Formatting text in WordPress: Keeping it simple

Formatting text with WordPressYou have logged into WordPress for the first time. You have clicked on the ‘Add New’ to start your first post. An overwhelming temptation falls upon you. You are taking over by an uncontrollable urge. An urge to add a splash of colourful text, a mix of alignments and  paragraph and headers styles. You click on ‘Kitchen Sink’ and find a row of sparkly icons to play with!

For the sake of your readers, SEO and your reputation: tread carefully when formatting text within WordPress! We all want to add a ‘zing’ to our posts, but simple is always best. Rather than trying to impress your readers with flashy text styling, award them with what they came for. Your content. So, content is all important. Where does that leave text formatting?

What not to do with your text

  • Do not apply Bold/Italic/Underline to paragraphs of your copy. Instead, use these options to emphasize important words or phrases.
  • Do not, under any circumstances generate ‘rainbow text’. This will add huge amounts of extra code to your page. This may be bad for SEO, accessibility and page speed. Font colour consistency is recommended. If you don’t like your font colour, change it universally with your template’s CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) or custom styling.
  • Do not over do it with headings. Don’t apply headings to long sentences or paragraphs! Headings should be used occasionally. They are powerful SEO elements, so use them wisely. Do not use the Header 1 tag at all! Header 1 should only be used once per page. It is already in use via your Title box and will be outputted automatically to your page.
  • Do not over do it with text alignment. Although there’s no heavy SEO implications, you don’t want to annoy your readers with poorly flowing text. Don’t centre line after line (or paragraph) of text. From a design point of view, this approach is a bit lackadaisical.

Best practices for your copy

  • Do use paragraph for paragraphs.
  • Do use headers for headers and keep them short and to the point.
  • Do use Unordered and Ordered Lists to breakdown your information.
  • Do apply bold/italic/underscore to important single words or phrases for emphasis, but don’t over do it.
  • Do use More tag to divide up your post for teaser purposes. You’ll need to test how this looks and works within your chosen template.
  • Do use Insert custom character to add exotic characters.
  • Do use the Full Screen option to edit your page without distraction from other admin elements. This is great, but the WYSIWYG menu is somewhat reduce to basic tools. How appropriate!
  • Do use Indent and Outdent, but go easy on it!
  • Do use Blockquotes to format your text as a blockquote.

If you are copying and pasting from Word: Use ‘Paste as Plain Text’ (remove formatting) or ‘Paste from Word’ (to preserve some of the original formatting) on the toolbar to avoid most conversion problems. Pasting directly from Word will likely result in messy code and character/formatting issues when viewed online. if you’re wondering about spellchecker – the later versions of WordPress automatically highlight misspellings with red underscoring. Right-click for correction options. If this is not available to you, you may have an older browser. In which case, download the plugin – TinyMCE spellcheck.

Another reason to keep it simple when formatting text

A simple format will be more flexible.  If your current front end template is liquid/elastic (flexible in width/height), then your carefully laid out format may fall apart at different resolutions. Also, consider different browsers, and viewing platforms. Simple is always best.

Related reading

Creating a new post in WordPress: Best practices

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