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 world wide web, your website, your pages and even your web 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 content that will require having coding expertise.

HTML is one of the “code” languages that is used throughout the web, web sites, blog pages and formatting web content.

You don’t need to know HTML in order to use WordPress. 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 web editor that lets you compose and easily format content just by clicking on a few menu buttons.

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

A Useful Guide To Formatting Content With HTML For WordPress Users

You don’t need to know HTML in order to use WordPress, but having some practical familiarity with HTML is a handy skill to have as a WordPress user!

A Beginner’s Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For WordPress Users – Step-By-Step Tutorial

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

Imagine that:

  • You want to edit your existing content, add formatted text and an image into an area of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to a contact page, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really quickly and easily with no assistance from others.
  • You outsource some content writing to a freelance writer and get back files containing formatted text. Having some basic knowledge of HTML helps you understand the work before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone creates your site’s content. You see a couple of mistakes in the text, like a word that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink pointing to the wrong destination URL. Knowing basic HTML helps you edit and 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 your website developer. Knowing a little HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help you better negotiate projects with web service providers.

A Basic Guide To HTML

You don’t need to become a code-loving web geek – just be familiar enough with 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 subject to change and evolution, and sometimes these changes will no doubt have an impact on 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 a number of older tags become obsolete, you can expect that WordPress will also continue updating its software in order to ensure compatibility with industry-wide coding standards.

How To Use HTML Tags To Format Content In WordPress

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

Built-In WordPress Text Editor

Default WordPress HTML Content Editor

Important Info

We cover the WordPress Visual Editor and creating posts and pages in separate tutorials.

What HTML Formatting Tags Are Allowed In Posts And Pages?

WordPress lets you add many widely-used HTML tags, such as the following:

Common HTML Tags - WordPress

Common HTML Formatting Tags Allowed In WordPress

The diagram below shows a few practical text formatting examples using a number of the HTML tags listed in the chart above …

HTML Used In WordPress Content

Using HTML In WordPress

Useful Tip

To learn more about using HTML, go here:

HTML – Free Tutorials

WordPress Text Editor

The WordPress Text Editor lets you see, edit and work with HTML and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) in the content.

By default, the Text Editor comes with a number of standard buttons in its menu …

WordPress Text Content Editor

WordPress Text Editor Features

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this HTML tag for strong text emphasis (i.e. bold).
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag to italicize text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Choosing this menu button adds a hyperlink to any highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Select this button to quote or cite highlighted text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to mark text considered as being deleted from your content. Many web browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to mark 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" /> Click this button to 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 images into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Use this HTML tag to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists typically 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> This HTML tag is used to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are usually numbered (just like the list you are seeing 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> This HTML tag is used 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. missing text). Note: content selected within the <code> tags usually will appear using a different styling of text, 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 sections. For example, if you add one or two paragraphs, then insert the “more” tag and compose the remainder of your post content, readers will only see the first paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which if clicked on, will display the rest of your post.
  13. Close Tags button – This menu button closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this function to ensure that all HTML tags have correctly formatted your text.
  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 mode.
  15. Add Media button – 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.

WordPress Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode

With “Distraction-Free Writing Mode” [#14] everything but your editor disappears, leaving only the content you’re working on showing in your screen.

Useful Tips Related To Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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

For example, a popular HTML editor software application you can download at no cost 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 touch any code at all or use an external HTML content application, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build HTML-based content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive Content Builder

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

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

Tutorial: How To Add HTML-Formatted Content To The “About Yourself” Section Of Your Profile

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

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

WordPress WYSIWYG Editor

WordPress Visual Content Editor

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

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

By default, whenever you publish a post in WordPress, a link to the author displays somewhere in your posts (i.e. at the bottom or top of the post) …

Author Page Link In WordPress

Author Page Link In WordPress Blog Post

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where blog readers can learn more information about you (or other authors registered as users on your site) and view 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 profile and promote yourself, your services and products, social media pages, other sites you own, etc. to your blog readers …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text box lets you add HTML-formatted content, it doesn’t provide you with 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 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 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 over one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and remember to include a call to action to help your readers further engage with you or your business …

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

next, go to your profile by selecting Users > Your Profile in your main menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

Remember to click the Update Profile button to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

Congratulations … You have just created an author bio for your blog posts and formatted it using basic HTML!

Author Profile

To learn more about editing your profile settings, refer to this tutorial: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As we’ve already mentioned, you don’t need to learn HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to have a little basic knowledge of HTML.

Useful Tip


Tip #1 – If you would like to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. section boxes, three-column paragraphs, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML snippets …

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

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

Tip #2 (Advanced WP User): You can expand the function of your WordPress Content Editor using several WordPress 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 HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

WP 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 - 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 section 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 JavaScript or a CSS block to your content.


Raw HTML – WordPress Plugin. (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 tags correctly in the Text Tab, not in the Visual Editor.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

This is what your text will look like when your post is published …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting 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 into 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 a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as iframe, object 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 saving your new profile settings, go back 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 the 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 doesn’t 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 possible causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. perform a new site installation)
  • Contacting your web host for help


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


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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!

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