TL;DR: The short answer to the title of this post: a little bit of HTML Web page coding knowledge opens up writing opportunities. It is not always necessary, but it’s a valuable skill. Especially if you find that you enjoy it and want to actually build Web pages for clients (or yourself) as part of your services.
I have a writing colleague whom I “met” online when we were working for the same client. We both wrote high-end content for the client, which involved research and technically required knowledge of a small amount of HTML. But my colleague refused to (or was actually afraid to) learn enough and, as a result, his content did not always render in the client’s WordPress pages with the right layout. (HTML is the computer code that powers Web pages, but it is NOT a programming language — just a collection of special “tag” instructions.)
You might be asking, “If the client is using WP (WordPress), can’t my colleague use the visual editor in WP? That would make it really easy for him, and he wouldn’t really need to know any HTML at all.”
Answer: No. The client has other people who do content check and publication. That means the client’s freelance writers need to know some HTML to get work – just a few features. It’s really not that much effort to learn:
- different heading size codes
- how to link to a Web page
- how to add images that center on a page
- adding extra line breaks
- how to produce an unnumbered bullet list (like this one)
- how to produce a numbered bullet list
and a few other HTML features.
But my take is that my colleague is afraid of something, and fear and learning just do not play well. His background is journalism — many years of it — so he’s a good writer. Unfortunately, not being willing to learn HTML limits the range of writing work he can take on.
HTML is not a foreign language, and I’ve known a fair number of creative types (writer, artists, photographers, etc.) who have picked it up. There are countless tutorials online. If you’re looking to learn some basics of HTML and Web pages, I suggest you start with a search for “HTML” on Coursera, where really college courses are offered free (no certification). If you want to go further and learn a bit of Web page development (actual coding/ programming), see freeCodeCamp. Of course, you can also your favorite search engine and check on YouTube.
If there’s enough interest, I might put together a small ebook on some of the basics of HTML that Web-based writers should know and learn. What do you think? Have you had to learn HTML to supplement your writing or other creative work? Leave a comment.