A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

A Beginner's Guide To HTML For WordPress UsersThe web, your website, your web pages and even your web content are all built and driven by code.

It is inevitable, then, that at some point, you will probably need something done for your business online, for your website, or in your web content that requires having some coding knowledge.

HTML is one of the “code” languages that is used to build the web, web sites, web pages and your web content.

One of the main benefits of using WordPress is that you don’t have to know HTML to compose and format content in your blog’s posts or pages. WordPress has unique features like “themes”, “plugins” and “widgets” that let you manage your website without having to touch code, and an easy-to-use, built-in visual content editor that allows you to create and easily format your content simply by clicking on a few menu buttons.

In this step-by-step tutorial you will learn the basic HTML codes you can use in your WordPress content.

Using Formatting Content With HTML In WordPress

You don’t need to learn HTML in order to use WordPress, but having some basic knowledge of HTML can be quite useful as a WordPress user!

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial

If you are managing your own web presence, having a basic understanding of HTML can help you save time and money in various ways.

For example, let’s say that:

  • You want to edit your existing content, insert formatted text and an image to a section of your sidebar, or direct visitors to the contact form, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you know basic HTML, you can do this really quickly and easily without having to pay someone else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content work to a web copywriter and receive back files containing HTML formatting. Having some basic knowledge of HTML will help you better understand the content before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone creates content for your site. You spot a couple of basic mistakes in the text, like a line of text that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink that is pointing to the wrong destination URL. Knowing some basic HTML will help you edit and fix simple mistakes in your copy without delay, and without having to go and ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You need to discuss changes on your site with a website development team. Having a little knowledge of HTML not only will help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also make you feel and appear more confident and knowledgeable when presenting your ideas or making requests for changes to your website.

Using HTML Tags In WordPress

You don’t need to become a technical web programmer – just learn enough basic HTML to be a “web-smart” business owner!

HTML – 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

Important Info

Important: Like everything else, HTML is also subject to constant change, and some of these changes will no doubt affect 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 software and browser technology. As some of the tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress get phased out of HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue to update its core application in order to remain compatible with industry-wide HTML standards.

Using HTML Formatting Tags In Your WordPress Content

WordPress gives you the option of adding content to your pages and posts using a 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 input code like HTML and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when adding or editing your content …

WordPress HTML Editor

Default WP HTML Content Editor

Important Info

We cover the WordPress Visual Editor and how to create posts and pages in separate ”how to” articles.

HTML Tags Allowed By WordPress

WordPress allows you to add a range of common HTML formatting tags, such as the following:

Basic HTML Tags Allowed In WordPress

HTML Formatting Tags – WordPress

Here are several useful content formatting examples that use a number of the HTML tags listed in the table above …

HTML Tutorial

HTML Used In WordPress


If you would like to learn more about using HTML, see the tutorials in the website below:

The WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Menu Explained

The WordPress Text Editor enables you to insert, edit and work with code like HTML and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) in the content.

Out of the box, the WordPress HTML (Text) Editor comes with a number of standard menu buttons already installed …

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this HTML tag for strong emphasis of text (i.e. bold).
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button to add italics to your text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Choosing this button adds a hyperlink to any selected text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Click this button to quote or cite highlighted text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to highlight text that has been deleted from your content. Most browsers will typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to highlight text considered inserted into your content. Most web browsers typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> This HTML tag lets you insert an image into your post or page and add an “alt” description (a text description of your image in case the image is not rendered in your visitor’s web browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert images into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Choose this menu button to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists normally display as a bullet-list. Note: use this HTML tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display correctly.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> Use this HTML tag to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are generally numbered (just like the list you are seeing now!). Note: this formatting tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  10. li: <li></li> Use this HTML tag 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 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. broken text). Note: any content added inside the <code> tags normally will display using a preformatted styling of text, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> This tag breaks a post into “teaser” and main body sections. For example, if you type a few paragraphs, then insert the “more” tag and add the rest of your post, visitors will only be able to read the first few paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which displays the rest of the post’s content when clicked on.
  13. Close Tags – This button closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function to make sure that all tags have correctly formatted your text.
  14. Distraction-Free Writing Mode – click this button to work in “distraction-free” 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” mode. Click the button again to return 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’re using the Visual or Text editor screens.

WordPress Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode

WordPress Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips Related To Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

If you plan to use HTML extensively, there are several Free or low cost HTML editor software tools that you can download and use when getting started.

For example, a popular HTML software tool you can download for free is KompoZer.


Kompozer – Free HTML Editor

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 with this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into your posts or pages.

Another option, if you don’t want to touch any code at all or use an external HTML content editor, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder - Plugin For WordPress

Thrive Content Builder

To learn more about this plugin, see this article:

If you have no need or desire for doing work involving editing code, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and format content that may contain HTML into areas of your site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author bio, etc.), then see the quick tutorial below for a really simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading software.

Quick Tutorial: Adding HTML-Formatted Content To The “About Yourself” Section Of Your Profile

In your WordPress site, there are certain locations like ”widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” text area in your User Profile section that let you insert HTML-formatted content.

These sections, however, don’t provide a content editor like the WYSIWYG 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 WYSIWYG editor to create your HTML-formatted text, and paste it into those areas.

Let’s show you an example, so you can see how easily this can be done.

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

Link To Author Page In WordPress

Author Page Link In WordPress Post

Clicking on the author link takes you to the Author Archives section, where site readers can learn more information about you (or other registered users) and see other articles that you (or other authors) have published …

WordPress Author Archives Section

Note: As the above screenshot illustrates, you can add links and simple formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author description and promote yourself, your products and services, social media pages, other online properties you own, etc. to your blog readers …

Author Profile

The author profile is located in the About Yourself > Biographical Info field inside your User Profile area …

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 area, or create it in an HTML editor, then copy and paste it in …

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 anchor text hyperlinks sparingly across one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and remember to include a call to action for your visitors …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working in the Visual Editor screen until you have written your author bio …

Author Description

When you are happy with your author description, 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 your dashboard menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

Remember to click Update Profile to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

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

Author Profile

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

As mentioned earlier, you don’t need to learn HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to have a little basic knowledge of HTML.

Useful Tip


Tip #1 – If you plan to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. pull quotes, three-column paragraphs, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML snippets …

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

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

Tip #2 (Advanced WordPress User): You can enhance the function of your WordPress Content Editor using a number of plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML lets you 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 the WordPress editor can often break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By entering the code in the plugin’s custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output HTML-formatted content to your post or page.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WP Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

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

Here’s another free WordPress plugin you can use …


Raw HTML - WordPress Plugin

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


Raw HTML – WordPress Plugin. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

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

For example, if you enter the text shown below in the Visual Editor …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

This is what your text will look like when your post is published …

Troubleshooting HTML Errors

You can see what is causing the problem by switching 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).


  • <(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 into the Text Editor …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Tip #4 (Advanced WP User): By default, WordPress doesn’t allow some HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as frame, input and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any problems when adding common HTML tags into 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 updating your 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, return to the User Profile screen, reactivate your Visual Editor, and see 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, then you should 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. you may need to perform a clean WP installation)
  • Contacting your hosting provider for help

Congratulations! Now you know the basics of using HTML to format and style your content.


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