A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

Using Formatting Content Using HTML In WordPressThe world wide web, your website, your web pages and even your content are 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 coding skills.

HTML is one of the “code” languages used to build the web, websites, blog pages and formatting your web content.

You don’t need to know HTML 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 editor that allows you to create and easily format content simply by clicking on a few buttons.

As you will discover below, it’s handy to have a little bit of HTML knowledge when writing, changing or formatting content on WordPress. A little knowledge of HTML can also save you time and money.

Using Formatting Content With HTML In WordPress

You don’t need to learn HTML in order to use WordPress, but having a basic familiarity with HTML can be useful as a WordPress user!

A Practical Guide To Formatting Content With HTML For Beginners – Tutorial

As mentioned above, having a little bit of HTML knowledge is quite useful when composing, changing or formatting content in your WordPress website or blog.

Imagine this:

  • You would like to make changes to your existing content, insert formatted text and an image in a section of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to a contact form, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really quickly and easily with no help from others.
  • You outsource your content creation to a freelance article writer and get back files containing HTML formatting. Knowing basic HTML can help you proof and review the quality of the work before you accept the work.
  • Someone else creates your site’s content. You spot a couple of basic mistakes in the text, like a word or phrase that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your text. Having some knowledge of HTML can help you fix simple mistakes in your pages very quickly 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 new project with a web development team. Having a little knowledge of HTML not only can help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help to reduce the risk of being taken for a ride.

A Beginner's Guide To Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

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

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Important: Like everything else on the web, HTML is also subject to changes, and sometimes 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 software and web browser technology. As a number of older tags become obsolete, you can expect that WordPress will also continue to update its code in order to ensure compatibility with industry-wide coding standards.

Using HTML Tags To Format Content In WordPress

WordPress provides users with a choice of adding content to your posts and pages using 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 add HTML and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when creating or editing your content …

WP HTML Editor

WordPress Text Content Editor

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We discuss the WordPress Visual Editor and how to add content to posts and pages in other ”how to” articles.

What HTML Tags Are OK To Use In WordPress Posts & Pages?

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

HTML - WordPress

HTML Formatting Tags

Here are some useful content formatting examples using a number of the HTML tags displayed in the table above …

Formatting WordPress Content With HTML Tags

HTML Tags Used In WordPress Content

Tip

To learn more about using HTML, see the tutorials in the site below:

The WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Explained

The WordPress Text Editor enables users to paste, 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 Text Content Editor comes with a standard set of menu features …

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor

WordPress Text Editor Features

Below is a brief description of the function of each of the Text Editor buttons with their corresponding HTML (see the above diagram):

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button if you want to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag 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> Click this button to quote or cite highlighted text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to label text considered as having been deleted from a post or page. Most web browsers will typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to indicate text that has been inserted into your existing content. Many web browsers typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> Click 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 does not render in your visitor’s screen. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert an image into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Choose this button to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists usually display as a bullet-list. Note: this formatting 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 normally numbered (just like the list you are reading now!). Note: this HTML tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  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> This HTML tag is used 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. missing text). Note: any content added inside the <code> tags generally will display using a different styling of text, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> Use this tag to break your post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” areas. For example, if you type a couple of paragraphs, then add this tag and compose the remainder of your post content, users will only be able to see the first couple of paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which when clicked on, will then bring up the rest of your post.
  13. close tags button – This button closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function to ensure that all HTML 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 “full screen” 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 displays for both the Visual and Text editors.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

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

Some Useful Tips Related To Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

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

A popular free HTML software application, 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 posts or pages.

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.

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 work involving 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 refer to the useful tutorial below for a really simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML software.

Useful Tip: Adding HTML-Formatted Content To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your Profile

In WordPress, there are some places like text “widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” text box in your User Profile section that let you insert HTML tags.

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

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

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

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

Author Page Link In WordPress Blog Post

Link To Author Page In WordPress Post

Clicking on the author link takes you to the Author Archives section, where site readers can learn more about you (or other registered users) and view other 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 blog readers …

Author Profile

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

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 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 bio

Creating An Author Description

Next, format the 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 it simple – use bold, italics and text hyperlinks sparingly across one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and include a useful link to help your readers engage further with you and your business …

Creating An Author Description

Continue working inside the Visual Editor screen until you have written your author description …

Author Description

Once you have created your content, 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 dashboard menu …

User Profile Screen

Scroll down 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 description for your blog posts and formatted it using basic HTML!

Author Profile

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

As we’ve mentioned a number of times, you don’t have to know 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 styled elements to your content (e.g. pull quotes, pricing boxes, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML snippets …

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

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

Tip #2 (Advanced WordPress User): You can expand the function of your WordPress Content Editor using various WordPress 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 - Plugin For WP

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Pasting HTML directly into the WordPress editor can break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By entering the HTML code into the plugin’s custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output HTML to your page or post.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

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

Here is another free 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 posts without WordPress messing it up.

With this plugin installed, 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 want to add JavaScript or a CSS block 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 Tab, not in the Visual Tab.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting WordPress 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 your code into the Text Tab …

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 WP User): By default, WordPress does not allow a number of 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 …

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and updating your profile settings, go back 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 screen, reactivate the Visual Editor, and check 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 continue experiencing problems adding HTML code to your content, 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 new WP installation)
  • Contacting your hosting provider for help

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

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"Learning WordPress has been a huge stumbling block for me. I've been looking for something that covers absolutely everything but doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Thank you so much ... you have just provided me with what I have been looking for! Truly appreciated!" - Tanya

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