HTML Basics for Writers and Bloggers

If you write content for the Web, you probably already know about certain Web writing basics, like using short paragraphs, bold sub-headings, and lists to help make your articles "scannable" to readers browsing them for something specific. If you're writing for clients, and they ask to have you write in plain text with HTML, do you know how to do those things?

Here are a few basic HTML and XHTML codes that you may use regularly as a Web writer:

  • <strong>Your bold text here.</strong> - Use the strong tag to create bold text. You can also sometimes use the older bold tags <b> and </b>, depending on what the clients requests. The bold tags just tell the browser how the text should "look," while the strong tags tell the browser that certain text is meant to be strongly emphasized.
  • <em>Your italicized text here.</em> - The emphasis tag does just that; it tells the browser to emphasize the text enclosed within the tags (italics). Again, if the client requests, you can generally still use the older <i> and </i> tags for italics as well - again this only tells the browser how the text should look, and not that it's actually meant to be emphasized.
  • <p>Your paragraph here.</p> - The paragraph tags are self-explanatory. They wrap around a paragraph, forcing paragraphs to have extra spacing between them as opposed to simply the space between lines of text. Your client may also have CSS (stylesheet) elements tied to anything in a paragraph tag to make their paragraphs look a certain way.
  • <ul>Begin a bulleted list here.</ul> - UL stands for "unordered list." These are the tags to use when you want to create a basic bulleted list in your article. These tags wrap around the entire list as one collective thing.
  • <ol>Begin numbered list here.</ol> - OL stands for "ordered list," and works exactly the same way the <ul> tag does. The difference is that each list element will be numbered instead of with a bullet point.
  • <li>Your list item here.</li>- The <li> tag is used within the <ul> or <ol> tags, and would surround everything being itemized in the list. For example, if you're creating a numbered list of dog breeds, you may have something like this: <ol><li>Golden Retriever</li><li>Pug</li><li>Boston Terrier</li></ol> - that code would give you a list that looks like this:
    1. Golden Retriever
    2. Pug
    3. Boston Terrier

Do you find yourself using other basic HTML regularly? If so, share some common code that you use in your Web writing. Are you curious about the HTML for something in particular? Ask, and I'll try to provide it. 🙂

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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3 thoughts on “HTML Basics for Writers and Bloggers”

  1. Here are a couple that I also use.

    For line breaks. Reminder to users that it doesn’t require an open and close like other tags do.

    For quotes from other sources. It indents the text between the tags.

  2. Well, I tried inserting a space inside the tags so they wouldn’t be interpreted as tags, but looks like they were anyway! Let’s try again… 🙂

    br (between brackets) for single line breaks.

    blockquote and /blockquote (between brackets) to indent lines of text.

  3. Good additions Latoya. 🙂

    Just one comment for those using the line break (BR) code:

    Make sure you’re not using two line breaks as a substitute for paragraph tags unless a client specifically requests that, as it can screw up the stylesheet formatting if their paragraphs aren’t actually registering as paragraphs. 🙂


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