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 Formatting Content With HTML For WordPress UsersThe world wide web, your website, your pages and even your web content are built and powered by code.

It is inevitable, then, that at some point, you will run into a situation where you will need something done for your business online, for your web site, or in your web content that requires having some coding skills.

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

You don’t need 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 an easy-to-use, built-in visual editor that allows you to compose and easily format content simply by clicking on a few buttons.

This post provides a useful reference guide for WordPress newbies containing most of the basic HTML codes you can use to format your WordPress content.

A Basic Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For WordPress Users

You don’t have to learn HTML to use WordPress, but having a little knowledge of HTML is quite useful as a WordPress user!

A Beginner’s Guide To Using Formatting Content With HTML In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial

If you are managing your own web presence, having a little HTML knowledge can be a handy skill to have when composing, editing or formatting content in WordPress.

Let’s say that:

  • You want to edit your existing content, insert formatted text and an image into an area of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to the contact form, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this very quickly with no help from others.
  • You outsource your content creation to a freelance article writer and get back files that contain HTML code. Having some basic knowledge of HTML helps you proof the writer’s work before you accept the work.
  • Someone creates your articles or web pages. You see a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a word or phrase that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink pointing to the wrong destination. Having some knowledge of HTML will help you edit and correct simple errors in your posts very quickly without needing to 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 your web development team. Having a little knowledge of HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help you better negotiate projects with technical service providers.

A Beginner's Guide To Using HTML In WordPress

You don’t need to become a code-loving web programmer – just learn enough basic HTML to be a “web-smart” 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 Info

Important: Like all things online, HTML is subject to frequent change, and some of these changes will affect WordPress.

Currently, HTML is in version 5 (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 several tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress are being phased out of HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue to update its code in order to ensure compatibility with industry-wide standards.

How To Use HTML Tags To Format Content In WordPress

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

WordPress HTML Editor

WordPress Text Editor

Important Info

We discuss the WordPress Visual Editor and creating pages and posts in separate ”how to” articles.

HTML Formatting Tags Allowed By WordPress

WordPress allows you to add many commonly-used HTML tags, such as the tags listed in the table below:

HTML Formatting Tags - WordPress

HTML Tags Allowed In WordPress

The diagram below shows a few practical text formatting examples using the HTML tags displayed in the illustration above …

HTML Used In WordPress Content

HTML Tutorial

Useful Tip

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

WordPress Text Content Editor

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

Out of the box, the WordPress Text Content Editor comes with a standard set of menu buttons already installed …

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor

WordPress Text Editor Features

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this HTML tag for strong emphasis of text (i.e. bold).
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button for text emphasis (i.e. italicize).
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> choose this menu button to add a hyperlink to any highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Use this HTML tag for quoted or cited text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to highlight text that has been deleted from a page or post. Most browsers will typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to highlight text that has been inserted into the existing content. Many web browsers will typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> This HTML tag lets you 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 the user’s web browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert images into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Use this HTML tag to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists normally appear as a bullet-list. Note: use this tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work properly.
  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: use this tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display.
  10. li: <li></li> Select 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: any content inserted within the <code> tags generally will appear using a different text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> This button breaks your blog post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” areas. For example, if you add a couple of paragraphs, then add this tag and compose the remainder of your post, users will only be able to read the first paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which brings up the rest of your post’s content if clicked on.
  13. close tags button – Closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this feature 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 revert to the normal 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.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

WordPress Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Useful Tips About 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 HTML editor software applications you can download and use when getting started.

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

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

Content Builder - WordPress Plugin

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 editing code, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and format content that may contain basic HTML into areas of your site other than your posts and pages (e.g. your sidebar, author bio, etc.), then see the quick tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML software.

Quick Tutorial: Adding Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Section Of Your Profile

In WordPress, there are some locations like text “widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” text area in your User Profile screen that allow you to add HTML tags.

These areas, however, don’t come with their own content editor like the Visual/Text editor found inside your Posts and Pages screens …

WordPress Visual/Text Editor

WordPress Visual/Text Editor

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

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

By default, 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

Author Page Link In WordPress

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

WordPress Author Archives Section

Note: As the above screenshot illustrates, you can add hyperlinks and simple formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author resource box and promote yourself, your products, social media pages, other websites you own, etc. to all of your site visitors …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text box 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 elsewhere, 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 inside the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author description

Creating An Author Description

Next, format the content using the Visual Editor . 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 things simple – use bold, italics and anchor text hyperlinks sparingly over one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and include a call to action for your readers …

Creating An Author Description

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

Author Description

When you are happy with your author description, switch over to the Text Editor and copy everything to your clipboard …

Creating An Author Description

next, go to your profile area by selecting Users > Your Profile in your dashboard 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 ”how to” article: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As you can see, you don’t have to learn HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to have a little basic knowledge of HTML.



Tip #1 – If you want to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. pull quotes, pricing boxes, 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 WordPress User): You can enhance the function of your WordPress Content Editor using various plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

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

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

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

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WP Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a free WP plugin you can add to your site 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 your text editor …

WP Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Here is another free plugin you can use …


Raw HTML - WordPress Plugin

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, 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 need to add JavaScript or a CSS block to your post.


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 Tab, not in the Visual Editor.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting WordPress HTML Formatting Errors

You can see 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 into the Text Editor …

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 does not allow a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as iframe, textarea and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any issues 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 profile settings, go back to your page or post and reinsert the content with the problematic HTML tags, then republish your post.

If the above suggestion fixes the issue, return to the User Profile, reactivate your Visual Editor, and see 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:

  • 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 installation)
  • Contacting your web hosting company for help

Congratulations! Now you know how to use basic 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

Disclaimer: This site has no direct association with WordPress or any of the WordPress products mentioned on this website. We may receive an affiliate commission from sales of any products mentioned on 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 non-techies and beginners. WPCompendium.org provides detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress with no coding skills required and grow your business online at minimal cost!