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 Formatting Content With HTML For WordPress UsersThe web, your website, your web pages and even your web content are all built and driven by a language of code.

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

HTML is one of the “code” languages used throughout the web, websites, blog pages and also 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 a powerful, built-in content that allows you to compose and easily format content just by clicking on a few buttons.

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

Using HTML In WordPress

You don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress, but having some HTML knowledge can be quite useful as a WordPress user!

HTML Tags – A Primer For WordPress Beginners – Step-By-Step Tutorial

If you are running your own website, it’s good to have a bit of HTML knowledge when creating, editing or formatting content in WordPress.

For example, let’s say that:

  • You want to edit your existing content, insert a text link and an image in an area of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to your contact form, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really easily and quickly without additional costs and delays involved.
  • You outsource content work to a freelance copywriter and get back files that contain formatted text. Having a little knowledge of HTML helps you better understand the content before you sign off on the work.
  • Someone else creates content for your site. You spot a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a word that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink pointing to an incorrect destination. Knowing basic HTML can help you edit and fix simple mistakes in your posts 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 your website development team. Having some knowledge of HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help prevent you from being taken for a ride by unscrupulous technical service providers.

A Basic Guide To HTML Tags For Beginners

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

What Is HTML?

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 in the digital realm, HTML is also subject to frequent change, and sometimes these changes will no doubt 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 new advances in software and web browser technology. As a number of older tags are being phased out of HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue to update its code in order to ensure compatibility with industry-wide standards.

How To Use HTML Tags In Your WordPress Post Content

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

Built-In WP HTML Editor

WP HTML Editor

Important Info

We cover the WordPress Visual Editor and how to create pages and posts in other tutorials.

What HTML Tags Can Be Inserted Into WordPress Posts & Pages?

The WordPress Content Management System (CMS) lets you insert most common HTML formatting tags, such as the following:

Common HTML - WordPress

WordPress HTML Formatting Tags

Here are several useful text formatting examples using the HTML tags displayed in the chart above …

Formatting WordPress Content With HTML Tags

HTML Tags Used In WordPress

Practical Tip

If you would like to learn some more HTML, go here:

HTML – Free Tutorials

WordPress Text Content Editor Menu

The WordPress Text Editor enables you to see, edit and work with HTML code and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when inputting content into posts and pages.

Out of the box, the WordPress Text (HTML) Editor displays a number of standard menu features …

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu Features

WordPress Text Editor Features

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this HTML tag for strong emphasis of text (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> Use this HTML tag to add a hyperlink to any selected text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Click this menu button to quote or cite text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to indicate text considered as being deleted from a post. Most browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to mark text that has been inserted into a page or post. Many browsers typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> Select this menu 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 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 content. Unordered lists usually appear as a list of items preceded by bullets. 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> 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 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> Use this HTML tag 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 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 button to break a blog post into “teaser” and main content areas. For example, if you add one or two paragraphs, then insert this tag and compose the remainder of your post, readers will only be able to see the first couple of paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which will bring up the rest of the post if clicked on.
  13. close tags – Closes any open HTML tags left in your content. 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” 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 return 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’re in the Visual or Text editor tabs.

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 in your screen.

Some Useful Tips About Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

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 editor software tool you can download at no cost is KompoZer.

Kompozer - 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 in this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into WordPress.

Another option, if you don’t want to mess with any code or use an external HTML content editor, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build content inside WordPress itself.

Content Builder - WordPress Plugin

Thrive Content Builder – WordPress Plugin

To learn more about this plugin, see this article: Thrive Content Builder

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 edit content that may contain HTML into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author profile, etc.), then refer to the useful tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading software.

Useful Tip: Adding Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Section Of Your Profile

In WordPress, there are locations like text “widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” section in your User Profile screen that let you insert content formatted with HTML.

These areas, however, don’t come with a content editor like the Visual/Text editor found inside your Posts and Pages screens …

WordPress Visual Content Editor

WordPress Visual Editor

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

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

Typically, whenever a post is published in WordPress, a link to the author is displayed somewhere in your posts (i.e. at the bottom or top of the post) …

Author Page Link In WordPress Blog Post

Author Page Link In WordPress

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where they can learn more information 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 hyperlinks and simple text formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author profile and promote yourself, your business, social media pages, other websites you own, etc. to your site visitors …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text box 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 somewhere else, then copy and paste it in …

About Yourself

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

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

In this case, we want to create an author description

Creating An Author Description

Next, format the content inside the Visual Editor tab. 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 things simple – use bold, italics and anchor text hyperlinks sparingly across one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and remember to include a useful link for your readers …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working in the Visual Editor screen until you have completed 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 admin menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

Remember to click Update Profile to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

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

Author Profile

To learn how to edit your profile settings, see this ”how to” article: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

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

Tip

Tips

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

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 for non-technical WP users here: Cut & Paste HTML Resources

Tip #2 (Advanced WordPress User): You can enhance the functionality of your WordPress Content Editor using several plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML lets you 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 can break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By inputting the code inside the plugin’s custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output the exact HTML-formatted content to your post or page.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WordPress Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a free WordPress plugin you can add to your website that lets you 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 …

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

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

Here is another free WordPress plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

Raw HTML - WordPress 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, 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 also very useful if you need to add JavaScript or a CSS block to your post.

Raw HTML

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

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

This is what your text will look like 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).

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 in the Text Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

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 frame, textarea and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any problems when adding commonly-used 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 settings, return to your page or post and re-paste the content with the problematic HTML tags, then republish your post.

If the above suggestion fixes the issue, return to the Profile screen, reactivate your Visual Editor, and see if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Tip

Note: If the above suggestion does not fix the issue and you continue experiencing problems adding HTML code to your site, then you should 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

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

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"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)

Disclaimer: We have no direct association with WordPress or any WordPress products promoted on this website. We may derive a financial benefit or affiliate commission from sales of any products and/or services advertised, promoted or linked from this site. All images remain the copyright of their respective owners, comply with all license terms and agreements of use to the best of our knowledge and are used solely for illustrative or training purposes.

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and has authored hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for 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.