HTML for Bloggers

HTML stands for hyper-text mark-up language, which is nothing more than a system of tags you put into text that you write so that your readers' browsers will show special appearances for or do special things to the text that has the tags wrapped around it. Although there are many tags that can do various nice tricks, you must be careful: some browsers, especially older versions some people have because they never update their software, won't be able to interpret some of the fancier HTML tags. When such browsers encounter HTML tags they don't understand, they usually just skip them. This can be a disaster for you if you set up text in a special way, relying on HTML formatting that just isn't going to be seen by some of your readers.

An important matter for bloggers to understand is that, even if almost all of the readers have up-to-date browsers, you're not going to be able to use all of the HTML tags that are available. If you're an administrator of a blog, you'll have more tags that work than if you are a commentator on the blog; but in either case, you'll have restrictions on you that aren't there when you're writing straight Web pages. For example, a blog administrator could create this headline:

Dollar Hits New Low for 2nd Straight Day

but a commentator couldn't make the "nd" appear as a superscript because the "mark-up" tag for superscripts isn't available to commentators, even though it's perfectly harmless and rather useful on occasion. So if you're a commentator thinking you could do the superscript trick, you'd type in the text Dollar Hits New Low for 2<sup>nd</sup> Straight Day, and once you tried to submit the comment, the blog's text editor would bounce it back with some kind of hurtful remark about how <sup> isn't "supported." (That'll teach you a thing or two, won't it, Blog Breath?)

Sounds unfair, doesn't it? Well, yes, it is, but only to a certain extent. You see, comments on most blogs appear within a special area, called a "frame," of the whole blog page. Certain mark-up tricks, which would look great by themselves on a Web page, could cause all kinds of weird things to happen within a small frame, and those problems could cause the structure of that frame to interfere with other frames, thereby causing the whole look of the blog to be ruined.

Another reason many HTML tags aren't available probably has to do with something called "deprecation": HTML as the primary way to format Web pages is becoming obsolete. It's being replaced primarily by a formatting method called "Cascading Style Sheets," a term that is intimidating in and of itself, considering how easy and simple HTML is to say and use once you get the hang of it. Newer versions of Web browsers are targeting certain HTML tags for obsolescence in later releases of the browsers. In other words, some tags—even some of the most common tags that have been around since time immemorable—will eventually be such that new releases of browsers won't know what they mean, anymore. That's progress, for you.

Moving along, HTML also has special strings of letters you can type into your text so your readers' browsers display characters that your keyboard doesn't have. For example, if you want to put the copyright symbol into your document somewhere, you would type the string &copy;, and people looking at your text from their browsers would see ©. Although there are dozens and dozens of these special character codes, again you must be careful: some browsers, especially older versions some people have because they never update their software, won't be able to interpret some of the more unusual special character codes. Instead, they'll either see a little box where the special character was supposed to be, or they'll see some odd jumble of characters.

All of this having been said as an introduction, below are some HTML tags and special character codes for you to use.

HTML Tags for Comments on the Blog
Below are the HTML tags that you as a commentator on The Dark Wraith Forums have at your disposal. You will notice that all of these mark-ups start with an opening tag at the point where you want the effect to begin, and they end with a closing tag (it's the same as the opening tag, except that there's a forward slash on the front of the command) where you want the effect to end. As noted above, there are many more tags, and they all work just about the same way; but if you try to embed them in the text of a comment you're writing on The Dark Wraith Forums, the text editor will return you to the editing window with some beef about how you used a tag that wasn't allowed.


Hyper-linked text

Special Character Codes for the Blog
Below are the strings of text you would type in to get various special characters here on the blog. Notice that every special character starts with the & symbol and ends with a semi-colon. The character codes given below are only a small subset of all the character codes available, but the ones presented below are probably the most useful.

That should be enough special characters to satisfy most needs.

One final note should be made about a genuinely peculiar glitch in this blog's posting system. Several of the regular commentators here have had it happen to them. It seems that, when you close an HTML tag, this posting system decides that whatever comes right after that closing tag needs to be rammed right up against the last letter that was inside the tag. This can be a minor disaster if you close a tag on, say, some italics, then try to go on to a new paragraph. The new paragraph will start right up against the last italicized letter. The only time this annoyance isn't apparent is when you close a tag, then put something like a comma or a period. In such a case, you want that character to sit right up against the last marked-up character.

I have found a way to get around this nonsense glitch, but even I forget to do it sometimes. If you don't want the character right after you've closed a tag to sit right up against the last character before the tag was closed, you should put in two spaces after the tag.

In other words, if you were to type this: I <i>love</i> you!
you'd actually get this: I loveyou!
Annoying little glitch, isn't it?
To keep that from happening, you would use two spaces after the </i>: I <i>love</i>  you!
which would give you the desired: I love you!

I have asked the provider of the comment posting service to do something about this, so we'll see if this little flaw gets fixed in the near future. I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, that should be enough about HTML to keep any commentator in the Blogosphere blogging away productively here for some time to come.

Until, of course, the entirety of HTML is deprecated. Then, we'll have to put up a new Web page about Cascading Style Sheets for Bloggers. Fortunately, that won't be for a couple of years. We hope.