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 Tags In WordPressThe web, your web site, your web pages and even your web content are all 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 pages that requires having some knowledge of code.

HTML is one of the “code” languages that is used to build the web, web sites, blog pages and even 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 create and easily format content simply by clicking on a few buttons.

In this tutorial you will learn the basic HTML codes you can use to format content in WordPress.

Using Formatting Content With HTML In WordPress

You don’t have to know HTML in order to use WordPress, but having some basic HTML knowledge can be a handy skill to have as a WordPress user!

A Beginner’s Guide To Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress – Tutorial

If you are running your own web presence, it’s useful to have some basic knowledge of HTML when composing, changing or formatting content in WordPress.

Let’s say that:

  • You would like to adjust certain elements in your existing content, add formatted text and an image in a section of your sidebar, or direct visitors to a contact page, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this very quickly with no professional help needed.
  • You outsource work to a freelancer and get back files containing formatted text. Having some basic knowledge of HTML helps you proof, understand and review the quality of the work before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone else creates your site’s content. You see a couple of basic mistakes in the text, like a word that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink pointing to the wrong destination URL. Knowing a little HTML can help you change and fix simple mistakes in your pages or 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 with a website developer. Knowing a little bit of HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help prevent you from being taken advantage of.

A Useful Guide To Formatting Content With HTML

You don’t need to become a code-loving web geek – just have enough knowledge of HTML to be a “web-savvy” business owner!

HTML – What Does It Mean?

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 Info

Important: Like everything else on the web, HTML is subject to change and evolution, and some of 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 several new “tags” to remain up-to-date with new advances in web applications and web browser technology. As a number of tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress get dropped from HTML5, you can expect that WordPress will also keep updating its code in order to ensure compatibility with industry-wide coding standards.

How To Use HTML Tags To Format Content In Your WordPress Pages And Posts

WordPress gives you the choice of adding content to pages and posts with a 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 code and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when composing or editing your content …

Default WP HTML Editor

WordPress HTML Editor

Important Info

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

What HTML Tags Are Allowed In WordPress Posts And Pages?

The WordPress Text editor allows you to use most widely-used HTML tags, including the ones below:

HTML Allowed In WordPress

WordPress HTML Formatting Tags

Here are a few practical text formatting examples that use some of the HTML tags listed above …

HTML Formatting Tags Usage In WordPress - Examples

Using Basic HTML In WordPress

Practical Tip

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

The WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Menu Explained

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

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

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Features

WordPress Text Content Editor Features

Below is a brief description of the function of each of the Text Editor menu buttons with their corresponding HTML formatting tag (see 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 button to italicize text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Use this HTML tag to add a hyperlink to your selected text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Select this menu button to quote or cite selected text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to indicate text that has been deleted from a post. Most web 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" /> 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 display 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 post. Unordered lists generally display as a bullet-list. Note: use this formatting tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work correctly.
  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 reading now!). Note: use this formatting tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work correctly.
  10. li: <li></li> Click this 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. missing text). Note: any content enclosed in the <code> tags typically 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--> Use this menu button to break a post into “teaser” and main body areas. For example, if you add a few paragraphs, then insert this tag and add the rest of your post content, visitors will only be able to see the first paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which displays the rest of the post’s content if clicked on.
  13. close tags – Closes any open HTML tags left in your content. 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” 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 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 appears whether you’ve chosen the Visual or Text editor tabs.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

WordPress Content Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips About Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

If you plan to use HTML extensively, there are several Free HTML software tools that 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

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 WordPress.

Another option, if you don’t want to touch any code at all or use an external HTML content tool, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build HTML-based content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder - Plugin For WordPress

Thrive Content Builder – WordPress Plugin

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 containing basic HTML tags into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author bio, etc.), then see the tutorial below for a really simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML software.

Tutorial: Adding HTML-Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Section Of Your Profile

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

These sections, however, don’t come with a content editor like the Visual editor found in your Posts and Pages areas (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/Text Editor

WordPress WYSIWYG Editor

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

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

Normally, 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) …

Link To Author Page In WordPress

Link To Author Page In WordPress Blog Post

Clicking on the author link takes you to the Author Archives section, where blog readers can learn more information about you (or other registered users) 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 hyperlinks and simple text formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author bio and promote yourself, your business, social media pages, other websites that you own, etc. to your site visitors …

Author Profile

The author profile 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 provide you with a content editor, so you have to either know how to type HTML code directly into the text area, or create it in an HTML editor, 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 in the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author bio

Creating An Author Description

Next, format the 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 it 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 to help your readers further engage with you and your business …

Creating An Author Description

Continue working in the Visual Editor screen until you have added all of the formatting you want to display in 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 the admin menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

Click Update Profile to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

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

Author Profile

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

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

Practical Tip

HTML Tips

Tip #1 – If you would like to add more complex styled elements to your content (e.g. section boxes, 3-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 tools

Learn about a time-saving “cut & paste” HTML resource we recommend here:

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

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - Plugin For WP

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

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

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 pasting the HTML code inside the plugin’s custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output HTML-formatted content to your post or page.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WP Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a free plugin you can add to your blog that gives you 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 - WP Plugin

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

Here is another free WordPress plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

Raw HTML - WP Plugin

Raw HTML lets you disable automatic formatting like smart quotes and automatic paragraph creation, and use raw HTML/JS/CSS code in your WordPress posts.

With this plugin, you can wrap any section of your post 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 want to add a CSS block or JavaScript to your post.

Raw HTML - Plugin For WordPress

Raw HTML – Plugin For WP. (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-formatted text correctly in the Text Editor, not in the Visual Editor.

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

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).

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 will find that your text formatting is correct …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Tip #4 (Advanced WP User): By default, WordPress does not allow a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as embed, input and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any issues 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 …

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and saving your new profile settings, go back 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 your User Profile screen, reactivate the Visual Editor, and see if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Tip

Note: If the above suggestion doesn’t 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:

  • Asking someone with experience troubleshooting WordPress errors to help you
  • 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 web hosting company for help

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

***

"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group

***

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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.