A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

An HTML Formatting Tags Primer For Non-Technical WordPress UsersThe web, your website, your pages and even your web content are all built and powered by code.

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

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

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

This article provides a practical reference guide for WordPress newbies containing most of the basic HTML codes you should be familiar with to format content in your blog’s pages.

A Beginner's Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

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

If you are managing your own website, having a practical knowledge of HTML can help you save time and money in a number of different ways.

Let’s say that:

  • You want to edit your existing content, insert formatted text and an image in an area of your sidebar, or direct visitors to your contact page, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really quickly without help from others.
  • You outsource work to a freelance copywriter and get back files containing formatted content. Knowing some basic HTML helps you understand the work before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone else creates your web content. You see a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a word or phrase that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink pointing to the wrong destination. Knowing a little bit of HTML helps you correct simple things in your copy without delay, and without needing to go and ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You need to discuss new project or requirement with a web designer. Knowing basic 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 discussing ideas or making requests for changes to your website.

A Beginner's Guide To Using HTML Tags In WordPress

You don’t need to become a technical web programmer – just learn enough HTML to be a “web-smart” business owner!

HTML – What Is It?

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 everything else, HTML is also subject to developmental change and evolution, and some of these changes will affect 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 software and browser technology. As some of the older tags get dropped from HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue to update its code in order to stay compatible with industry-wide HTML standards.

How To Use HTML In Your WordPress Pages And Posts

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

Built-In WP HTML Editor

WordPress HTML Editor

Important Info

We discuss the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and how to add content to posts and pages in separate articles.

HTML Formatting Tags Allowed By WordPress

The WordPress Text editor allows you to add various commonly-used HTML formatting tags, such as the following:

Basic HTML - WordPress

WordPress HTML

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

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

HTML Tags Used In WordPress Content

Useful Tip

If you are interested in learning more about using HTML, visit the website below:

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Features

The WordPress Text Editor allows users to add, edit and work with code like HTML and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) in the content.

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

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Menu Buttons

WordPress Text Content Editor

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button if you want to make your text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button to italicize text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> choose this 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 label text that has been deleted from a page or post. Most web browsers typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to mark text that has been inserted into a post. Many web 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” tag (a text description of your image in case the image is not rendered in your visitor’s web browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert an image into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> This HTML tag is used to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists typically appear as a bullet-list. Note: use this tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> Select this button to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are usually numbered (just like the list you are reading right now!). Note: this formatting tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  10. li: <li></li> Use this HTML tag 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> Select this menu button 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 convert your tags and you will get errors (e.g. missing text). Note: any content enclosed in the <code> tags generally 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 function will break your blog post into “teaser” and main content sections. For example, if you add a couple of paragraphs, then insert the “more” tag and add the remaining section of your post content, users will only be able to see the first paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which brings up the rest of the post if clicked on.
  13. Close Tags button – Closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this function to ensure that all 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” writing mode. Click the button again to return to the normal text editor display.
  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.

WordPress Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Useful Tips Related To Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

If you plan to go beyond just knowing the basics of HTML, like simple text formatting, there are several Free or inexpensive HTML software applications that you can download and use when getting started.

A popular free HTML software application, 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 your WordPress 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 your content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive 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 technical coding, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and format content containing HTML into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts and pages (e.g. your sidebar, author profile, etc.), then see the useful tutorial below for a really simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML software.

Tutorial: How To Add Formatted Content To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your Profile

In your WordPress site, there are locations like ”widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” section in your User Profile section that allow you to use HTML tags.

These sections, however, don’t come with a content editor like the Visual/Text editor found inside 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 Visual Content Editor

You can still use the WordPress Visual 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.

Normally, whenever a post is published on your WordPress site, 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

Link To Author Page 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 you can see from the above screenshot, you can add links and simple text formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author profile and promote yourself, your business, social media pages, other websites that you own, etc. to all of your site visitors …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text area 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 field, or create it somewhere else, then copy and paste it in …

About Yourself

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

Create a new post and type your content in the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author bio

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

Creating An Author Description

Keep working in the Visual Editor tab until you have added all of the formatting you want to add to your author profile content …

Author Description

After composing your content, 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 the admin menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

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

As mentioned earlier, 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 plan to add more complex formatted elements to your content (e.g. section boxes, 3-column paragraphs, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML resources …

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

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

Tip #2 (Advanced WP User): You can expand the functionality of your WordPress Text Editor using a number of plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

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

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WP Plugin

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

Here’s another free WordPress 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, 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 very useful if you need to add a CSS block or JavaScript to your post.

Raw HTML - Plugin For WordPress

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 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 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 the code into the Text Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Now … when you publish your post, you should find that your text formatting is correct …

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 frame, textarea 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 updating your 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 the User Profile, reactivate the 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 site, you may need to 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 probable causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. performing a clean installation)
  • Contacting your webhosting company for help

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


"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com


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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 tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

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