This document is a supplement to
Editing for Clear Communication
Copyright 1996-1999,
Thom Lieb


No portion may be reused without the author's permission.

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Further Reading:
Ask Dr. Web

Online HTML Tutorial from the Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction

Webmonkey Teaching Tool

To learn more about this college editing textbook or to order an educational review copy, please visit
McGraw Hill.


Editing for the Web

Learning HTML

Just a little more than a decade ago, using a word processing program meant learning computer programming skills. In the pre-Mac, pre-Windows days, doing something as simple as boldfacing text required memorization of confusing keyboard commands (CONTROL-R to justify; ALT-SHIFT-P to get italics — that sort of thing).

Now, of course, no one gives a second thought to those operations. Just click on the little symbol, and you're set. Unfortunately, in this area, the futuristic Web is a blast from the past.

Programs offering various degrees of automation are sprouting like weeds. Some allow users to create Web pages from scratch; others convert word-processing or desktop-publishing documents for use on the Web. But no program yet can do everything a site builder might want. If you want to build the best sites possible, you have to buckle down and learn Hypertext Markup Language (known affectionately as HTML).

Fortunately, HTML is not brain surgery. Most of the basic "tags" used for formatting are straightforward: To boldface something, you precede it with <B> and follow it with </B>.

When it comes to fancy formatting, however, HTML can present a challenge. For example, HTML offers no provisions for uneven sized multiple columns on a page. To create such columns, you have to format the page (or part of it) as a table. The pages of this document are formatted that way, with a narrow column on the left, a very narrow empty column in the middle, and a wide column on the right. Getting just the look you want can take time and effort.

Web builders do have one key advantage in mastering HTML struggles, however: It's a snap to look at the HTML source code of any page you view on the Web. In Netscape Navigator or Communicator, choose View-Document Source; In Microsoft Internet Explorer, choose View-Source. The code is then revealed for you to borrow. Indeed, some editors say the best way to learn HTML is through OPP — "other people's pages." When you save a Web document to your own computer, you actually save the HTML; it's a simple matter to cut and paste what you need.

Of course, it's better if you can figure out how to do what you need on your own — it's no good if you have to start surfing the Web on deadline to try to find the code you need. Learning HTML will take effort, but you'll have great stories to tell your grandchildren: "Why back when I was an editor, I used to have to code 10 pages of HTML an hour on deadline. You kids have it so easy!"

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