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A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

The world wide web, your web site, 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 web site, or in your pages that requires having knowledge of code.

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

One of the best things about using WordPress is that you don’t need to know HTML to create and format content in your posts. 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 editor that lets you compose and easily format your content simply by clicking on a few buttons.

This step-by-step tutorial provides a useful reference guide containing most of the basic HTML codes you can use to format content in your blog’s pages or posts.

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

A Practical Guide To HTML Formatting Tags – Step-By-Step Tutorial

If you are managing your own web presence, having some understanding of HTML can help you save time and money in various ways.

Imagine this:

You don’t need to become a code-loving web geek – 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: Like everything in the digital realm, HTML is also subject to frequent change, and some of 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 remain up-to-date with the latest advances in web applications and web browser technology. As a number of tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress are being phased out of HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue to update its core application in order to stay compatible with industry-wide HTML standards.

How To Use HTML Tags In Your WordPress Content

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

WordPress Text Editor

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

What HTML Can Be Inserted Into Pages & Posts?

The WordPress Text editor lets you add a range of widely-used HTML formatting tags, such as the ones below:

HTML Tags Allowed In WordPress

The diagram below shows a few simple content formatting examples that use a number of the HTML tags listed in the chart above …

HTML Formatting Tags Used In WordPress

To learn more about using HTML, go here:

The WordPress Text Content Editor Explained

The WordPress Text Editor allows users to insert, edit and work with HTML code and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when inputting content into posts and pages.

By default, the Text (HTML) Editor comes with a standard set of menu features …

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Menu

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this HTML tag for strong emphasis of text (i.e. 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> Use this HTML tag for quoted or cited text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to label text that has been deleted from a post or page. Many browsers will typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to label text considered 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" /> 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 is not displayed in the user’s browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert an image into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> This HTML tag is used to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists normally appear as a bullet-list. Note: use this HTML tag 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 normally 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 display properly.
  10. li: <li></li> This HTML tag is used 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 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: content enclosed in the <code> tags generally will appear 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 button to break a blog post into “teaser” and main content sections. For example, if you add one or two paragraphs, then insert the “more” tag and add the remainder of your post, visitors will only be able to see the first paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which when clicked on, will then bring up 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 feature to ensure that all 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 return 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 displays for both the Visual and Text editors.

With “Distraction-Free Writing Mode” [#14] everything but your editor fades away, leaving only the content you’re working on showing in your screen.

Some Useful Tips About Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

If you plan to go beyond the basics of HTML and use it more extensively, there are several Free or low cost HTML editor software applications you can download and use when getting started.

A popular free HTML software tool, for example, is KompoZer.

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 pages or posts.

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 content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive 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 bio, etc.), then see the quick tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML software.

Quick Tutorial: How To Add Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your User Profile

In your WordPress site, there are certain locations like ”widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” text box in your User Profile section that allow you to insert HTML.

These sections, however, don’t provide a content editor like the Visual 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 WYSIWYG Editor

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

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

By default, whenever a post is published in WordPress, a link to the author displays somewhere in your posts (i.e. at the bottom or top of the post) …

Author Page Link In WordPress Blog Post

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where site readers can learn more information about you (or other authors registered as users on your site) and view other articles that you (or other authors) have published …

Note: As you can see from the above screenshot, you can add hyperlinks and simple text formatting like italics and bold text to enhance your author profile and promote yourself, your services and products, social media pages, other online properties you own, etc. to your blog readers …

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

Although the Biographical Info text area allows you to 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 field, or create it somewhere else, then copy and paste it in …

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 description

Next, format your 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 things simple – use bold, italics and text links sparingly across one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and include a useful link for your visitors …

Keep working inside the Visual Editor tab until you have completed your author profile content …

After composing your content, switch over to the Text Editor and copy everything to your clipboard …

Next, go to your profile area by selecting Users > Your Profile from the main menu …

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

Remember to click the Update Profile button to save your changes …

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

To learn how to edit your profile settings, see 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 know the basics of HTML.

Tips

Tip #1 – If you plan to add more complex formatted elements to your content (e.g. highlighted segments, 3-column paragraphs, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use 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 expand the function of your WordPress Content Editor using different WordPress plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

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

WordPress HTML. (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 HTML to your page or post.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a free 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 adding custom buttons and extra functions to the text editor …

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

Here’s another free plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

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 installed, 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 also very useful if you need to add a CSS block or JavaScript to your post.

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-formatted text correctly in the Text Editor, not in the Visual Tab.

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

This is what your text will look like when you publish your post …

You can see the problem if you switch over to the Text Tab …

As you can see in the screenshot above, WordPress converts the symbols “<” and “>” into their HTML code equivalents (called ASCII characters).

So:

To preserve the symbols “<” and “>” intact and ensure that your text will format correctly, you need to paste the code into the Text Editor …

Now … when your post is published, you should find that your text has been formatted correctly …

Tip #4 (Advanced WordPress User): By default, WordPress does not allow some HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as frame, 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 …

After disabling the visual editor and saving your profile settings, go back 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 page, reactivate your Visual Editor, and check if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Note: If the above suggestion does not fix the issue and you still continue to experience problems adding HTML code to your content, you may need to look at other options. This may include:

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

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"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