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

It is inevitable, then, that at some point, you may run into a situation where you will probably need something done for your business online, for your website, or in your pages that requires having some coding skills.

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

One of the great things about using WordPress is that you don’t have to know HTML in order to create and format content for your blog’s posts. 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 visual content editor that allows you to create and easily format content just by clicking on a few menu buttons.

This step-by-step tutorial provides a useful reference guide for WordPress newbies containing basic HTML codes you can use to format your WordPress content.

HTML Formatting Tags - A Primer For Non-Technical WordPress Users

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

An HTML Primer For Non-Geek WordPress Users – Tutorial

If you are running your own website, it’s handy to have some basic HTML knowledge when creating, editing 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 to a section of your sidebar, or direct visitors to the contact page, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this very quickly without having to pay someone else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content work to a freelance article writer and receive back files containing formatted content. Having a little knowledge of HTML will help you proof the writer’s work before you accept the work.
  • Someone creates your web copy. You see a couple of text formatting errors, like a word or phrase that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink that is missing in your copy. Knowing basic HTML can help you change and correct simple errors in your copy without delay, and without needing to ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You want to discuss changes on your site with your web development team. Knowing a little bit of HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help to prevent you from being taken for a ride.

A Beginner's Guide To Using HTML Tags In WordPress

You don’t need to become a code-loving web programmer – just be familiar enough with basic HTML to be a “web-savvy” 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

Important: Like everything else on the web, HTML is subject to constant change, and sometimes these changes will 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 the latest advances in web applications 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 core application in order to remain compatible with industry-wide HTML standards.

Using HTML In Your WordPress Content

WordPress provides you with a choice of adding content to your 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 work directly with HTML code and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when composing or editing your content …

Default WordPress Text Content Editor

Default WordPress HTML Editor

Important Info

We cover the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and how to add content to pages and posts in separate articles.

HTML Formatting Tags Allowed By WordPress

The WordPress Content Management System (CMS) lets you add various common HTML formatting tags, such as the ones listed in the table below:

WordPress HTML Tags

Basic HTML Tags Allowed In WordPress

The diagram below shows several useful text formatting examples using the HTML tags displayed above …

Using Common HTML In WordPress Content

Using Common HTML Tags In WordPress Content

Practical Tip

If you are interested in learning more about using HTML, visit the website below:

The WordPress Text Content Editor Explained

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

By default, the Text (HTML) Content Editor displays a standard set of menu buttons …

WordPress Text Content Editor

WordPress Text Content Editor

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this HTML tag for strong text emphasis (i.e. bold).
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag to format your text using italics.
  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> Use this HTML tag for quoted or cited text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to highlight text considered deleted from the current page. Most browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to highlight text that has been inserted into a post or page. Many web browsers will typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> Choose this menu button 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 display in the user’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 menu button to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists normally appear as a list of items preceded by bullets. 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> Choose this menu button to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are usually numbered (just like the list you are reading 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> Select this button 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 usually will appear using a pre-formatted text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> Use this tag to break your blog post into “teaser” and main content areas. For example, if you type one or two paragraphs, then add the “more” tag and compose the remaining section of your post, users will only be able to read the first paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which if clicked on, will display the rest of the post’s content.
  13. Close Tags button – Closes any open HTML tags left open. 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 “distraction-free” writing mode. Click the button again to revert to the normal 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.

WordPress Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips About Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

If you plan to go beyond just knowing the basics of HTML, like simple text formatting, there are several Free HTML software tools you can download and use when getting started.

A popular free HTML editor 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 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 builder, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build your HTML-based content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder - WordPress Plugin

Thrive Content Builder

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 site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author biography, etc.), then refer to the quick tutorial below for a really simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading software.

Tutorial: How To Add HTML-Formatted Content To The “About Yourself” Section Of Your Profile

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

These sections, however, don’t come with their own content editor like the Visual Content editor found in 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/Text Editor

WordPress Visual/Text Editor

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

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

Normally, whenever you publish a post on your WordPress site, a link to the post author is displayed somewhere in your posts (i.e. at the bottom or top of the post) …

Link To Author Page In WordPress Blog Post

Author Page Link In WordPress Blog 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 browse 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 hyperlinks and simple text formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author bio and promote yourself, your products and services, 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 box lets you 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 box, 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.

First, 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 your 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 anchor text links sparingly across one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and remember to include a useful link to help your readers further engage with you and your business …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working in the Visual Editor tab until you have written your author promo …

Author Description

After composing your content, 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 in your main 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 the Update Profile button to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

Congratulations … You have just created an author bio for your 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 mentioned earlier, you don’t have to learn HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to know the basics of HTML.

Useful Tip

HTML Tips For WordPress Users

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

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

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

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

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

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

WordPress HTML

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

Pasting HTML directly into the WordPress editor can often break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By saving the code inside the plugin’s custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output the exact HTML 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 website that lets you have better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, as well as add custom buttons and extra functions to the text editor …

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WP Plugin

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

Here is another free WordPress plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

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 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 very useful if you need to add JavaScript or a CSS block to your content.

Raw HTML - WP Plugin

Raw HTML. (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 enter the following text in the Visual Editor …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting HTML 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 should find that your text has been formatted correctly …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Tip #4 (Advanced WP User): By default, WordPress doesn’t allow a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as iframe, textarea and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any issues when adding common HTML tags into 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 Profile page, reactivate the 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 site, 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 WP installation)
  • Contacting your web host for assistance

Congratulations! Now you know the basics of using 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

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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.