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 In WordPressThe web, your web site, your pages and even your web content are all built and powered by a language of code.

It is inevitable, then, that at some point, you may probably need something done for your business online, for your website, or in your web content that requires having knowledge of code.

HTML is one of the main “code” languages used to power the web, web sites, web pages and your 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 create and easily format content just by clicking on a few menu buttons.

This article provides a practical reference guide for beginners containing basic HTML codes you can use in WordPress.

A Beginner's Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

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

As mentioned earlier, it’s useful to have a basic knowledge of HTML when creating, editing or formatting content for WordPress.

Imagine, for example, that:

  • You would like to adjust certain elements in your existing content, insert a text link and an image to a section of your sidebar, or direct visitors to your contact page, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you know basic HTML, you can do this really quickly without having to pay somebody else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content work to a freelance article writer and get back files containing HTML formatting. Knowing basic HTML helps you understand the writer’s work before you sign off on the work.
  • Someone else creates your site’s content. You spot a couple of mistakes in the text, like a line of text that should have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your copy. Knowing some basic HTML can help you change and correct simple mistakes in your posts or pages very quickly without needing to go and 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 web development team. Having some knowledge of HTML not only can help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help you better negotiate projects with technical service providers.

Using Formatting Content With HTML In WordPress

You don’t need to become a technical web developer – just have enough knowledge of HTML to be a “web-savvy” 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 everything in the digital realm, HTML is also subject to developmental change and evolution, and some of these changes will no doubt affect WordPress.

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

How To Use HTML Formatting Tags In Your WordPress Posts

WordPress provides users with a option of adding content to your pages and posts with its 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 work directly with HTML and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when composing or editing your content …

Default WordPress Text Editor

WordPress Text Editor

Useful Information

We discuss the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and creating pages and posts in other articles.

What HTML Can Be Inserted Into WordPress Pages & Posts?

WordPress lets you use many common HTML tags, such as the following:

WordPress HTML Formatting Tags

HTML Tags – WordPress

Below are several practical text formatting examples using the HTML tags listed above …

Formatting WordPress Content With HTML Tags

HTML Formatting Tags Used In WordPress Content


If you would like to learn more about HTML, visit the site below:

The WordPress Text Content Editor Menu Explained

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

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

WordPress Text Content Editor

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this HTML tag for strong emphasis of text (i.e. bold).
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button to format your text using italics.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Clicking 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 indicate text considered as having been inserted into your content. Most 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 does not render 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> This HTML tag is used to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists typically appear as a bullet-list. Note: this HTML tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> Choose this button to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are normally numbered (just like the list you are seeing right now!). Note: this tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  10. li: <li></li> Select 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 convert your tags and you will get errors (e.g. broken text). Note: the content selected within the <code> tags normally will appear using a preformatted text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> Use this function to break your post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” areas. For example, if you type a couple of paragraphs, then insert the “more” tag and compose the remaining section of your post, users will only be able to read the first paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which if clicked on, will then display the rest of your post.
  13. close tags button – This button closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this function to ensure that all tags have formatted your text correctly.
  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 “full screen” mode. Click the button again to revert to the normal 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

Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips Related To Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

If you plan to go beyond just knowing the basics of HTML, like simple text formatting, 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 – 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 builder, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive Content Builder

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

Useful Tip: How To Add Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your Profile

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

These sections, 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 Visual Content Editor

You can still use the WordPress Visual editor to compose HTML-formatted text, and paste it into those areas.

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

Typically, whenever a post is published in your WordPress site, a link to the author is displayed 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 Blog Post

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 blog posts 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 formatting like italics and bold text to enhance your author bio box and promote yourself, your products, social media pages, other online properties that you own, etc. to your site visitors …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text area 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 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 can only use simple formatting in your author description such as hyperlinks, bold, underline and italicized text, so keep the formatting simple – use bold, italics and text links sparingly across one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and remember to include a useful link for your readers …

Creating An Author Description

Continue working in the Visual Editor tab until you have completed your author profile content …

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

Go to your profile area by selecting Users > Your Profile from the main navigation menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

Remember to click Update Profile to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

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

Author Profile

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

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



Tip #1 – If you plan to add more complex styled elements to your content (e.g. pull quotes, pricing boxes, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML resources …

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

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

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

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WP Plugin

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

WordPress HTML - WP Plugin

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WordPress Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

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

Here’s another free WordPress plugin you can use …


Raw HTML - WP Plugin

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 installed, you can wrap any part of your post 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 need to add a CSS block or JavaScript to your post.

Raw HTML - WP 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 Tab, not in the Visual Tab.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting HTML Errors

You can see 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 the code in the Text Editor …

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 doesn’t allow some HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as embed, object and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any issues when adding common HTML tags to 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, return to your post or page 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 area, reactivate the 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 continue experiencing problems adding HTML code to your content, 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. you may need to perform a clean installation)
  • Contacting your hosting provider 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 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.