Using Formatting Content With HTML In WordPress

A Beginner's Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For WordPress UsersThe 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 will run into a situation where you will need something done for your business online, for your web site, or in your web content that requires having coding expertise.

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

You don’t have to know HTML 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 content that allows you to compose and easily format your content simply by clicking on a few buttons.

As you will learn below, having some practical HTML knowledge can be very useful when creating, editing or formatting content for WordPress. Knowing a little bit of HTML can also save you time and money.

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

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

Using HTML Tags In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial

If you plan to manage your own web presence, having a practical knowledge of HTML can help save you time and money in various ways.

Let’s say that:

  • You want to make changes to your existing content, insert formatted text and an image into a section of your sidebar, or direct visitors to a 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 content work to a web copywriter and get back files containing formatted text. Having some basic knowledge of HTML will help you proof, understand and assess the quality of the writer’s work before you accept the work.
  • Someone creates copy for your site. You see a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a line of text that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink that is missing in your copy. Knowing a little HTML can help you fix simple errors in your pages and blog 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 a project with a web developer. Having some knowledge of HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help reduce the risk of being taken advantage of.

A Useful Guide To HTML

You don’t need to become a code-loving web programmer – just be familiar enough with HTML to be a “web-smart” 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 all things online, HTML is also subject to frequent change, and some of these changes will have an impact on WordPress.

Currently, the latest version of HTML is version 5 (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced several new “tags” to remain up-to-date with new advances in web applications and browser technology. As a number of older tags get dropped from HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue updating its core application to ensure compatibility with industry-wide standards.

How To Use HTML In WordPress

WordPress gives users the choice of adding content to your pages and posts using 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 add HTML code and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when composing or editing your content …

WordPress Text Content Editor

WP HTML Content Editor

Important Info

We discuss the WordPress Visual Editor and how to create posts and pages in other tutorials.

What HTML Tags Are OK To Use In Posts And Pages?

The WordPress Content Management System (CMS) allows you to add various common HTML formatting tags, such as the following:

WordPress HTML

HTML Formatting Tags

Here are several simple content formatting examples that use the HTML tags displayed above …

HTML Formatting Tags Tutorial

HTML Tags Tutorial


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

Free HTML Tutorials

The WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu Explained

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

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

WordPress Text Editor

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Features

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag to italicize text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href=""></a> Choosing this menu button adds a hyperlink to your highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Choose this menu button to quote or cite selected text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to indicate text that has been deleted from a post. Most web browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to indicate text considered as having been inserted into a post. Most web browsers typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="" alt="image description" /> Click 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 a user’s web 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 content. Unordered lists generally appear as a bullet-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 button to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are typically numbered (just like the list you are seeing now!). Note: this tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  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: any content added inside the <code> tags normally will appear using a pre-formatted text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> Use this tag to break your blog post into “teaser” and main content areas. For example, if you type a couple of paragraphs, then insert the “more” tag and add the remainder of your post content, visitors will only be able to see the first couple of paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which when clicked on, will display the rest of the post’s content.
  13. close tags – This menu button closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function to ensure that all HTML 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 “distraction-free” writing mode. Click the button again to return to the normal text editor mode.
  15. Add Media – Click this button to insert media into your content (e.g. images, videos, audio files). This button appears whether you’re using the Visual or Text editor tabs.

WordPress Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips About Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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

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

Kompozer - HTML Editor

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 your pages or posts.

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

Thrive Content Builder - Plugin For WordPress

Content Builder – WordPress Plugin

To learn more about this plugin, see this article: 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 edit content that may contain HTML into areas of your site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author bio, etc.), then see the tutorial below for a really simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading software.

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

In your WordPress site, there are some locations like text “widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” text area in your User Profile section that let you use HTML.

These areas, however, don’t provide a content editor like the Visual/Text editor found inside your Posts and Pages sections …

WordPress Visual Content Editor

WordPress Visual Editor

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

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

Typically, whenever you publish a post on your WordPress blog, 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

Link To Author Page In WordPress Post

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

WordPress Author Archives Section

Note: As the above screenshot illustrates, you can add links and simple formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author description and promote yourself, your services, social media pages, other websites that you own, etc. to all of your site visitors …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text box 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 somewhere else, then copy and paste it in …

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 description

Creating An Author Description

Next, format the 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 text links sparingly over one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and remember to include a call to action for your visitors …

Creating An Author Description

Continue working inside the Visual Editor tab until you have added all of the formatting you want to display in your author description …

Author Description

After you have created 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 from the admin menu …

User Profile Screen

Scroll down 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 bio for your 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 need to know HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to have a little basic knowledge of HTML.

Useful Tip

HTML Tips For WordPress Users

Tip #1 – If you would like to add more complex styled elements to your content (e.g. pull quotes, multi-columned paragraphs, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML resources …

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 for non-technical WordPress users here: WP Cheat – Cut & Paste HTML

Tip #2 (Advanced WP User): You can expand the function of your WordPress Text Editor using different WordPress plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - Plugin For WordPress

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

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a WP plugin you can add to your website that lets you have better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, and add custom buttons and additional functions to the text editor …

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

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

Here is another free WordPress plugin you can use …



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, 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 want to add a CSS block or JavaScript to your content.

Raw HTML - Plugin For WordPress

Raw HTML. (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-formatted text correctly in the Text Tab, not in the Visual Tab.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

This is what your text will look like when your post is published …

Troubleshooting WordPress HTML Errors

You can see the problem if you switch 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 your post is published, 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 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 saving your profile settings, return to your post or page and reinsert the content with the problematic HTML tags, then republish your post.

If the above suggestion fixes the issue, return to the User Profile, reactivate your Visual Editor, and see 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 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 possible causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. perform a new 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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