A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

A Practical Guide To HTML TagsThe 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 will run into a situation where you will need something done for your business online, for your website, or in your content that will require having knowledge of code.

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

One of the main benefits of using a WordPress-driven website is that you don’t have to learn HTML to create and format content for your site’s 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 content that lets you create and easily format your content just by clicking on a few buttons.

In this article you will learn the basic HTML codes you should be familiar with in your WordPress content.

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

You don’t have to learn HTML to use WordPress, but having a little HTML knowledge can be a handy skill to have as a WordPress user!

A Practical Guide To HTML For WordPress Dummies – Tutorial

If you plan to manage your own website, having a basic knowledge of HTML can help you save time and money in a number of different ways.

Let’s say that:

  • You want to make changes to your existing content, add formatted text and an image in an area of your sidebar, or direct visitors to a contact form, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you know basic HTML, you can do this really easily and quickly without having to pay someone else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content work to a freelance article writer and get back files that contain formatted text. Having a little knowledge of HTML helps you better understand your content before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone creates your web content. You spot a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a line of text that should have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your text. Knowing some basic HTML will help you fix simple things in your posts without delay, and 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 prevent you from being taken for a ride by service providers.

A Useful Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For Beginners

You don’t need to become a technical web geek – just be familiar enough with basic HTML to be a “web-savvy” business owner!

What Is HTML?

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 in the digital realm, HTML is also subject to constant change, and sometimes these changes will affect 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 web applications and web browser technology. As several tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress become obsolete, you should expect that WordPress will also continue updating its core application to stay compatible with industry-wide coding standards.

How To Use HTML Tags To Format Content In Your WordPress Posts And Pages

WordPress provides users with a option of adding content to your pages and posts with 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 code and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when creating or editing your content …

Built-In WordPress Text Editor

WP Text Editor


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

What HTML Formatting Tags Are OK To Use In WordPress Content?

The WordPress Text editor allows you to add many common HTML tags, including the ones listed in the table below:

WordPress HTML Formatting Tags

Frequently-Used HTML Tags

Below are a few useful content formatting examples using some of the HTML tags listed above …

HTML Tags Usage In WordPress - Examples

Using HTML Tags In WordPress

Useful Tip

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

HTML – Free Tutorials

The WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Explained

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

Out of the box, the HTML (Text) Content Editor comes with a number of standard buttons in its menu …

WordPress Text Editor Features

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this HTML tag for strong emphasis of text (i.e. bold).
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag for text emphasis (i.e. italicize).
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Use this HTML tag to add a hyperlink to your selected text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Use this HTML tag for quoted or cited text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to mark text considered deleted from a page or post. Most web browsers will typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to mark text considered as having been inserted into your content. Most 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 is not rendered in a user’s browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert an image into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Select this menu button to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists usually appear as a list of items preceded by bullets. Note: use this formatting tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work properly.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> Select this menu button to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are generally 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 display correctly.
  10. li: <li></li> Choose this 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. missing text). Note: content added inside the <code> tags normally 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 function to break your blog post into “teaser” and main content areas. For example, if you add one or two paragraphs, then add this tag and compose the rest of your post content, visitors will only be able to see the first couple of paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which if clicked on, will then display the rest of the post.
  13. close tags button – This function closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this feature to make sure that all HTML 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 “distraction-free” mode. Click the button again to return to the normal 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’re using the Visual or Text editor tabs.

WordPress Content Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

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 or low cost HTML software applications that you can download and use when getting started.

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


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 posts or pages.

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

Content Builder - WordPress Plugin

Content Builder – WordPress Plugin

To learn more about this plugin, see this article: Content Builder – Plugin For WordPress

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 HTML into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author profile, etc.), then refer to the useful tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML-editing software.

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

In WordPress, there are areas like ”widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” text box in your User Profile section that let you use HTML.

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

WordPress Visual Content Editor

WordPress Visual Editor

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

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

Typically, whenever you publish a post in WordPress, 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 Blog Post

Author Page Link In WordPress Blog Post

Clicking on the author link takes you to the Author Archives section, where site readers can learn more information about you (or other registered users) and see 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 text formatting like italics and bold text to enhance your author bio and promote yourself, your products and services, social media pages, other online properties that you own, etc. to 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 area lets you 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 area, 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 promo

Creating An Author Description

Next, format the 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 things simple – use bold, italics and text links sparingly over one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and include a useful link for your visitors …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working inside the Visual Editor screen until you have added all of the formatting you want to add to 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 from your admin menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

Click Update Profile to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

Congratulations … You have just created an author description for your blog 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.



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

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

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

Tip #2 (Advanced WP User): You can enhance the functionality of your WordPress Content Editor using several plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

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

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Pasting HTML directly into your WordPress editor will often break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By saving the code inside the custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output the exact 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 WP plugin you can add to your website that lets you have better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, as well as adding custom buttons and extra functions to the text editor …

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WP Plugin

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

With this plugin installed, any part 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 a CSS block or JavaScript to your post.


Raw HTML – Plugin For WP. (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 enter the text shown below in the Visual Content Editor …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

This is what your text will look like 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).


  • <(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 you publish your post, you should find that your text has been formatted correctly …

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 embed, textarea and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any problems when adding common 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 updating 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, go back to your Profile screen, reactivate the Visual Editor, and check if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.


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. perform a new site installation)
  • Contacting your webhosting company for assistance


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


"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com

Disclaimer: This site has no direct association with WordPress or any of the WordPress products discussed on this site. We may receive an affiliate commission of financial benefit from purchases of any services or products advertised, reviewed or linked to our website. All images are the copyright of their respective owners and comply with all license terms and agreements of use.

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and has authored hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for beginners. WPCompendium.org provides detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress with no coding skills required and at minimal cost!

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