Dear I-Don’t-Know-Any-HTML Blogger

It’s true. You don’t need to know anything about HTML or CSS or JavaScript or any other techie stuff to write a blog. You have to fill in a few forms, choose a theme, answer some questions, and start writing.

Anyone can be a blogger.

That’s a good thing. That’s a great thing. We have plenty of wonderful bloggers in the world who are good at writing but don’t know much about what’s happening behind the scenes on their blog.

Which way do you roll?

Two things can happen when you write a blog without having any background knowledge about HTML, CSS and other web standards that make your blog work.

  1. You can write your posts, use the simple formatting tools like headings, lists, bold and italic and push Publish.
  2. You can write your posts and then fiddle with how things look by changing colors, alignment, fonts, and other appearance features.

If you do number 1, that is, stick with the way things are set to appear in your theme or template, you’re okay. Your theme or template has a style sheet (that’s the CSS) in place that determines appearance. Go with that and you’re golden.

If you do number 2, you are adding things into the post that aren’t in the theme style sheet. That means you are inserting stuff about appearance into the content of your post. You may not see it in what you write, but it’s happening behind the scenes in the HTML. Adding stuff about appearance into the content of your post is a problem.

You cannot predict what people are using to view your blog. It might be a smart phone, it might be a large monitor, it might be something in between. The style sheet for your theme probably has made allowances for this unpredictability – unless you are using a really old theme. But when you add appearance stuff right into the post, it doesn’t go into your style sheet and it might not adapt to different sized viewing devices.

In addition, added appearance stuff right in the post isn’t portable. By that I mean it makes it hard to reprint your post somewhere else and have it look good there. When you copy and paste somewhere else you carry along all that appearance stuff and it won’t look good in the new location. The new location for your brilliant post has its own style sheet, its own appearance, and you’re pasting in stuff that doesn’t work with that.

Some advice

I talked a bit about this in my post Web Teacher’s Seldom Asked Questions. I even made up a law about it called Virginia’s Law Against Unintended HTML. It goes like this:

Play with the way your content will look before the content is on the page, not after.

The bottom line for you don’t-know-anything-about-HTML bloggers is pick a theme you like and stick with that appearance. You do need to format your headings and lists and that sort of thing, but don’t fiddle with how those things look on the page after you’ve written them.

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