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A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

The web, your web site, your web pages and even your content are all built and powered by a language of code.

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

HTML is one of the "code" languages that is used to power the web, websites, web pages and even your content.

You don't need 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 editor that lets you compose and easily format your content just by clicking on a few buttons.

This post provides a practical reference guide for beginners to basic HTML codes you should be familiar with to format content in WordPress.

You don't need to learn HTML to use WordPress, but having a bit of familiarity with HTML is very useful as a WordPress user!

A Useful Guide To HTML For WordPress Users - Step-By-Step Tutorial

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

Let's say that:

  • You want to adjust certain elements in your existing content, add formatted text and an image to an area of your sidebar, or direct visitors to the contact form, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you know basic HTML, you can do this really easily without having to pay someone else to do this for you.
  • You outsource your content creation to a freelance writer and receive back files that contain formatted content. Knowing basic HTML helps you understand the work before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone else creates your site's content. You spot a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a passage that should have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your copy. Having some basic knowledge of HTML can help you correct simple mistakes in your posts without delay, and without having to go and 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 a website 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 you better negotiate projects with technical service providers.

An HTML Tags Primer For WordPress Beginners

You don't need to become a code-loving web developer - just learn enough HTML to be a "web-savvy" business owner!

HTML - Basic Definition

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 change and evolve, and some of these changes will affect WordPress.

Currently, the latest version of HTML is 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 browser technology. As several older tags get phased out of HTML5, you can expect that WordPress will also continue to update its code in order to ensure compatibility with industry-wide coding standards.

Using HTML In Your WordPress Pages And Posts

WordPress gives you the choice of adding content to posts and pages using its default 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 composing or editing your content ...

WP Text Editor

Built-In WordPress Text Editor

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

What HTML Is OK To Use In WordPress Content?

The WordPress Content Management System (CMS) lets you insert most common HTML formatting tags, such as the following:

Basic HTML - WordPress

WordPress HTML Formatting Tags

Below are some practical content formatting examples using the HTML tags displayed above ...

Using Basic HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

HTML Tags Used In WordPress Content

To learn more about using HTML, visit the site below:

HTML - Free Tutorials

The WordPress Text Editor Menu Explained

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

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

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu Features

WordPress Text Editor Features

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

b: <strong></strong> Use this button to make text bold.

i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag to add italics to your text.

hyperlink: <a href=""></a> Choosing this button adds a hyperlink to your selected text.

b-quote: <blockquote></blockquote> Choose this menu button to quote or cite text.

del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to label text considered as having been deleted from the current page. Many browsers typically display this as striked-through text.

ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to label text considered as having been inserted into a page or post. Most web browsers typically display this as underlined text.

img: src="" alt="image description" /> This HTML tag lets you 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 a user's screen. Note: you can also use the "Add Media" button (15) to insert an image into your content.

ul: <ul></ul> This HTML tag is used to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists generally display as a bulleted list. Note: this HTML tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.

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 reading right now!). Note: this HTML tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.

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).

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. broken text). Note: any content inserted within the <code> tags normally will display using a different styling of text, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the "Tips" section below for more details).

more: <!--more--> Use this menu button to break a blog post into "teaser" and main content sections. For example, if you type a few paragraphs, then add this tag and add the rest of your post content, users will only see the first paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading...), which if clicked on, will then display the rest of the post's content.

Close Tags button - This function closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function to make sure that all HTML tags have correctly formatted your text.

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 text editor mode.

Add Media - Click this button to insert media into your content (e.g. images, videos, audio files). This button appears whether you've chosen the Visual or Text editor tabs.

WordPress Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode

WordPress Content Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips Related To Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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

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

Kompozer - 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 your pages or posts.

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

Thrive Content Builder - WordPress Plugin

Thrive Content Builder

To learn more about this plugin, check out their site Thrive Content Builder

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 WordPress site other than your posts and pages (e.g. your sidebar, author profile, etc.), then see the useful tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML-editing tools.

Tutorial: How To Add Formatted Text To The "About Yourself" Section Of Your User Profile

In WordPress, there are certain locations like "widgets" in your sidebar, and the "About Yourself" section in your User Profile screen that let you insert HTML tags.

These sections, however, don't come with a content editor like the Visual/Text editor found inside your Posts and Pages screens ...

WordPress Visual/Text Editor

WordPress Visual/Text Editor

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

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

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

Author Page Link In WordPress

Author Page Link In WordPress Blog Post

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where they can learn more information about you (or other registered users) and see other articles that you (or other authors) have published ...

WordPress Author Archives Section

Note: As the above screenshot illustrates, you can add hyperlinks and simple formatting like italics and bold text to enhance your author resource box and promote yourself, your services and products, social media pages, other sites that you own, etc. to blog readers ...

Author Profile

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

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 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 the 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 text hyperlinks sparingly over one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and include a useful link to help visitors engage further with you or your business ...

Creating An Author Description

Continue working inside the Visual Editor screen until you have added all of the formatting you want to add to your author profile content ...

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 area by selecting Users > Your Profile in your navigation menu ...

User Profile Screen

Scroll down to the About Yourself section and paste the content from your clipboard 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 bio for your blog 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 we've already mentioned, you don't need to learn HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to know the basics of HTML.

HTML Tips For WordPress Users

(Advanced WP User): You can expand the functionality of your WordPress Content Editor using different WordPress plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML

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

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a WordPress plugin you can add to your site 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 the text editor ...

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

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

Here is another free WordPress plugin you can use ...


Raw HTML - Plugin For WordPress

Raw HTML lets you disable automatic formatting like automatic paragraph creation and smart quotes, and use raw HTML/JS/CSS code in your WordPress posts.

With this plugin, any part of your post can be wrapped in [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 - Plugin For WordPress

Raw HTML - Plugin For WP. (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 Tab, not in the Visual Tab.

For example, if you type the text shown below in the Visual Content Editor ...

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Your text will look like this when your post is published ...

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 in the Text Editor ...

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Now ... when you publish your post, you will find that your text has been formatted correctly ...

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Tip #4 (Advanced WordPress 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 problems 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 ...

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

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

Note: If the above suggestion doesn't fix the issue and you continue experiencing problems adding HTML code to your content, 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 probable causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. perform a clean installation)
  • Contacting your web host for assistance


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

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