A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

An Formatting Content With HTML Primer For WordPress BeginnersThe world wide web, your web site, your web pages and even your web content are all built and driven by code.

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

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

One of the best things about using a WordPress-driven site is that you don’t have to know HTML in order to compose and format content for your blog’s pages or 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 create and easily format content simply by clicking on a few menu buttons.

This post provides a useful reference guide for beginners to basic HTML codes you can use in WordPress.

A Basic Guide To Formatting Content With HTML For WordPress Users

You don’t need to learn HTML to use WordPress, but having some familiarity with HTML can be very useful as a WordPress user!

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress – Tutorial

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

Imagine this:

  • You want to make changes to your existing content, add a text link and an image to an area of your sidebar, or direct visitors to the contact form, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really quickly and easily without assistance from others.
  • You outsource content writing to a freelance article writer and get back files containing HTML code. Having some basic knowledge of HTML can help you better understand your content before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone else creates your web copy. You see a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a word or phrase that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your copy. Having some knowledge of HTML will help you fix simple errors in your content very quickly 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 a project or requirement with a website development team. Having some basic knowledge of HTML not only will help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help to prevent you from being taken for a ride.

A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Site Owners

You don’t need to become a technical web programmer – just learn enough 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


Important: Like everything else, HTML is also subject to constant change, and sometimes these changes will no doubt affect WordPress.

Currently, HTML is in version 5 (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced several new “tags” to keep up with the latest advances in software and browser technology. As some of the tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress are being phased out of HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also keep updating its software in order to ensure compatibility with industry-wide coding standards.

How To Use HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

WordPress gives you the choice 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 HTML and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when composing or editing your content …

Built-In WP Text Editor

Built-In WP Text Content Editor

Important Info

We discuss the WordPress Visual Editor and adding content to posts and pages in separate tutorials.

HTML Allowed By WordPress

The WordPress Text editor lets you add various common HTML formatting tags, including the following:

Common HTML

WordPress HTML Tags

The diagram below shows several practical text formatting examples that use the HTML tags displayed above …

HTML Tags Usage In WordPress - Examples

Using Common HTML In WordPress

Practical Tip

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

WordPress Text Editor Menu Buttons

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

Out of the box, the Text (HTML) Content Editor comes with a standard set of menu features …

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Features

WordPress Text Editor Menu Buttons

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button for text emphasis (i.e. italicize).
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Choosing this button adds a hyperlink to your 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 indicate text considered as being 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 label text considered as having been inserted into the current content. Many web browsers will typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> Use this HTML tag 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 render in your visitor’s screen. 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 generally appear as a bulleted 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 normally numbered (just like the list you are reading now!). Note: this tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  10. li: <li></li> Click this menu button 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. broken text). Note: the content selected within the <code> tags generally will display using a preformatted text style, 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 ”rest of content” areas. For example, if you type a couple of paragraphs, then add this tag and add the remainder of your post content, users will only see the first paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which when clicked on, will then bring up the rest of the post’s content.
  13. close tags – Closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function to ensure that all HTML tags have formatted your text correctly.
  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 return to the normal text editor display.
  15. Add Media button – 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

Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips Related To Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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

For example, a popular HTML editor software application you can download at no cost is 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 with this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into WordPress.

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

Thrive Content Builder

Content Builder – Plugin For WordPress

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

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

In your WordPress site, there are certain areas like text “widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” section in your User Profile screen that allow you to insert content formatted with HTML.

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 Content Editor

WordPress Visual/Text Editor

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

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

Normally, whenever a post is published 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) …

Link To Author Page In WordPress

Link To Author Page In WordPress Blog Post

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

WordPress Author Archives Section

Note: As you can see from the above screenshot, you can add hyperlinks and simple formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author resource box and promote yourself, your business, social media pages, other online properties that you own, etc. to your blog readers …

Author Profile

The author description 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 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 elsewhere, 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 in the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author bio

Creating An Author Description

Next, format the 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 it simple – use bold, italics and anchor text links sparingly across one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and remember to include a call to action to help visitors engage further with you or your business …

Creating An Author Description

Continue working inside the Visual Editor tab until you have completed your author bio …

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 area by selecting Users > Your Profile in the main menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

Remember to click the Update Profile button to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

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

Author Profile

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

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



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

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 here:

Tip #2 (Advanced WP User): You can enhance the functionality of your WordPress Content Editor using several WordPress 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 – Plugin For WP. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WordPress Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

WordPress Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Here’s another free WordPress plugin you can use …


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 WordPress posts.

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

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 post or page, make sure that you have entered your HTML tags correctly in the Text Editor, not in the Visual Editor.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

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 Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Now … when you publish your post, you will find that your text formatting is correct …

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 frame, 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 section …

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and updating your 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 see if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.


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

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


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