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 Formatting Tags In WordPressThe web, your web site, your pages and even your content are all built and powered by a language of 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 pages that requires having knowledge of code.

HTML is one of the main “code” languages that is used to build the world wide web, web sites, blog pages and even web content.

You don’t have 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 an easy-to-use, built-in visual content editor that allows you to create and easily format your content simply by clicking on a few buttons.

As you will discover below, having a little bit of HTML knowledge can be useful when writing, editing or formatting content on your WordPress-powered website. A basic knowledge of HTML can also save you time and money.

A Basic Guide To HTML Tags

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

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress – Tutorial

As stated in the introduction, having a bit of knowledge and familiarity with HTML can be very useful when creating, changing or formatting content in your WordPress-powered website.

Let’s say that:

  • You would like to make changes to your existing content, add formatted text and an image into 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 very quickly and easily with no professional assistance needed.
  • You outsource content work to a freelance copywriter and receive back files that contain formatted content. Having a little knowledge of HTML helps you better understand your content before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone else creates your articles or web copy. You spot a couple of basic text formatting errors, like a line of text that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your copy. Having some basic knowledge of HTML will help you correct simple things in your copy very quickly without needing to ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You need to discuss new project with your website designer. Knowing basic HTML not only will help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help you feel and sound more confident and knowledgeable when discussing ideas or requesting changes to be done on your site.

Using HTML In WordPress

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

Info

Important: Like all things online, HTML is subject to frequent changes, 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 remain up-to-date with the latest advances in web applications and browser technology. As some of the older tags get phased out of HTML5, you can expect that WordPress will also continue to update its core application in order to remain compatible with industry-wide HTML standards.

Using HTML Tags In WordPress

WordPress gives you the choice 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 and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when creating or editing your content …

Default WP HTML Editor

Default WordPress HTML Content Editor

Info

We cover the WordPress Visual Editor and adding content to posts and pages in separate tutorials.

HTML Allowed In Your WordPress Pages & Posts

WordPress allows you to insert various commonly-used HTML formatting tags, including the following:

HTML Tags

WordPress HTML

Below are several simple text formatting examples that use a number of the HTML tags listed in the chart above …

Formatting WordPress Content With HTML

HTML Used In WordPress

Practical Tip

If you are interested in learning more about using HTML, see the free tutorials in the website below:

The WordPress Text Content Editor Explained

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

Out of the box, the WordPress Text Editor comes with a number of standard menu features …

WordPress Text Content Editor Menu Features

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Menu Features

Below 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 button to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button for emphasis of text (i.e. italicize).
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Use this HTML tag to add a hyperlink to your highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Select this button to quote or cite text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to highlight text that has been deleted from a post or page. Many browsers typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to mark text considered as having been inserted into a page or post. Many web browsers typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> Choose this 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 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> This HTML tag is used to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists usually appear as a bullet-list. 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 typically numbered (just like the list you are reading right 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 menu 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 apply your tags and you will get errors (e.g. missing text). Note: the content inserted within the <code> tags generally will appear using a pre-formatted styling of text, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> Use this function to break your blog post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” areas. For example, if you type a few paragraphs, then insert the “more” tag and add the rest of your post, users will only be able to see the first couple of paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which if clicked on, will display the rest of the post.
  13. Close Tags button – This function 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 return to the normal text editor mode.
  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.

WordPress Content 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 the basics of HTML and use it more extensively, there are several Free HTML editor software applications that you can download and use when getting started.

For example, a popular HTML software application you can download at no cost is KompoZer.

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 touch any code at all or use an external HTML content application, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build your content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder

Content Builder – WordPress Plugin

To learn more about this plugin, see this article:

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

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

In your WordPress site, there are places like ”widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” text field in your User Profile section that let you insert HTML.

These areas, however, don’t come with a content editor like the Visual/Text 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 WYSIWYG Editor

WordPress Visual Content Editor

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

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

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) …

Link To Author Page In WordPress Post

Author Page Link In WordPress Post

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where site readers 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 the above screenshot illustrates, you can add hyperlinks and simple text formatting like italics and bold text to enhance your author bio box and promote yourself, your products, social media pages, other sites that you own, etc. to all of your blog readers …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text area 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 box, 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 simple 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 promo

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 things 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 to help readers further engage with you and your business …

Creating An Author Description

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

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

Next, go to your profile by selecting Users > Your Profile in your dashboard menu …

User Profile Screen

Scroll down to the About Yourself section and paste the content from your clipboard 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 posts and formatted it using basic HTML!

Author Profile

To learn more about editing your profile settings, refer to 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.

Tip

HTML Tips For WordPress Users

Tip #1 – If you plan to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. section boxes, 3-column paragraphs, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML tools …

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 WP User): You can enhance the function of your WordPress Text Editor using a number of 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 WordPress

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

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a WP plugin you can add to your blog that allows you to have better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, as well as 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

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, you can wrap any part 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 also very useful if you need to add a CSS block or JavaScript to your content.

Raw HTML - Plugin For WP

Raw HTML – Plugin For WordPress. (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 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 you publish your post …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

You can see what is causing 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).

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 Tab …

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 doesn’t allow a number of 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 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 settings, return to your post or page 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, reactivate your Visual Editor, and check 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, 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 possible causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. you may need to perform a clean site installation)
  • Contacting your web hosting company for assistance

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

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"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum

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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 detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

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