A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPressThe world wide web, your website, your web pages and even your content are all 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 website, or in your web pages that requires having some coding skills.

HTML is one of the “code” languages that is used to power the world wide web, websites, web pages and formatting 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 an easy-to-use, built-in editor that lets you compose and easily format content just by clicking on a few buttons.

In this step-by-step tutorial you will learn the basic HTML codes you should be familiar with to format content in your site’s pages and posts.

Using HTML In WordPress

You don’t need to know HTML to use WordPress, but having a little familiarity with HTML is a useful thing as a WordPress user!

A Useful Guide To HTML For Beginners – Step-By-Step Tutorial

As stated in the introduction of this article, it’s useful to have a bit of knowledge of HTML when composing, editing or formatting content for your WordPress website or blog.

Let’s say that:

  • You want to make changes to your existing content, add formatted text and an image in an area of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to the contact page, opt-in form, etc. If you know basic HTML, you can do this very quickly without additional costs and delays involved.
  • You outsource work to an article writer and get back files containing formatted content. Knowing a little HTML can help you understand the writer’s work before you sign off on the work.
  • Someone else creates your articles or web copy. You see a couple of simple mistakes in the text, like a word that should have been made bold, or a hyperlink that is pointing to the wrong destination. Having a little knowledge of HTML can help you edit and fix simple mistakes in your blog posts or pages 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 new project or requirement 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 make you feel and sound more confident and knowledgeable when discussing your ideas or making requests for changes to your site.

A Practical Guide To Formatting Content With HTML For WordPress Newbies

You don’t need to become a technical web programmer – just be familiar enough with 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


Important: Like all things online, HTML is also subject to constant change, and sometimes these changes will affect WordPress.

Currently, HTML is in version 5 (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced several new “tags” to keep up with the latest advances in software and web browser technology. As a number of older tags get phased out of HTML5, you can expect that WordPress will also continue updating its software to ensure compatibility with industry-wide standards.

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

WordPress provides you with a option of adding content to your pages and posts with a 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 input HTML code and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when creating or editing your content …

Default WordPress Text Content Editor

WP HTML Content Editor


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

What HTML Is Allowed In WordPress Pages & Posts?

The WordPress Text editor lets you use a range of common HTML tags, including the ones below:

Basic HTML Tags - WordPress


The diagram below shows some practical content formatting examples that use some of the HTML tags displayed in the table above …

HTML Formatting Tags Used In WordPress Content

HTML Formatting Tags Tutorial

Useful Tip

To learn more about using HTML, go here:

HTML – Free Tutorials

The WordPress Text Content Editor Explained

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

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

WordPress Text Editor Menu Buttons

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor

Below is a brief description of the function of each Text Editor menu button with their corresponding HTML 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 HTML tag to add italics to your text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Clicking this menu button adds a hyperlink to your selected text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Use this HTML tag for quoted or cited text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to indicate text considered as having been deleted from a post. Most web browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to mark text considered as having been inserted into a post. Many browsers will 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” tag (a text description of your image in case the image does not render in a user’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 bulleted list of items. 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> Use this HTML tag to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are typically numbered (just like the list you are seeing right now!). Note: use this tag together 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: the content enclosed in the <code> tags usually will display using a pre-formatted text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> This button will break your post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” areas. For example, if you type a couple of paragraphs, then add the “more” tag and add the remaining section 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 if clicked on, will display the rest of the post.
  13. close tags button – Closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function to make sure 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” writing mode. Click the button again to return to the normal editor display.
  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 disappears, removing all distractions from your screen.

Some Useful Tips About 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 editor software application, for example, 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 with this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into WordPress.

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

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive Content Builder

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

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

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

In your WordPress site, there are certain areas like text “widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” text area in your User Profile screen that allow you to insert HTML.

These areas, however, don’t provide a content editor like the Visual/Text editor found in your Posts and Pages sections …

WordPress WYSIWYG Editor

WordPress Visual Content Editor

You can still use the WordPress Visual editor to compose your 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 on your WordPress site, 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

Author Page Link In WordPress Post

Clicking on the author link takes you to the Author Archives section, where they can learn more information about you (or other authors registered as users on your site) and view 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 bio box and promote yourself, your services, social media pages, other sites you own, etc. to site visitors …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text box 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 it in …

About Yourself

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

First, create a new post and type your content inside the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author description

Creating An Author Description

Next, format the content using the Visual Editor . 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 it simple – use bold, italics and anchor text links sparingly over one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and include a useful link for your readers …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working in the Visual Editor screen until you have added all of the formatting you want to display in your author description …

Author Description

When you are happy with your author description, switch over to the Text Editor and copy everything to your clipboard …

Creating An Author Description

Go to your profile by selecting Users > Your Profile from 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

Remember to click the Update Profile button 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, refer to this ”how to” article: 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 know the basics of HTML.

Useful Tip


Tip #1 – If you plan to add more complex styled elements to your content (e.g. highlighted segments, multi-columned paragraphs, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML tools …

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

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

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

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML

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

WordPress HTML

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

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

Here’s another free plugin you can use …


Raw HTML - Plugin For WP

Raw HTML lets you disable automatic formatting like automatic paragraph creation and smart quotes, 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 to prevent WordPress from converting newlines to HTML paragraphs, replacing apostrophes with typographic quotes and so on. This is very useful if you need to add JavaScript or a CSS block to your content.

Raw HTML - Plugin For WordPress

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

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting 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).


  • <(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 in 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 WordPress User): By default, WordPress does not allow some HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as embed, input and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any problems 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 reinsert the content with the problematic HTML tags, then republish your post.

If the above suggestion fixes the issue, return 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 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:

  • Asking someone with experience troubleshooting WordPress errors to help you
  • Searching the WordPress Support Forum or WordPress troubleshooting resources for possible causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. performing a new WP installation)
  • Contacting your web host for assistance


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


"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

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