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 Formatting Tags For WordPress UsersThe web, your web site, your pages and even your content are all built and driven by a language of code.

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

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

You don’t have to know HTML in order to use WordPress. 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 content that allows you to compose and easily format content simply by clicking on a few buttons.

As you will discover below, it’s useful to have a bit of knowledge of HTML when writing, editing or formatting content on WordPress. Knowing a little bit of HTML can also save you time and money.

A Beginner's Guide To Using Formatting Content Using HTML In WordPress

You don’t need to know HTML in order to use WordPress, but having a basic HTML knowledge can be very useful as a WordPress user!

HTML Tags For Non-Technical WordPress Users – Step-By-Step Tutorial

If you plan to run your own web presence, having a practical knowledge of HTML can help you save time and money in various ways.

For example, let’s say that:

  • You want to adjust certain elements in your existing content, insert a text link and an image into a section of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to the contact form, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really quickly and easily without professional help required.
  • You outsource some content writing to a freelance copywriter and receive back files containing HTML code. Having some basic knowledge of HTML will help you better proof your content before you sign off on the work.
  • Someone else creates your articles or web copy. You see a couple of basic mistakes in the text, like a word or phrase that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink pointing to the wrong destination URL. Knowing a little bit of HTML can help you correct simple mistakes 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 want to discuss changes on your site with your web designer. Having a little knowledge of HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help to reduce the risk of being taken for a ride by service providers.

A Beginner's Guide To Using HTML In WordPress

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

Useful Information

Important: Like all things online, HTML is subject to frequent change, and sometimes these changes will have an impact on 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 the latest advances in software and browser technology. As some of the older tags get phased out of HTML5, you can expect that WordPress will also continue to update its software to remain compatible with industry-wide coding standards.

How To Use HTML Formatting Tags In Your WordPress Posts And Pages

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

WP Text Editor

Default WordPress HTML Editor


We discuss the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and how to add content to pages and posts in separate tutorials.

HTML Allowed By WordPress

The WordPress Text editor lets you insert various commonly-used HTML formatting tags, such as the following:

Common HTML - WordPress

Basic HTML Tags Allowed In WordPress

Below are a few practical content formatting examples using a number of the HTML tags listed in the chart above …

Using Common HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress Content

HTML Formatting Tags Usage In WordPress


To learn more about using HTML, go here:

WordPress Text Content Editor

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

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

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button to make your text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button to format your text using italics.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Use this HTML tag to add a hyperlink to your highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Choose this menu button to quote or cite selected text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to highlight text considered deleted from a post. Most browsers 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 a post. Many browsers typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> Choose this button to insert an image into your post or page and add an “alt” description (a text description of your image in case the image does not render in the user’s screen. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert an image into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Use this HTML tag to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists generally appear as a bulleted list of items. Note: use this formatting tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> Select this button to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are generally numbered (just like the list you are seeing now!). Note: use this HTML tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display properly.
  10. li: <li></li> Select 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> 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 apply your tags and you will get errors (e.g. missing text). Note: any content added inside the <code> tags usually 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--> Use this button to break a post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” sections. For example, if you add one or two paragraphs, then add the “more” tag and add the rest of your post content, readers will only see the first few paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which displays the rest of your post if clicked on.
  13. Close Tags – This button closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this feature to ensure that all tags have formatted your text correctly.
  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 “full screen” mode. Click the button again to return 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 displays for both the Visual and Text editors.

WordPress Editor 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 About Using HTML Formatting 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 tools you can download and use when getting started.

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

Kompozer - HTML Editor

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 WordPress.

Another option, if you don’t want to touch any code at all or use an external HTML content builder, 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 any kind of work that involves technical coding, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and format content containing 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 HTML-editing tools.

Useful Tip: Adding Formatted Content To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your User Profile

In your WordPress site, there are some locations like text “widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” text box in your User Profile screen that let you use HTML.

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

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

Let’s show you 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 Post

Author Page Link In WordPress Post

Clicking on the author link takes you to the Author Archives section, where they can learn more about you (or other authors registered as users on your site) and view other 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 formatting like italics and bold text to enhance your author bio and promote yourself, your products, social media pages, other online properties you own, etc. to your blog readers …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text area 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 can only use simple formatting in your author description such as hyperlinks, bold, underline and italicized text, so keep things 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 readers further engage with you and your business …

Creating An Author Description

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

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

Next, go to your profile by selecting Users > Your Profile in your main navigation menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

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, see this tutorial: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

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

Practical Tip


Tip #1 – If you plan to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. section boxes, pricing boxes, 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 for non-technical WordPress users here:

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

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WP Plugin

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

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

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

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a 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 add custom buttons and additional functions to your text editor …

WP Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Here is another free plugin you can use …



Raw HTML lets you disable automatic formatting like automatic paragraph creation and smart quotes, and use raw HTML/JS/CSS code in your WordPress posts.

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


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-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 you publish your post …

Troubleshooting WordPress HTML Formatting 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).


  • <(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 into the Text Editor …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

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 frame, object 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 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, go back to your Profile screen, 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 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 probable causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. you may need to perform a clean site installation)
  • Contacting your web hosting company for assistance

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

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

Originally published as A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users.