A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

HTML Formatting Tags - A Primer For Non-Geek WordPress DummiesThe world wide web, your website, your pages and even your content are all built and powered by a language of code.

It is inevitable, then, that at some point, you may need something done for your business online, for your website, or in your web pages that will require having coding skills.

HTML is one of the “code” languages used throughout the web, websites, web pages and your web content.

One of the main benefits of using a WordPress-powered website is that you don’t have to know HTML to compose and format content for your posts. 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 visual editor that lets you compose 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 to format content in WordPress.

A Beginner's Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For WordPress Users

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

A Beginner’s Guide To 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 save you time and money in a number of different ways.

Imagine that:

  • You would like to make changes to your existing content, insert a text link and an image into a section of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to your contact page, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really quickly and easily with no professional help needed.
  • You outsource your content creation to a freelance article writer and get back files containing HTML code. Knowing a little bit of HTML helps you better proof the content before you sign off on the work.
  • Someone creates content for your website. You spot a couple of mistakes in the text, like a word that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink pointing to an incorrect destination. Having a little knowledge of HTML helps you correct simple errors in your content without delay, and without needing 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 your web development team. Having some knowledge of HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help reduce the risk of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous technical service providers.

A Useful Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For WordPress Site Owners

You don’t need to become a code-loving web programmer – just have enough knowledge of HTML to be a “web-smart” business owner!

HTML – What Is It?

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

Useful Info

Important: Like everything in the digital realm, HTML is also subject to constant change, and some of these changes will have an impact on WordPress.

Currently, we are in version 5 of the HTML set of standards (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced a number of new “tags” to remain up-to-date with the latest advances in software and web browser technology. As some of the tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress become obsolete, you can expect that WordPress will also continue to update its software to stay compatible with industry-wide standards.

Using HTML Tags To Format Content In WordPress

WordPress provides users with a option of adding content to pages and posts with its built-in 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 composing or editing your content …

WP HTML Content Editor

Default WP Text Editor

Important Info

We discuss the WordPress Visual Editor and adding content to posts and pages in other ”how to” articles.

HTML Formatting Tags Allowed By WordPress

WordPress allows you to insert various common HTML tags, including the ones below:

HTML Tags

HTML Tags – WordPress

Below are some useful text formatting examples that use some of the HTML tags displayed in the table above …

Using Common HTML In WordPress

Using HTML In WordPress

Useful Tip

If you are interested in learning some more HTML, go here:

The WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Explained

The WordPress Text Editor lets users paste, edit and work directly with HTML and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) in the content.

Out of the box, the HTML (Text) Content Editor displays a standard set of menu buttons …

WordPress Text Editor Features

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu Buttons

Below is a brief description of the function of each Text Editor menu button with their corresponding HTML tag (refer to the screenshot above):

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button 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 button to add a hyperlink to your highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Use this HTML tag for quoted or cited text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to highlight text that has been deleted from the current page. Many browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to mark text considered as having been inserted into the existing content. Many 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 the user’s web browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert an image into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> This HTML tag is used to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists usually appear as a bullet-list. Note: this formatting tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> Choose this button to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are normally numbered (just like the list you are seeing right now!). Note: use this tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work correctly.
  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> Use this HTML tag 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: the content added inside the <code> tags typically will appear using a preformatted text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> Use this tag to break your post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” sections. For example, if you add a couple of paragraphs, then insert the “more” tag and compose the remainder of your post content, readers will only be able to read the first paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which if clicked on, will display the rest of the post’s content.
  13. Close Tags – This menu button closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function to ensure that all HTML 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” mode. Click the button again to revert to the normal text editor display.
  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.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips Related To Using HTML 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 software applications you can download and use when getting started.

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

Kompozer

Kompozer – 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 in this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into your WP 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 your HTML-based 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 work involving technical coding, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and edit content containing basic HTML tags into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author biography, etc.), then refer to the quick tutorial below for a really simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML software.

Useful Tip: How To Add Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your Profile

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

These areas, however, don’t come with a content editor like the Visual editor found in 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 Editor

WordPress Visual Editor

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

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

Typically, whenever you publish a post in your WordPress blog, 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 Post

Link To Author Page In WordPress

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where blog readers can learn more about you (or other registered users) and browse other blog posts 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, social media pages, other online properties that you own, etc. to all of your site visitors …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text box allows you to add HTML-formatted content, it doesn’t have a content editor, so you have to either know how to type HTML code directly into the text box, 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 method described below.

First, create a new post and type your content inside the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author bio

Creating An Author Description

Next, format your content using the Visual Editor . Please note that you can only use simple formatting in your author description such as hyperlinks, bold, underline and italicized text, so keep it simple – use bold, italics and anchor text links sparingly over one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and include a useful link for your readers …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working inside the Visual Editor tab until you have completed your author description …

Author Description

When you are happy with your author bio, switch over to the Text Editor and copy everything to your clipboard …

Creating An Author Description

Go to your profile by selecting Users > Your Profile from your admin menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

Click the Update Profile button to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

Congratulations … You have just created an author bio 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 mentioned a number of times, you don’t need to learn HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to know the basics of HTML.

Useful Tip

Tips

Tip #1 – If you want to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. section boxes, 3-column paragraphs, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML tools …

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

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

Tip #2 (Advanced WordPress User): You can expand the function of your WordPress Text Editor using various WordPress plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML

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

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Pasting HTML directly into your WordPress editor can break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By entering the code in the plugin’s custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output the exact HTML to your page or post.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WP Plugin

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

Here’s another free plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

Raw HTML

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

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

Raw HTML - WP Plugin

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 Editor, not in the Visual Editor.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Your text will look like this when your post is published …

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 Editor …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Now … when your post is published, you should find that your text formatting is correct …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Tip #4 (Advanced WP User): By default, WordPress does not allow a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as iframe, input and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any problems 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 profile settings, go back to your post or page 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, reactivate the Visual Editor, and see if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Tip

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

  • Getting help from an experienced WordPress support service provider
  • Searching the WordPress Support Forum or WordPress troubleshooting resources for probable causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. you may need to perform a new installation)
  • Contacting your webhosting company for help

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

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"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now