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 Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPressThe web, your web site, your pages and even your web content are all built and driven by code.

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

HTML is one of the “code” languages used to power the web, web sites, blog 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 editor that allows you to compose and easily format your content simply by clicking on a few menu buttons.

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

A Beginner's Guide To Using HTML Tags In WordPress

You don’t have to know HTML in order to use WordPress, but having a basic HTML knowledge is a handy skill to have as a WordPress user!

A Useful Guide To Formatting Content Using HTML For WordPress Dummies – Tutorial

If you plan to manage your own website, having a little understanding of HTML can help you save time and money in various ways.

For example, let’s say that:

  • You would like to adjust certain elements in your existing content, add formatted text and an image to an area of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to a contact page, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really easily and quickly without assistance from others.
  • You outsource content work to a web copywriter and get back files that contain formatted content. Knowing a little HTML will help you proof the writer’s work before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone else creates copy for your website. You spot a couple of mistakes in the text, like a word that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink that is pointing to the wrong destination. Having some knowledge of HTML will help you fix simple errors in your blog posts 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 with a website developer. Knowing a little bit of HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it will also make you feel and appear more confident and knowledgeable when discussing your ideas or requesting custom work to be done on your site.

A Useful Guide To HTML Tags For Beginners

You don’t need to become a technical web developer – just have enough knowledge of basic 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

Important Info

Important: Like everything in the digital realm, HTML is also subject to constant change, and sometimes these changes will affect 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 should expect that WordPress will also continue updating its code to stay compatible with industry-wide HTML standards.

How To Use HTML Tags To Format Content In Your Pages

WordPress provides you with a choice of adding content to posts and pages using 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 input HTML and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when creating or editing your content …

Default WordPress HTML Content Editor

WP HTML Editor

Important

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

HTML Allowed By WordPress

The WordPress Text editor lets you insert a range of widely-used HTML formatting tags, including the ones shown below:

WordPress HTML Formatting Tags

HTML Formatting Tags

Here are some useful text formatting examples that use the HTML tags listed above …

Formatting WordPress Content With HTML Tags

Using Common HTML Tags In WordPress

Useful Tip

To learn more about using HTML, go here:

The WordPress Text Content Editor Menu Explained

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

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

WordPress Text Editor

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 formatting tag (see the above diagram):

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button if you want 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> Clicking this button adds a hyperlink to your selected text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Select this button to quote or cite text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to highlight text that has been deleted from a post. Most web browsers typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to label text considered inserted into your content. Many web browsers typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> Select 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 render in your visitor’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 normally appear as a bulleted 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> Use this HTML tag to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are usually numbered (just like the list you are reading now!). Note: use this formatting tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display.
  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> Use this HTML tag 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: content enclosed in the <code> tags typically will display 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 tag breaks a post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” sections. For example, if you type one or two paragraphs, then add this tag and compose the remaining section of your post content, visitors will only be able to read the first couple of paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which will bring up the rest of the post if clicked on.
  13. Close Tags – 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 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 displays for both the Visual and Text editors.

WordPress Distraction-Free Writing Mode

WordPress Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips About Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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 application you can download at no cost 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 touch any code at all or use an external HTML content editor, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build your HTML content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive 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 format content that may contain HTML into areas of your site other than your posts and 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.

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

In your WordPress site, there are certain places like text “widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” text box in your User Profile section that allow you to add HTML.

These areas, however, don’t provide a content editor like the Visual 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 WYSIWYG Editor

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

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

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

Link To Author Page 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 information about you (or other registered users) and see 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 text formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author bio box and promote yourself, your products and services, social media pages, other websites you own, etc. to site visitors …

Author Profile

The author resource box is located in the About Yourself > Biographical Info field in your 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 box, or create it somewhere else, 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 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 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 links sparingly over one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and remember to include a call to action to help your readers further engage with you or your business …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working inside the Visual Editor tab 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 by selecting Users > Your Profile in 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 promo for your blog 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 we’ve mentioned a number of times, you don’t need to know HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to have a little basic knowledge of HTML.

Useful Tip

Tips

Tip #1 – If you want to add more complex formatted elements to your content (e.g. highlighted segments, multi-columned paragraphs, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML tools …

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

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 Text Editor using several plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML

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

WordPress HTML

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

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WP Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WP Plugin

WP 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 smart quotes and automatic paragraph creation, and use raw HTML/JS/CSS code in your WordPress posts.

With this plugin, you can wrap any section 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 JavaScript or a CSS block to your content.

Raw HTML

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 tags correctly in the Text Editor, not in the Visual Editor.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting WordPress HTML Errors

You can see what is causing 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 your 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 WordPress User): By default, WordPress doesn’t allow a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as iframe, object and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any problems when adding commonly-used HTML tags into 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 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, return to your User Profile, 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 doesn’t fix the issue and you still continue to experience problems adding HTML code to your site, 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. perform a new site installation)
  • Contacting your hosting provider for assistance

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

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"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)