A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

A Useful Guide To HTML For WordPress UsersThe web, your website, your pages and even your content are all built and powered by a language of code.

It is inevitable, then, that sooner or later, you may probably need something done for your business online, for your web site, or in your web content that requires having knowledge of code.

HTML is one of the “code” languages that is used throughout the web, websites, blog pages and also your content.

One of the best things about using a WordPress-driven web site is that you don’t need to learn HTML in order to create and format content in your posts and pages. 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 allows you to create and easily format content just by clicking on a few buttons.

This step-by-step tutorial provides a practical reference guide for WordPress beginners containing basic HTML codes you can use in WordPress.

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

You don’t need to learn HTML to use WordPress, but having a basic HTML knowledge is useful as a WordPress user!

Formatting Content Using HTML For WordPress Beginners – Tutorial

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

For example, let’s say that:

  • You would like to edit your existing content, insert a text link and an image to a section of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to your contact page, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this very easily and quickly without having to pay somebody else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content work to a freelancer and get back files containing formatted text. Having a little knowledge of HTML will help you better understand your content before you accept the work.
  • Someone else creates your site’s content. You spot a couple of simple mistakes in the text, like a word that should have been made bold, or a hyperlink that is missing in your copy. Knowing a little HTML will help you edit and correct simple things in your posts without delay, and without needing to go and ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You need to discuss changes on your site with a web designer. Knowing a little HTML not only will help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it also helps you feel and appear more confident and knowledgeable when presenting your ideas or making requests for changes to your website.

A Basic Guide To HTML Tags

You don’t need to become a code-loving web programmer – just learn enough 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 subject to frequent changes, 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 new advances in software and web browser technology. As some of the tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress are being phased out of HTML5, you can expect that WordPress will also continue to update its code to remain compatible with industry-wide coding standards.

Using HTML Tags To Format Content In WordPress

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 add HTML and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when adding or editing your content …

Default WordPress Text Editor

Default WP Text Content Editor


We discuss the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and adding content to posts and pages in separate ”how to” articles.

What HTML Tags Can Be Inserted Into WordPress Pages & Posts?

WordPress lets you add various widely-used HTML tags, such as the tags below:

HTML Tags - WordPress

HTML Formatting Tags

Here are several simple text formatting examples that use some of the HTML tags displayed in the table above …

HTML Tags Examples

HTML Tags Examples

Useful Tip

If you would like to learn more about using HTML, visit the website below:

The WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu Explained

The WordPress Text Editor enables users to see, 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 displays a number of standard menu buttons …

WordPress Text Content Editor

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button if you want to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag 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 selected text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Click this button to quote or cite highlighted text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to label text considered as being deleted from a post. Most browsers will typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to label text considered as having been inserted into the current post. Most browsers will typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> This HTML tag lets you 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 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> This HTML tag is used to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists usually appear as a bullet-list. Note: use this tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> Click this menu button to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are usually numbered (just like the list you are seeing 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> 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> 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: any content inserted within the <code> tags normally will appear using a preformatted 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 main body areas. For example, if you add a couple of paragraphs, then insert this tag and add the remaining section of your post, readers will only see the first couple of paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which brings up the rest of the post’s content when clicked on.
  13. Close Tags – Closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this feature to make sure that all tags have formatted your text correctly.
  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 – 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

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

Useful Tips About Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

If you plan to go beyond the basics of HTML and use it more extensively, there are several Free HTML software applications that 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 in this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into WordPress.

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

Thrive Content Builder - Plugin For WordPress

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

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

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

These sections, however, don’t come with their own content editor like the Visual Content editor found in your Posts and Pages screens (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 Editor

WordPress Visual Content Editor

You can still use the WordPress Visual Content 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 simple this can be.

Normally, whenever a post is published 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

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 information about you (or other authors registered as users on your site) and browse other articles 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 text formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author bio and promote yourself, your products and services, social media pages, other online properties that you own, etc. to all of your site visitors …

Author Profile

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

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 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 inside the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author promo

Creating 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 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 remember to include a call to action to help readers further engage with you and your business …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working in the Visual Editor screen until you have completed 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

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

User Profile Screen

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

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 ”how to” article: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As you can see, you don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to know the basics of HTML.

Practical Tip


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

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

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 - Plugin For WordPress

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

WordPress HTML - WP Plugin

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

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WP Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WP Plugin

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

Here is another free plugin you can use …


Raw HTML - WP Plugin

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 installed, any section of your post can be wrapped 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 post.

Raw HTML - Plugin For WordPress

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

For example, if you type the text shown below in the Visual Content Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting HTML 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).


  • <(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 Editor …

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 WordPress User): By default, WordPress does not allow a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as embed, 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 section …

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and updating your settings, go back to your page or post and re-paste the content with the problematic HTML tags, then republish your post.

If the above suggestion fixes the issue, go back to the User Profile, reactivate the Visual Editor, and check if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Practical 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. perform a new installation)
  • Contacting your hosting provider for assistance

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


"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group

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