How to Fix Common Webpage Editing Problems

WordPress empowered small business owners.  It allowed them to update their website content without having to rely on a web designer  or having to learn HTML.  This ease of editing helped drive the explosion of blogs.

Website owners and bloggers dove into the WordPress editor and started producing content.  The editor buttons looked very familiar–and for good reason. The WordPress editor buttons look very similar to the ones Microsoft uses in Microsoft Word.

WordPress Editor Buttons: (WordPress is used for blogs and websites)


Microsoft Word 2007 Editing Buttons: (Word is used for print documents)

However, even though the editing buttons look similar, formatting on the Web works differently than in Word.

In Word, formatting is precise, and you may have heard the term “What You See is What You Get” – WYSIWYG.

On the Web, that concept goes out the window.

Word’s strengths include:

  1. the ability to space text with hanging indents, tabs, and columns
  2. easily mixing formatting in the same paragraph, and even in the same line
  3. heavy control of spacing between lines and paragraphs

By comparison, formatting through a web editor is far less sophisticated:

  1. Tabs and hanging indents don’t exist, and columns are flakey
  2. Mixing formatting can be done, but too much of it can result in a mess
  3. All control of spacing on the Web is relative and can change browser to browser and device to device

If you want to take text from a complex print piece and bring it to a webpage, plan to spend extra time formatting and proofing the page, and check the final page in multiple browsers.

Here are some common problems along with ways to fix them:

Pasting Text from Word:

Text with simple formatting may paste well into Word.  Text with more complex formatting (e.g. some bold, some italics in the same paragraph) may wind up garbled.  If the pasted text looks odd, you have two options:

1) Select the pasted text and click the Clear Formatting button on the WordPress toolbar:


This strips out the leftover styles from Word.  Reapply formatting using the buttons on the WordPress formatting toolbar.

2) Delete the pasted text, and paste it again with the Paste as text button in WordPress:


Reapply formatting using the buttons on the WordPress formatting toolbar.

Unwanted Changes in Formatting – Mid-word, Mid-Sentence, Mid-Paragraph

HTML, the language of the webpage, works with pairs of tags. For example, when you select text and click the Bold button, the editor writes this HTML, which the web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) reads to draw the page:


Let’s say you also select the same text, and add italics:


With each successive command, the editor tries to nest another set of tags around the selected text. Unfortunately sometimes the editor hiccups an doesn’t write an end tag correctly. The end tag stops a formatting command. So when formatting “runs on” or changes unexpectedly, a misplaced or garbled tag is often at fault. To correct the text, select the text all the way to the end of the paragraph and reapply the formatting. For example, if the bold is wrong mid-paragraph, select the whole paragraph and hit bold until it turns the bold off. This should fix the tags. Then go back and select just the text you want bold and hit bold again.

Paragraph Spacing

Whether you are using Word or the WordPress editor, there are two types of spacing: a line break, which brings the next line tight against the last, and paragraph spacing, which leaves “breathing space” between the paragraphs. In WordPress, press Enter to create a new paragraph, or Shift and Enter to create a line break.

Make sure to check your the results of your edits in as many web browsers as you can.  Paragraph spacing in the final page may vary by web browser.  That is one of the quirks of the Web.

Important Note:

Most WordPress themes globally set text size; if you find yourself changing text size and other attributes paragraph after paragraph and page after page to get a different look, you may want to talk with a web designer to have them make a global change to the theme. Otherwise you can wind up with a ton of extra HTML tags and eventually break the page.

Untangling a Gordian Knot

Sometimes a heavily-edited page turns into a tangled mess of nested HTML tags.  Untangling the tags can be a real headache for someone not comfortable with hand-editing HTML.  At that point, you may want to call in a web designer who can edit the tags down to the bare minimum so the page will be easier to edit in the future.