HTML, in its most basic tags, is really not that difficult, and anyone could learn to use the tags to format text in anything from forums, comments, to chat.
I know that many people think that knowing a little HTML automatically makes you a nerd, geek, whatever. I’ve got news for ya. It doesn’t. I don’t know a lot of HTML, but the most basic HTML is actually really easy. Anyone could learn how to bold, italic, hyperlink, etc.
HTML is a markup language that is pretty much the foundation of the Internet. It’s what shows the stuff on a website. However, it’s becoming slowly obsolete thanks to another language very similar to it, called XHTML. But, HTML is still more popular than XHTML. It stands for HyperText Markup Language.
The first thing that one should know about HTML is that most commands are written in tags. They use the less-than and greater-than signs (<>). Many of these also use the backslash (/) to show what the command effects. You type the command, more often called a tag, inside the two less-than and greater-than signs. Then, if you want to tell the computer when to end, you copy the same tag, only you put a backslash between the command inside the tag and the less-than sign. I know this sounds very confusing; it did for me when I was first learning it. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how it’s done. Most tags would look something like this: <something>something else</something>. The words in italics symbolize words that would vary. Obviously, there is no tag called something. I’m just showing how a real tag would actually look, minus the somethings.
The second thing that one should know is that for the basic formatting tags, there can be two ways of making something bold, or italicized, etc. I wrote about one way in What Does Basic HTML Allowed in Comment Boxes Mean?, and this article is about the second way, which is, in my opinion, more commonly used nowadays. I will explain the difference between the two later as you learn more about HTML.
It doesn’t matter if the tags are uppercase or lowercase, although I like writing them in caps, as 1) it’s easier to hold down the shift key while typing the command, so you can keep it down after typing “<,” and 2) it’s easier to tell if text is part of a tag or just part of your regular text.
Above is a picture of a forum telling what tags are allowed in that forum. Those are among the most basic tags in HTML so I’ll just go down the list and go through them all.
The <A> tag is used to hyperlink something. Now, you can just copy and paste the URL of a website and the browser will probably automatically make it a link, but if you want to link using Google instead of http://www.google.com/, then you can use the <A> tag. I will show you how to make absolute links, links that take you to a totally different website. We’ll use the Google link as an example. To use the <A> tag, follow the model: <A HREF=”http://www.something.something.com“>Something</A>. Everything that’s not in italics must be in every hyperlink, while the stuff in italics can change, such as the URL or the link. The quotation marks are NOT in italics, by the way. The Something after the URL is the title of the hyperlink, or what it comes up as in the webpage. So, using our Google example, it would look something like this. <A HREF=”http://google.com”>Google</A>. The title is “Google,” and the link takes you too “google.com!”
The next tag is <BLOCKQUOTE>something</BLOCKQUOTE>. This basically quotes someone without using quotations. Many forums have a button that allows you to quote, but others require you to use the <BLOCKQUOTE> element. So, if someone says something, like Hey! Something, I like to do something! I also like to eat something!, you can quote that using the tag. To quote it, just put the text you want to quote between the two tags, and there you go! <BLOCKQUOTE>Hey! Something, I like to do something! I also like to eat something!</BLOCKQUOTE>.
The <CODE>something</CODE> tag let’s you write in text that sort of looks like typewriter text. To italicize text, the tag <EM>something</EM> is used. The “EM” stands for emphasis. To bold a piece of text, just use the tag <STRONG>something</STRONG>. Those tags are really easy to understand and use.
The next tags are <UL>, <OL>, and <LI>. These tags are used to form lists. There are two basic types of lists, ordered and unordered lists. Ordered lists use numbers and look like this:
- Something 1
- Something 2
Unordered lists use bullets and go like this:
- Something 3
- Something 4
Both lists use the <LI> tag. This tag distinguishes between the separate parts of the list. So, right before you write Something 1, you need the <LI> tag. Same goes for all the other somethings. Now, you know how to make the parts of the list, but you don’t know how to make the two different types of lists. Well, unordered lists have the <UL> tag, while ordered lists have the <OL> tag. You need the tags at the beginning and end of the list only. So, to write the ordered list above, the code would look something like this:
And the unordered list would look like this:
Yes, the lists are a bit more complicated than the others! But, with practice, you can get the hang of it.
Now, about that other way of writing the tags that I mentioned before. This is only specifically to writing bold, italic, and the typewriter text. The other way is, for bold, <B>something</B>; for italics, <I>something</I>; and for typewriter text, <TT>something</TT>. The two different type of tags mean slightly different things. <B> means actually bolding something, while <STRONG> means to just make the text stronger. This can apply to stuff besides the web browser on a computer. On a cell phone, if it can’t actually bold something, the <STRONG> could make it underlined or something. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s a notable one. Most websites use the <STRONG>, <EM>, etc. tags more.
Remember, this may seem really confusing at first (it certainly did for me!), but with more practice, you will get better.