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 web pages and even your content are built and powered by a language of code.

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

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

One of the great things about using WordPress is that you don’t have to know HTML in order to create and format content in your blog’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 compose and easily format your content simply by clicking on a few menu buttons.

As you will discover below, it’s good to have a little bit of knowledge of HTML when composing, editing or formatting content on your WordPress-driven site. A basic knowledge of HTML can also save you time and money.

HTML Formatting Tags Basics For Non-Geek WordPress Users

You don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress, but having some practical familiarity with HTML can be a handy skill to have as a WordPress user!

A Useful Guide To HTML For WordPress Newbies – Tutorial

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

Imagine, for example, that:

  • You would like to edit your existing content, insert a text link and an image to 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 easily without having to pay somebody else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content writing to a freelance writer and receive back files containing formatted text. Knowing a little bit of HTML can help you better proof and review the quality of your content before you accept the work.
  • Someone else creates content for your site. You spot a couple of mistakes in the text, like a passage that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your copy. Having some basic knowledge of HTML can help you change and fix 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 want to discuss changes on your site with a website developer. Knowing a little HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it also helps you feel and sound more confident and knowledgeable when presenting your ideas or making requests for changes to your site.

A Useful Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For WordPress Users

You don’t need to become a code-loving web programmer – just have enough knowledge of HTML to be a “web-savvy” business owner!

HTML – What Does It Mean?

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

Info

Important: Like everything in the digital realm, HTML is also subject to developmental change and evolution, and some of these changes will no doubt have an impact on 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 keep up with the latest advances in web applications and browser technology. As several older tags become obsolete, you should expect that WordPress will also keep updating its code to ensure compatibility with industry-wide HTML standards.

Using HTML Tags In WordPress

WordPress gives you the option of adding content to 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 code like HTML and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when composing or editing your content …

Default WP Text Content Editor

Built-In WordPress Text Content Editor

Important

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

HTML Tags Allowed By WordPress

The WordPress Content Management System (CMS) lets you add various common HTML formatting tags, including the tags listed in the table below:

Common HTML

Common HTML Formatting Tags Allowed In WordPress

Below are a few useful text formatting examples that use the HTML tags displayed in the illustration above …

Formatting WordPress Content With Common HTML Formatting Tags

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress Content

Tip

To learn more about using HTML, go here:

WordPress Text Editor

The WordPress Text Editor allows you to see, edit and work with code like HTML and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when inputting content into pages and posts.

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

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Menu

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag to add italics to your text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> click this menu button to add a hyperlink to any 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 that has been deleted from the existing content. Many browsers will typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to label text that has been inserted into the current page. Many browsers 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” description (a text description of your image in case the image does not display in your visitor’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 post. Unordered lists normally appear 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> Select this menu button to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are normally 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 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 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. broken text). Note: the content selected within the <code> tags generally will display using a preformatted text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> This function breaks a blog post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” sections. For example, if you type a couple of paragraphs, then add this tag and add the remainder of your post content, visitors will only see the first paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which brings up the rest of your post’s content if clicked on.
  13. close tags – Closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this function to make sure 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” mode. Click the button again to revert to the normal text editor mode.
  15. Add Media – 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 screens.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

WordPress Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Useful Tips About Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

If you plan to learn and use HTML, there are several Free or inexpensive HTML software applications you can download and use when getting started.

A popular free HTML editor software application, for example, 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 WordPress.

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

Content Builder - Plugin For WordPress

Content Builder – Plugin For WordPress

To learn more about this plugin, see this article:

If you have no need or desire for doing any kind of work that involves editing code, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and format content that may contain HTML into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author biography, etc.), then see the quick tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML-editing tools.

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

In your WordPress site, there are some areas like text “widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” text area in your User Profile section that let you insert HTML tags.

These sections, however, don’t come with their own content editor like the Visual/Text 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 editor to compose your HTML-formatted text, and then 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 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

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 see other articles that you (or other authors) have published …

WordPress Author Archives Section

Note: As the above screenshot illustrates, you can add links and simple formatting like italics and bold text to enhance your author description and promote yourself, your business, social media pages, other websites that you own, etc. to your blog readers …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text box 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 content with the HTML already embedded in it …

About Yourself

Let’s “paste the content” into this field using the method described below.

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 your 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 text hyperlinks sparingly across one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and include a call to action to help your readers engage further with you or your business …

Creating An Author Description

Continue working in the Visual Editor tab until you have completed 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 area by selecting Users > Your Profile from the main 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

Remember to 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, refer to this ”how to” article: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As mentioned earlier, you don’t have to learn HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to know the basics of HTML.

Tip

Tips

Tip #1 – If you plan to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. section boxes, review tables, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML tools …

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

Learn about a time-saving “cut & paste” HTML resource we recommend here:

Tip #2 (Advanced WP User): You can expand the functionality of your WordPress Text Editor using several WordPress 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 - Plugin For WordPress

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WP Plugin - 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, and add custom buttons and additional functions to your text editor …

WordPress Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Here’s another free WordPress plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

Raw HTML

Raw HTML lets you disable automatic formatting like automatic paragraph creation and smart quotes, and use raw HTML/JS/CSS code in your posts without WordPress messing it up.

With this plugin, any part of your post can be wrapped in [raw]…[/raw] tags to prevent 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 - WordPress Plugin

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 Tab, not in the Visual Editor.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting HTML 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).

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 the 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 WordPress User): By default, WordPress doesn’t 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 saving your profile 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 the User Profile page, reactivate the Visual Editor, and see if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Tip

Note: If the above suggestion does not fix the issue and you continue experiencing problems adding HTML code to your content, 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. perform a clean site installation)
  • Contacting your web hosting company for help

Congratulations! Now you know how to use basic HTML to format and style your content.

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"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum

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