A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

HTML Formatting Tags Basics For Non-Geek WordPress DummiesThe web, your web site, your pages and even your content are all built and powered by code.

It is inevitable, then, that sooner or later, you may need something done for your business online, for your website, or in your pages that will require having some knowledge of code.

HTML is one of the “code” languages used to power the web, websites, web pages and even web content.

You don’t have 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 a powerful, built-in visual content editor that allows you to compose and easily format your content just by clicking on a few menu buttons.

In this step-by-step tutorial you will learn the basic HTML codes you can use to format your WordPress content.

A Beginner's Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For WordPress Users

You don’t need to learn HTML to use WordPress, but having a little bit of familiarity with HTML can be a useful thing as a WordPress user!

A Beginner’s Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For WordPress Users – Tutorial

If you plan to run your own website, having a little understanding of HTML can help you save time and money in various ways.

Imagine, for example, that:

  • You want to make changes to your existing content, insert a text link and an image in a section of your sidebar, or direct visitors to the contact form, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you know basic HTML, you can do this very quickly without having to pay someone else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content writing to a freelance copywriter and get back files containing HTML formatting. Knowing some basic HTML will help you better proof the content before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone creates content for your website. You spot a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a line of text that should have been made bold, or a hyperlink pointing to the wrong destination. Knowing some basic HTML will help you edit and correct simple errors in your blog posts 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 or requirement with a web development team. Knowing a little HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help prevent you from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous technical service providers.

A Beginner's Guide To Using Formatting Content Using HTML In WordPress

You don’t need to become a code-loving web programmer – just have enough knowledge of basic HTML to be a “web-smart” business owner!

HTML – What Does It Mean?

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

Useful Information

Important: Like everything else on the web, HTML is subject to developmental change and evolution, and sometimes these changes will have an impact on WordPress.

Currently, we are in version 5 of the HTML set of standards (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced several new “tags” to keep up with new advances in web applications and browser technology. As some of the tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress get dropped from HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue to update its core application in order to ensure compatibility with industry-wide standards.

Using HTML Formatting Tags In Your WordPress Posts And Pages

WordPress gives you the choice of adding content to your pages and posts with its built-in 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 code like HTML and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when creating or editing your content …

Built-In WordPress HTML Content Editor

Built-In WP HTML Content Editor

Important Info

We cover the WordPress Visual Editor and creating pages and posts in separate tutorials.

What HTML Formatting Tags Can Be Inserted Into WordPress Posts And Pages?

WordPress lets you use a range of common HTML tags, such as the following:

Common HTML Tags Allowed In WordPress

HTML Tags Allowed In WordPress

The diagram below shows a few practical content formatting examples that use the HTML tags displayed in the illustration above …

HTML Usage In WordPress

HTML Used In WordPress Content

Tip

If you would like to learn more about HTML, go here:

The WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Explained

The WordPress Text Editor lets users see, edit and work with HTML and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when inputting content into posts and pages.

Out of the box, the Text Editor displays a standard set of menu features …

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor

WordPress Text Editor Features

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button to italicize text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Use this HTML tag to add a hyperlink to any 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 highlight text considered as being deleted from a post. Many browsers will typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to indicate text that has been inserted into a post or page. Many 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 rendered in your visitor’s web 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 typically appear as a bulleted list. 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> Select this menu button to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are generally numbered (just like the list you are reading now!). Note: use this HTML tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display correctly.
  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> 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 convert your tags and you will get errors (e.g. broken text). Note: the content selected within the <code> tags normally will display 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--> This menu button breaks a post into “teaser” and main content areas. For example, if you add a couple of paragraphs, then insert the “more” tag and add the rest of your post content, users will only see the first couple of paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which if clicked on, will then display the rest of your 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 correctly formatted your text.
  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 “full screen” writing 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.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Click on “Distraction-Free Writing Mode” [#14] and everything but your editor fades away, removing all distractions from your screen.

Useful Tips Related To Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

If you plan to use HTML extensively, there are several Free or low cost HTML editor software tools that you can download and use when getting started.

For example, a popular HTML software tool you can download for free is KompoZer.

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 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 HTML-based content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive Content Builder

To learn more about this plugin, see this article:

If you have no need or desire for doing work involving technical coding, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and edit content that may contain basic HTML tags into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author profile, etc.), then refer to the useful tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading software.

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

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

These sections, however, don’t provide a 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 WYSIWYG Editor

WordPress Visual/Text Editor

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

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

Typically, 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) …

Link To Author Page In WordPress Post

Link To Author Page In WordPress Post

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where they can learn more about you (or other authors registered as users on your site) and see 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 links and simple text formatting like italics and bold text to enhance your author description and promote yourself, your products, social media pages, other online properties you own, etc. to all of your site visitors …

Author Profile

The author profile is located in the About Yourself > Biographical Info field in 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 simple 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 will only be able to use simple formatting in your author description such as hyperlinks, bold, underline and italicized text, so keep things simple – use bold, italics and text hyperlinks sparingly across one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and include a call to action for your visitors …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working inside the Visual Editor tab until you have written your author bio …

Author Description

After creating your content, 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 navigation menu …

User Profile Screen

Scroll down the screen to the About Yourself section and paste the content from your clipboard 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, refer to this tutorial: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As you can see, you don’t need to know HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to have a little basic knowledge of HTML.

Tip

HTML Tips For WordPress Users

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

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 enhance the functionality of your WordPress Text Editor using a number of plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - Plugin For WordPress

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

WordPress HTML - WP Plugin

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Pasting HTML directly into the WordPress editor can break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By inputting the HTML code in the custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output HTML to your page or post.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WP Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

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

Here’s 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 installed, any part 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 want to add a CSS block or JavaScript to your post.

Raw HTML

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 Editor.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Your text will look like this 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 WordPress User): By default, WordPress does not allow some HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as embed, form and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any issues when adding commonly-used 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 saving your new profile settings, return 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 page, 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 does not fix the issue and you still continue to experience problems adding HTML code to your content, then you should 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 clean WordPress installation)
  • Contacting your web hosting company for assistance

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

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"Your training is the best in the world! It is simple, yet detailed, direct, understandable, memorable, and complete." Andrea Adams, FinancialJourney.org

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