A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

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

It is inevitable, then, that at some point, you will probably need something done for your business online, for your web site, or in your web pages that requires having knowledge of code.

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

One of the main benefits of using WordPress is that you don’t have to know HTML in order to create 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 a powerful, built-in content that allows you to compose and easily format content just by clicking on a few menu buttons.

As you will discover below, it’s useful to have some practical knowledge of HTML when writing, changing or formatting content on WordPress. A basic knowledge of HTML can also save you time and money.

A Basic Guide To HTML

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

Using HTML In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial

If you are managing your own web presence, it’s good to have a bit of HTML knowledge when composing, editing or formatting content for WordPress.

Imagine that:

  • You would like to adjust certain elements in your existing content, insert formatted text and an image into an area of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to the contact form, opt-in form, etc. If you know basic HTML, you can do this very easily and quickly without assistance from others.
  • You outsource work to a freelance article writer and receive back files containing formatted content. Knowing some basic HTML can help you understand the writer’s work before you sign off on the work.
  • Someone else creates your articles or web pages. You spot a couple of text formatting errors, like a word that should have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your text. Having some knowledge of HTML can help you correct simple mistakes in your pages or blog posts without delay, and without needing to 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 a website development team. Having a little knowledge of HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also make you feel and appear more confident and knowledgeable when discussing ideas or requesting changes to be done on your site.

A Beginner's Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For WordPress Users

You don’t need to become a code-loving web geek – just learn enough basic HTML to be a “web-smart” 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 all things online, 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 remain up-to-date with new advances in web applications and browser technology. As some of the older tags are being phased out of HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue updating its core application to ensure compatibility with industry-wide coding standards.

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

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

Default WordPress Text Editor

WordPress Text Content Editor

Useful Info

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

HTML You Can Use In WordPress Posts And Pages

The WordPress Content Management System (CMS) lets you insert various commonly-used HTML tags, such as the following:


WordPress HTML Formatting Tags

The diagram below shows a few simple content formatting examples using some of the HTML tags listed above …

HTML Used In WordPress Content

HTML Used In WordPress Content

Useful Tip

If you are interested in learning some more HTML, see the tutorials in the site below:

The WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Explained

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

By default, the Text (HTML) Editor displays a number of standard menu features …

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu Buttons

WordPress Text Content Editor

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button for emphasis of text (i.e. italicize).
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Clicking this menu button adds a hyperlink to your highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Choose this menu button to quote or cite highlighted text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to label text considered as being deleted from your content. Many browsers typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to highlight text considered inserted into a page or post. 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 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 the user’s browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert images into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> This HTML tag is used to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists normally display as a list of items preceded by bullets. 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> Click this menu button to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are normally numbered (just like the list you are seeing now!). Note: use this formatting tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display.
  10. li: <li></li> This HTML tag is used 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. broken text). Note: the content added inside the <code> tags usually 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 breaks your post into “teaser” and main content areas. For example, if you type one or two paragraphs, then add this tag and compose the remaining section of your post, readers will only be able to see the first few paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which brings up the rest of your post’s content when clicked on.
  13. Close Tags button – Closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function 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” 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 “full screen” mode. Click the button again to revert to the normal editor mode.
  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

WordPress Content Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips Related To Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

If you plan to use HTML extensively, there are several Free HTML editor software tools that you can download and use when getting started.

A popular free HTML software tool, for example, 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 in 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 application, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build your content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive Content Builder – WordPress Plugin

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

Quick 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 ”widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” section 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 Content Editor

WordPress WYSIWYG Editor

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

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

By default, whenever a post is published in your WordPress blog, a link to the author displays 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 site readers can learn more information about you (or other registered users) 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 hyperlinks and simple formatting like italics and bold text to enhance your author bio and promote yourself, your products and services, social media pages, other sites you own, etc. to all of your site visitors …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text area allows you to 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 field, 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 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 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 it simple – use bold, italics and anchor text hyperlinks sparingly over one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and include a useful link to help your readers engage further with you and your business …

Creating An Author Description

Continue working in the Visual Editor tab until you have completed your author promo …

Author Description

After creating your content, switch over to the Text Editor and copy everything to your clipboard …

Creating An Author Description

Go to your profile by selecting Users > Your Profile from your main navigation 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 the Update Profile button to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

Congratulations … You have just created an author description 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 mentioned a number of times, you don’t need to know HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to know the basics of HTML.

Practical Tip


Tip #1 – If you would like to add more complex styled elements to your content (e.g. section boxes, 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 tools

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 page and post body and head sections.

WordPress HTML - WP Plugin

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

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

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 adding custom buttons and extra functions to the text editor …

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

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

Here’s another free plugin you can use …


Raw HTML - Plugin For WP

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 also very useful if you want to add JavaScript or a CSS block to your content.


Raw HTML – Plugin For WP. (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 Editor.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting WordPress 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 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 some HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as iframe, form 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 …

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and updating your new profile settings, return to your post or page and reinsert the content with the problematic HTML tags, then republish your post.

If the above suggestion fixes the issue, return to your User Profile page, 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 still continue to experience problems adding HTML code to your content, 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. you may need to perform a clean WordPress installation)
  • Contacting your web hosting company for assistance

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


"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now

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