A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

HTML Formatting Tags - A Primer For WordPress BeginnersThe web, your website, your web pages and even your web content are built and powered by code.

It is inevitable, then, that at some point, you may run into a situation where you will need something done for your business online, for your web site, or in your content that requires having some knowledge of code.

HTML is one of the “code” languages used to power the web, web sites, web pages and web content.

One of the best things about using WordPress is that you don’t need to know HTML to create and format content in your pages and posts. 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 just by clicking on a few buttons.

In this step-by-step tutorial you will learn the basic HTML codes you can use in your WordPress content.

Using HTML In WordPress

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

Using HTML Tags In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial

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

Let’s say 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, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this very quickly and easily without having to pay somebody else to do this for you.
  • You outsource some content writing to a freelancer and get back files that contain HTML formatting. Knowing some basic HTML can help you proof and review the quality of the writer’s work before you sign off on the work.
  • Someone else creates your web content. You spot a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a word that should have been made bold, or a hyperlink that is pointing to an incorrect destination. Having some basic knowledge of HTML will help you edit and fix simple errors in your blog posts and pages without delay, and without needing to ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You need to discuss changes on your site with a website developer. Knowing basic HTML not only will help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help you better negotiate projects with web service providers.

HTML Formatting Tags Basics For WordPress Beginners

You don’t need to become a code-loving web developer – just have enough knowledge of basic 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

Useful Info

Important: Like everything else on the web, HTML is also subject to changes on a regular basis, and some of these changes will have an impact on WordPress.

Currently, the latest version of HTML is 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 some of the tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress get dropped from HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue to update its software to stay compatible with industry-wide coding standards.

Using HTML Tags To Format Your Content

WordPress provides users with a choice of adding content to posts and pages with its 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 …

Built-In WP HTML Editor

Built-In WP Text Editor

Important Info

We cover the WordPress Visual Editor and adding content to pages and posts in separate ”how to” articles.

What HTML Tags Are Allowed In WordPress Posts And Pages?

WordPress allows you to insert a range of common HTML tags, such as the following:

Basic HTML Tags Allowed In WordPress

WordPress HTML

The diagram below shows some simple content formatting examples using the HTML tags listed in the chart above …

Using Common HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

Formatting WordPress Content With HTML Formatting Tags

Tip

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

Free HTML Tutorials

The WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu Explained

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

Out of the box, the WordPress Text Editor comes with a standard set of menu features …

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor

Here is a brief description of the function of each of the Text Editor buttons 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 add italics to your text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> click this menu button to add a hyperlink to your highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Use this HTML tag for quoted or cited text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to indicate text that has been deleted from your existing content. Many browsers will typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to highlight text that has been inserted into a post or page. 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” description (a text description of your image in case the image does not render in your visitor’s web browser. 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 usually appear 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 typically numbered (just like the list you are seeing now!). Note: use this formatting tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display.
  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 added inside the <code> tags normally 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 menu button breaks a blog post into “teaser” and main content sections. For example, if you add a few paragraphs, then add this tag and compose the remaining section of your post, readers will only be able to see the first paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which if clicked on, will then display the rest of your post’s content.
  13. close tags – This menu button closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this feature to ensure that all tags have formatted your text correctly.
  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” writing mode. Click the button again to revert 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.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

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

Useful Tips About Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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

A popular free HTML software tool, for example, is KompoZer.

Kompozer - Free HTML Editor

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 with this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into your WP posts or pages.

Another option, if you don’t want to mess around with code or use an external HTML content builder, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build HTML 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 any kind of work that involves editing code, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and edit content containing basic HTML into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts and pages (e.g. your sidebar, author biography, etc.), then refer to the useful tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML-editing tools.

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

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

These sections, 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/Text Editor

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

Let’s go through an example, so you can see how this can easily 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) …

Link To Author Page In WordPress Post

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 registered users) and view other blog posts that you (or other authors) have published …

WordPress Author Archives Section

Note: As the above screenshot illustrates, you can add hyperlinks and simple formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author resource box and promote yourself, your services and products, social media pages, other sites that you own, etc. to your blog readers …

Author Profile

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

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 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 inside the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author bio

Creating An Author Description

Next, format your content inside the Visual Editor tab. 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 anchor text links sparingly across one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and remember to include a call to action for your readers …

Creating An Author Description

Continue working inside the Visual Editor tab until you have written 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 area by selecting Users > Your Profile from the main 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 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, see this tutorial: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As mentioned earlier, you don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to have a little basic knowledge of HTML.

Practical Tip

Tips

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

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

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 a number of plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML

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

WordPress HTML - Plugin For WP

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

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a WP plugin you can add to your site that lets you have 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

WP Plugin – Extensible HTML Editor Buttons. (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, 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 content.

Raw HTML

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 type the following text in the Visual Content Editor …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Your text will look like this 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).

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 into 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 WP User): By default, WordPress does not allow some HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as frame, 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 section …

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and saving 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, go back to the User Profile, reactivate your Visual Editor, and see 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 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. performing a new installation)
  • Contacting your web host for assistance

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

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"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for beginners. Our detailed step-by-step tutorials will save you money and teach you how to start, manage, and grow a website or blog using WordPress that puts you in complete control and delivers results with no coding skills required!

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