTML can help you correct simple mistakes in your blog posts without delay, and without needing to ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You want to discuss changes on your site with a website development team. Knowing some basic HTML not only will help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help you better negotiate projects with technical service providers.

HTML Tags - A Primer For Non-Geek WordPress Users

You don’t need to become a technical web geek – just be familiar enough with HTML to be a “web-savvy” business owner!

HTML – A Basic Definition

HTML is an acronym for HyperText Markup Language. According to Wikipedia’s definition of HTML …

HTML is the main markup language for creating web pages and other information that can be displayed in a web browser.

HTML is written in the form of HTML elements consisting of tags enclosed in angle brackets (like <table>), within the web page content. HTML tags most commonly come in pairs like <h1> and </h1>, although some tags, known as empty elements, are unpaired, for example <img>. The first tag in a pair is the start tag, the second tag is the end tag (they are also called opening tags and closing tags). In between these tags web designers can add text, tags, comments and other types of text-based content.

The purpose of a web browser is to read HTML documents and compose them into visible or audible web pages. The browser does not display the HTML tags, but uses the tags to interpret the content of the page.

HTML elements form the building blocks of all websites. HTML allows images and objects to be embedded and can be used to create interactive forms. It provides a means to create structured documents by denoting structural semantics for text such as headings, paragraphs, lists, links, quotes and other items. It can embed scripts written in languages such as JavaScript which affect the behavior of HTML web pages.

Source: Wikipedia, HTML

Info

Important: Like all things online, HTML is also subject to frequent change, and sometimes these changes will no doubt have an impact on WordPress.

Currently, the latest version of HTML is version 5 (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced several new “tags” to keep up with new advances in web applications and web browser technology. As a number of older tags get dropped from HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also keep updating its code in order to ensure compatibility with industry-wide coding standards.

How To Use HTML Tags To Format Content In WordPress

WordPress gives you the option of adding content to your pages and posts with its default rich Visual Editor (also called a WYSIWYG editor, which stands for What You See Is What You Get) and a Text Editor that allows you to add HTML and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when creating or editing your content …

Default WP Text Editor

WP Text Content Editor

Important Info

We discuss the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and how to add content to pages and posts in separate tutorials.

HTML Formatting Tags You Can Use In Your WordPress Pages & Posts

WordPress lets you add various commonly-used HTML formatting tags, including the tags below:

Common HTML Tags - WordPress

Common HTML – WordPress

The diagram below shows a few useful content formatting examples that use a number of the HTML tags displayed in the illustration above …

Formatting WordPress Content With Basic HTML Formatting Tags

Using Common HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

Tip

To learn more about using HTML, go here:

The WordPress Text Content Editor Explained

The WordPress Text Editor allows users to add, edit and work directly with HTML code and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when inputting content into pages and posts.

By default, the WordPress Text (HTML) Content Editor displays a standard set of menu buttons …

WordPress Text Editor Menu Features

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Menu Buttons

Here is a brief description of the function of each of the Text Editor menu buttons with their corresponding HTML formatting tag (see the screenshot above):

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button if you want to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag to italicize text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> choose this menu button to add a hyperlink to your highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Choose this menu button to quote or cite text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to indicate text that has been deleted from a post or page. Many web browsers will typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to indicate text that has been inserted into your content. Many browsers will typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> Use this menu button to insert an image into your post or page and add an “alt” tag (a text description of your image in case the image does not display in a user’s browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert images into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Use this HTML tag to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists usually display as a bullet-list. Note: this HTML tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> Use this HTML tag to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are typically numbered (just like the list you are reading right now!). Note: use this formatting tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  10. li: <li></li> This HTML tag is used to insert or turn your selected text into a list item. (This tag should be used in conjunction with the ul or ol tag).
  11. code: <code></code> This HTML tag is used to display code (like html formatting tags) in your text. If you don’t use these tags to surround the code you want to display, WordPress will convert your tags and you will get errors (e.g. missing text). Note: the content selected within the <code> tags usually will appear using a pre-formatted styling of text, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> This menu button will break your blog post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” sections. For example, if you add one or two paragraphs, then insert this tag and add the rest of your post, visitors will only be able to see the first few paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which when clicked on, will then bring up the rest of your post.
  13. close tags button – This menu button closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function to ensure that all tags have correctly formatted your text.
  14. Distraction-Free Writing Mode – click this button to work in “distraction-free” writing mode (see screenshot example below). You can toggle between the Visual Editor and Text Editor modes, insert media and hyperlinks and update your content while in “distraction-free” writing mode. Click the button again to revert to the normal editor mode.
  15. Add Media – Click this button to insert media into your content (e.g. images, videos, audio files). This button appears whether you’ve chosen the Visual or Text editor tabs.

WordPress Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Click on “Distraction-Free Writing Mode” [#14] and everything but your editor disappears, leaving only the content you’re working on showing in your screen.

Some Useful Tips About Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

If you plan to go beyond the basics of HTML and use it more extensively, there are several Free HTML editor software tools that you can download and use when getting started.

A popular free HTML editor software application, for example, is KompoZer.

Kompozer

Kompozer

KompoZer is Free Open Source software built as a complete web authoring system that combines web file management and easy-to-use WYSIWYG web page editing. It’s designed to be extremely easy to use, especially for non-technical computer users who just want to create attractive, professional-looking web pages without needing to know HTML or web coding. You can build HTML-based content in this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into your posts or pages.

