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 For WordPress UsersThe web, your website, your pages and even your content are all built and powered by code.

It is inevitable, then, that sooner or later, you will probably 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 main “code” languages that is used to build the web, web sites, web pages and even web content.

One of the great things about using a WordPress-driven website or blog is that you don’t have to learn HTML in order to create and format content for your blog’s posts and pages. 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 editor that lets you create and easily format your content simply by clicking on a few buttons.

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

Using Formatting Content Using HTML In WordPress

You don’t need to know HTML to use WordPress, but having a little bit of knowledge of HTML is very useful as a WordPress user!

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress – Tutorial

If you are running your own website, having a little knowledge of HTML can help save you time and money in various ways.

Imagine that:

  • You would like 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 your contact page, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this very easily without having to pay someone else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content work to a freelance copywriter and receive back files that contain formatted content. Having a little knowledge of HTML can help you understand the work before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone else creates your site’s content. You spot a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a word or phrase that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your copy. Knowing some basic HTML will help you correct simple mistakes in your posts 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 new project with your web developer. Knowing some basic HTML not only can help 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.

HTML Tags Basics For Non-Technical WordPress Users

You don’t need to become a technical web geek – just have enough knowledge of 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 subject to changes, and sometimes these changes will 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 several new “tags” to remain up-to-date with new advances in web applications and browser technology. As several tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress become obsolete, you can expect that WordPress will also continue updating its code to stay compatible with industry-wide standards.

How To Use HTML Formatting Tags In Your WordPress Content

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

WP Text Content Editor

Built-In WP HTML Editor

Useful Info

We cover the WordPress Visual Editor and adding content to posts and pages in separate tutorials.

What HTML Is Allowed In WordPress?

The WordPress Text editor allows you to insert most common HTML formatting tags, including the ones shown in the table below:

HTML Tags Allowed In WordPress


Here are a few simple content formatting examples that use the HTML tags listed above …

HTML Usage In WordPress

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress


To learn more about using HTML, visit the website below:

The WordPress Text Content Editor Menu Explained

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

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

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Features

WordPress Text Content Editor

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button to make your text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag for text emphasis (i.e. italicize).
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Choosing this menu button adds 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 highlight text considered as having been deleted from the current content. Many web browsers typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to mark text considered as having been inserted into the current 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” description (a text description of your image in case the image is not displayed 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> Select this button to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists usually display as a list of items preceded by bullets. Note: use this tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display correctly.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> This HTML tag is used to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are normally numbered (just like the list you are seeing right now!). Note: this HTML tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  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> Choose this button 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. broken text). Note: any content added inside the <code> tags typically will display using a different text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> Use this tag to break your blog post into “teaser” and main body areas. For example, if you add one or two paragraphs, then add the “more” tag and compose the remainder of your post, users will only be able to see the first few paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which when clicked on, will then bring up the rest of your post’s content.
  13. close tags button – This menu button 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 “full screen” 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

Click on “Distraction-Free Writing Mode” [#14] and everything but your editor fades away, removing all distractions from your screen.

Useful Tips Related To Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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

For example, a popular HTML software application you can download at no cost is KompoZer.

Kompozer - Free 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 with 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 editor, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build your HTML content inside WordPress itself.

Content Builder - Plugin For WordPress

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

Quick Tutorial: Adding HTML-Formatted Content To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your User Profile

In your WordPress site, there are some areas like text “widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” text field in your User Profile screen that allow you to insert content formatted with HTML.

These areas, however, don’t provide a content editor like the Visual Content editor found in your Posts and Pages screens (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 simply paste it into these other areas.

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

Normally, whenever a post is published 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

Link To Author Page In WordPress

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where blog readers can learn more information about you (or other registered users) and see other articles 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 bold and italicized text to enhance your author bio and promote yourself, your products, social media pages, other sites that you own, etc. to your blog readers …

Author Profile

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

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 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.

First, create a new post and type your content inside the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author bio

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 it simple – use bold, italics and text hyperlinks sparingly across one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and include a useful link for your readers …

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 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

Go to your profile area by selecting Users > Your Profile from 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 how to edit your profile settings, see this tutorial: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As we’ve already mentioned, you don’t have to learn 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. highlighted segments, review tables, 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 here:

Tip #2 (Advanced WordPress User): You can expand the function of your WordPress Content Editor using various plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - Plugin For WP

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

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

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

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a free plugin you can add to your website that enables you to have better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, as well as add custom buttons and additional functions to the text editor …

WordPress Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Here’s another free plugin you can use …


Raw HTML - WP Plugin

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

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 JavaScript or a CSS block to your content.

Raw HTML - WordPress Plugin

Raw HTML. (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 Tab.

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 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 the code in the Text Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Now … when your post is published, you will find that your text has been formatted correctly …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Tip #4 (Advanced WordPress User): By default, WordPress does not allow some HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as embed, form and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any issues when adding commonly-used HTML tags into 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 saving your 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, go back to the User Profile area, reactivate the Visual Editor, and check if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Useful Tip

Note: If the above suggestion doesn’t fix the issue and you continue experiencing problems adding HTML code to your site, 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 possible causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. performing a clean installation)
  • Contacting your webhosting company for help

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


"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

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