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 Formatting Content With HTML For WordPress UsersThe web, your web site, your pages and even your content are all built and powered by a language of code.

It is inevitable, then, that sooner or later, you will run into a situation where you will probably need something done for your business online, for your website, or in your content that requires having coding knowledge.

HTML is one of the “code” languages used throughout the world wide web, web sites, blog pages and even web content.

One of the main benefits of using WordPress is that you don’t have to know HTML in order to compose and format content in your pages or posts. 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 just by clicking on a few menu buttons.

As you will discover below, it’s good to have a basic HTML knowledge when writing, editing or formatting content for your WordPress-driven website or blog. Having a little knowledge of HTML can also save you time and money.

An HTML Formatting Tags Primer For Non-Technical WordPress Users

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

A Beginner’s Guide To Using HTML Tags In WordPress – Tutorial

As stated at the beginning of this article, having some basic HTML knowledge is a useful thing when creating, changing or formatting content for your WordPress-driven website or blog.

Let’s say that:

  • You would like to make changes to your existing content, add formatted text and an image into an area of your sidebar, or direct visitors to a contact page, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this very easily without having to pay somebody else to do this for you.
  • You outsource work to an article writer and receive back files that contain formatted content. Knowing a little bit of HTML can help you understand the writer’s work before you sign off on the work.
  • Someone else creates copy for your website. You see a couple of mistakes in the text, like a line of text that should have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your text. Knowing a little HTML helps you change and fix simple mistakes in your content without delay, and without needing to ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You need to discuss new project with a website development team. Knowing 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 web service providers.

A Beginner's Guide To HTML Tags For WordPress Users

You don’t need to become a technical web developer – just be familiar enough with HTML to be a “web-savvy” 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 frequent change, and some of these changes will affect WordPress.

Currently, HTML is in version 5 (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 a number of older tags get dropped from HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also keep updating its core application to stay compatible with industry-wide coding standards.

How To Use HTML Tags To Format Your WordPress Content

WordPress gives you the choice of adding content to posts and pages with its 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 script languages (e.g. Javascript) when adding or editing your content …

Built-In WP Text Content Editor

WordPress Text Editor

Important

We cover the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and how to create pages and posts in other articles.

HTML Formatting Tags Allowed In WordPress Posts And Pages

WordPress allows you to insert a range of commonly-used HTML tags, such as the following:

Basic HTML

HTML Tags

Here are a few useful text formatting examples using the HTML tags displayed in the illustration above …

HTML Tags Examples

HTML Tags Tutorial

Tip

To learn more about using HTML, visit the site below:

The WordPress Text Editor Menu Explained

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

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

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor

WordPress Text Editor

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this HTML tag for strong emphasis of text (i.e. bold).
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button to italicize text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Use this HTML tag to add a hyperlink to any selected text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Use this HTML tag for quoted or cited text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to mark text that has been deleted from your existing content. Most web browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to label text that has been inserted into a post or page. Many 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” tag (a text description of your image in case the image is not displayed 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> Select this menu button to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists usually appear as a list of items preceded by bullets. 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> This HTML tag is used to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are usually 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.
  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> Click this menu button 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 apply your tags and you will get errors (e.g. broken text). Note: content selected within the <code> tags generally will appear using a pre-formatted text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> This button will break a post into “teaser” and main content sections. For example, if you type a few paragraphs, then add the “more” tag and compose the rest of your post content, readers will only be able to see the first couple of paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which will bring up 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 feature 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 text 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 screens.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

With “Distraction-Free Writing Mode” [#14] everything but your editor fades away, removing all distractions from your screen.

Some Useful Tips Related To Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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

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

Kompozer - HTML Editor

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 WP pages or posts.

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

Content Builder - WordPress Plugin

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 edit content containing basic HTML into areas of your site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author bio, etc.), then refer to the quick tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading software.

Useful Tip: How To Add Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Section Of Your User Profile

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

These areas, however, don’t provide a content editor like the Visual Content editor found in your Posts and Pages sections (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/Text Editor

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

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

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

Author Page Link In WordPress

Link To Author Page In WordPress Post

Clicking on the author link takes you to the Author Archives section, where they 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 you can see from the above screenshot, you can add links and simple text formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author bio box and promote yourself, your business, social media pages, other sites that you own, etc. to blog readers …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text area allows you to 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 box, or create it somewhere else, then copy and paste it in …

About Yourself

Let’s “paste the content” into this field using the simple 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 description

Creating An Author Description

Next, format your content inside the Visual Editor tab. Please note that you can only 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 describe who you are and what you do, and include a useful link for your visitors …

Creating An Author Description

Continue working inside the Visual Editor tab until you have added all of the formatting you want to display in 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 in the navigation menu …

User Profile Screen

Scroll down the screen 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 promo for your blog posts and formatted it using basic HTML!

Author Profile

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

As you can see, you don’t have to learn HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to know the basics of HTML.

Useful Tip

Tips

Tip #1 – If you plan to add more complex styled elements to your content (e.g. highlighted segments, review tables, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML tools …

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

Learn about a time-saving “cut & paste” HTML resource we recommend here:

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

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - Plugin For WP

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

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Pasting HTML directly into the WordPress editor can break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By saving the HTML code in the custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output the exact HTML-formatted content to your post or page.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

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

Here’s another free WordPress plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

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 WordPress posts.

With this plugin, 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 very useful if you want to add JavaScript or a CSS block to your content.

Raw HTML - WordPress Plugin

Raw HTML – WordPress Plugin. (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 type the text shown below in the Visual Content Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting WordPress HTML Formatting Errors

You can see 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).

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 does not allow a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as embed, textarea and others). This is for security reasons.

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

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and saving your settings, go back 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 your User Profile, reactivate your Visual Editor, and check if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Practical Tip

Note: If the above suggestion doesn’t fix the issue and you continue experiencing problems adding HTML code to your content, 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 probable causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. perform a new installation)
  • Contacting your web host for help

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

***

"Learning WordPress has been a huge stumbling block for me. I've been looking for something that covers absolutely everything but doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Thank you so much ... you have just provided me with what I have been looking for! Truly appreciated!" - Tanya