Another option, if you don’t want to mess with code or use an external HTML content application, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build your HTML content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive Content Builder

To learn more about this plugin, see this article:

If you have no need or desire for doing any kind of work that involves technical coding, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and format content that may contain basic HTML into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author profile, etc.), then refer to the tutorial below for a really simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML-editing tools.

Quick Tutorial: How To Add HTML-Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your Profile

In your WordPress site, there are locations like text “widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” text area in your User Profile screen that let you use HTML.

These sections, however, don’t provide a content editor like the Visual/Text editor found inside your Posts and Pages areas (Quick update: WordPress version 4.8 introduced rich text widgets that now let you format content inside the widget using a WYSIWYG editor) …

WordPress Visual Content Editor

WordPress Visual Editor

You can still use the WordPress Visual Content editor to create HTML-formatted text, and then simply paste it into those areas.

Let’s go through an example, so you can see how this can easily be accomplished.

By default, whenever you publish a post in your WordPress site, a link to the post author displays somewhere in your posts (i.e. at the bottom or top of the post) …

Author Page Link In WordPress Blog Post

Author Page Link In WordPress Post

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where blog readers can learn more about you (or other authors registered as users on your site) and browse other posts that you (or other authors) have published …

WordPress Author Archives Section

Note: As the above screenshot illustrates, you can add hyperlinks and simple formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author resource box and promote yourself, your services, social media pages, other websites you own, etc. to all of your blog readers …

Author Profile

The author resource box is located in the About Yourself > Biographical Info field in your User Profile section …

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text box lets you add HTML-formatted content, it doesn’t provide you with a content editor, so you have to either know how to type HTML code directly into the text field, or create it in an HTML editor, then copy and paste content with the HTML already embedded in it …

About Yourself

Let’s “paste the content” into this field using the simple method described below.

Create a new post and type your content inside the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author description

Creating An Author Description

Next, format your content using the Visual Editor . Please note that you will only be able to use simple formatting in your author description such as hyperlinks, bold, underline and italicized text, so keep the formatting simple – use bold, italics and text hyperlinks sparingly over one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and remember to include a useful link to help your readers engage further with you and your business …

Creating An Author Description

Continue working inside the Visual Editor screen until you have written your author promo …

Author Description

After composing your content, switch over to the Text Editor and copy everything to your clipboard …

Creating An Author Description

Next, go to your profile area by selecting Users > Your Profile from the admin menu …

User Profile Screen

Scroll down the screen to the About Yourself section and paste your content into the Biographical Info text area ….

About Yourself

Click Update Profile to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

Congratulations … You have just created an author description for your blog posts and formatted it using basic HTML!

Author Profile

To learn how to edit your profile settings, see this ”how to” article: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As we’ve already mentioned, you don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to know the basics of HTML.

Tip

Tips

Tip #1 – If you want to add more complex styled elements to your content (e.g. section boxes, pricing boxes, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML tools …

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

Learn about a time-saving “cut & paste” HTML resource we recommend for non-technical WP users here:

Tip #2 (Advanced WP User): You can enhance the functionality of your WordPress Content Editor using several plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

WordPress HTML allows you to add custom HTML to both the page and post body and head sections.

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Pasting HTML directly into your WordPress editor can often break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By inputting the HTML code inside the custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output HTML to your post or page.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a WordPress plugin you can add to your blog that lets you have better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, as well as adding custom buttons and additional functions to your text editor …

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

WordPress Plugin – Extensible HTML Editor Buttons. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Here is another free WordPress plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

Raw HTML - Plugin For WordPress

Raw HTML lets you disable automatic formatting like smart quotes and automatic paragraph creation, and use raw HTML/JS/CSS code in your posts without WordPress messing it up.

With this plugin installed, any section of your post can be wrapped in [raw]…[/raw] tags, preventing WordPress from converting newlines to HTML paragraphs, replacing apostrophes with typographic quotes and so on. This is also very useful if you need to add a CSS block or JavaScript to your content.

Raw HTML - Plugin For WordPress

Raw HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Tip #3 – Troubleshooting HTML Tag Errors: If your text formatting displays incorrectly after publishing your page or post, make sure that you have entered your HTML-formatted text correctly in the Text Tab, not in the Visual Tab.

For example, if you enter the following text in the Visual Content Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Your text will look like this when you publish your post …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

You can see the problem if you switch over to the Text Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

As you can see in the screenshot above, WordPress converts the symbols “<” and “>” into their HTML code equivalents (called ASCII characters).

So:

  • <(open angled bracket) = “&lt;
  • >(closed angled bracket) = “&gt;

To preserve the symbols “<” and “>” intact and ensure that your text will format correctly, you need to paste the code in the Text Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Now … when you publish your post, you should find that your text has been formatted correctly …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Tip #4 (Advanced WordPress User): By default, WordPress doesn’t allow a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as embed, object and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any issues when adding common HTML tags to your content that are allowed to be used in WordPress, try disabling the visual editor in your user profile …

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and saving your new profile settings, return to your page or post and re-paste the content with the problematic HTML tags, then republish your post.

If the above suggestion fixes the issue, go back to your User Profile, reactivate the Visual Editor, and check if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Practical Tip

Note: If the above suggestion does not fix the issue and you continue experiencing problems adding HTML code to your site, you may need to look at other options. This may include:

  • Asking someone with experience troubleshooting WordPress errors to help you
  • Searching the WordPress Support Forum or WordPress troubleshooting resources for possible causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. perform a clean installation)
  • Contacting your web host for assistance

Congratulations! Now you know how to use basic HTML to format and style your content.

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"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group