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Formatting paragraphs

From: Up and Running with HTML

Video: Formatting paragraphs

Paragraphs are perhaps the most basic formatting tag that you'll use in HTML. In fact, if you don't wrap text in an element, most browsers simply default to using a paragraph to represent the text. Here I have the paragraph.htm file opened up and if I preview the page in my browser right now, you can see nothing much going on here. We have our headings on the page that we had before, and all of the text other than the headings is basically displaying as if it were inside of a paragraph. You'll notice that there is vertical margins between the headings and between the remainder of the text, and that's exactly what we see when we are looking at a paragraph being rendered within the browser. But if go back into my code, I can see that I don't have any paragraphs.

Formatting paragraphs

Paragraphs are perhaps the most basic formatting tag that you'll use in HTML. In fact, if you don't wrap text in an element, most browsers simply default to using a paragraph to represent the text. Here I have the paragraph.htm file opened up and if I preview the page in my browser right now, you can see nothing much going on here. We have our headings on the page that we had before, and all of the text other than the headings is basically displaying as if it were inside of a paragraph. You'll notice that there is vertical margins between the headings and between the remainder of the text, and that's exactly what we see when we are looking at a paragraph being rendered within the browser. But if go back into my code, I can see that I don't have any paragraphs.

The text is just sitting inside the page and not being identified at all by any elements. So we're going to change that, and we're going to see something that the browser was doing there that we may have missed at first glance. So the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to go up to the paragraph directly underneath the heading 2 here and I'm going to go ahead and wrap that in a paragraph tag. So we have an opening tag with the p element and then a closing tag with the p character as well. So opening paragraph tag, closing paragraph tag. So I'm just going to go through all the paragraphs on the page and do exactly the same thing.

It shouldn't take too long, until we get down towards the bottom, and that's when I want to point something out down here. So if I get down to this little section here where I've got line breaks going on, you can see that when we previewed our page earlier, you can see that just down below Line breaks, this looks like one big section of text. But if I go back into my code, I can see that actually I have three different sections of text, and these are all going to be separate paragraphs. Because of the fact that none of them are wrapped in a paragraph, the browser just treated them as one large section of text.

And that's something that you need to keep in mind if you're ever formatting your copy and you leave a paragraph off, really, anything that comes after that, until it encounters a new element, it considers that to be one big paragraph. So you need to be very careful with that. I'm going to take the Occasionally, the paragraph that starts with Occasionally there, and wrap that in a paragraph. And then the same thing here for the next one, wrap that in a paragraph. And finally, we have an address at the end of the document, and we'll go ahead and wrap that in a paragraph as well.

Now, you may notice that sometimes you see this formatted slightly differently. For example, you can see that right now this line and their two opening and closing paragraph tags are on the same line. Well, occasionally you may see code represented like this. It doesn't really matter which one you use. However, this is using three lines of code instead of two, so you're better off just keeping them all in the same line. But if it helps you read it to place them on separate lines, there's really nothing wrong with that at all.

So if I save this, and preview this in my browser, I can see that what updates--not so much up here, because those guys were already sort of displaying as if they were paragraphs, but the three paragraphs down at the bottom are really sort of changed. Now remember, just because something is displaying as a paragraph doesn't mean that it is. These elements that we have up here, they were displaying as a paragraph, but they really weren't, so to other user agents that can cause a problem. One of the little-known facts about paragraphs is that especially since HTML5 came out, the closing tag of a paragraph is optional.

You don't really need it, in terms of having the browser parse it correctly. Now in the spec, it will tell you that you need it, but you don't really. So for example, if I were to take the closing paragraph tag off of this paragraph and save that and go back into my browser and refresh the page, there's no visual change; in fact, there's no change at all. What happens is this opening tag tells the user agent, hey, I'm a paragraph, it reads through it and then by the time it gets to this tag, it goes, oh, well, the paragraph is over, so it just ends it for you.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should, and leaving that optional closing tag off will actually fail in a lot of validators, so there's no real good reason to leave it off. I just want to let you know that that is actually optional when it comes to the opening and closing tags. You may have also noticed in the browser that we have a specific amount of whitespace above and below margins, if you will, these paragraphs, and there is no mechanism in HTML to control the spacing of those vertical margins. They are controlled through styles.

Each browser or user agent has its own default styles that tells it how much space to give between each paragraph. By using CSS you can control that. Overall paragraphs, they are pretty straightforward. Just make sure to avoid having empty paragraphs in your code, and make sure that all your paragraph's opening and closing tags are wrapped correctly around the appropriate page elements.

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This video is part of

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Up and Running with HTML

49 video lessons · 25181 viewers

James Williamson
Author

 
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  1. 2m 12s
    1. Welcome
      55s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 17s
  2. 29m 30s
    1. Learning HTML
      2m 47s
    2. Choosing a code editor
      5m 2s
    3. Exploring basic HTML syntax
      8m 18s
    4. Do I need to learn HTML5?
      5m 6s
    5. Exploring HTML references
      8m 17s
  3. 35m 40s
    1. Exploring an HTML document
      5m 19s
    2. Working with doctype declarations
      4m 3s
    3. Examining the document head
      8m 20s
    4. Looking at the document body
      3m 21s
    5. Adding document structure
      8m 52s
    6. Lab: Coding a basic page
      3m 9s
    7. Solution: Coding a basic page
      2m 36s
  4. 1h 23m
    1. How does HTML format text?
      5m 51s
    2. Adding headings
      7m 24s
    3. Formatting paragraphs
      4m 54s
    4. Controlling line breaks
      3m 50s
    5. Creating lists
      10m 37s
    6. Emphasizing text
      6m 42s
    7. Displaying special characters
      5m 8s
    8. Controlling whitespace
      4m 35s
    9. Inserting images
      9m 20s
    10. Lab: Controlling page content
      13m 57s
    11. Solution: Controlling page content
      10m 55s
  5. 31m 54s
    1. Linking to pages within your site
      6m 45s
    2. Linking to external pages
      3m 2s
    3. Linking to downloadable resources
      2m 25s
    4. Linking to page regions
      8m 0s
    5. Lab: Creating Links
      5m 57s
    6. Solution: Creating Links
      5m 45s
  6. 40m 27s
    1. Examining basic table structure
      5m 10s
    2. Adding content to tables
      6m 20s
    3. Setting table attributes
      7m 42s
    4. Adding table captions
      4m 3s
    5. Defining table headers
      2m 13s
    6. Making table data accessible
      5m 46s
    7. Lab: Building tables
      4m 13s
    8. Solution: Building tables
      5m 0s
  7. 43m 23s
    1. Understanding the relationship between HTML and CSS
      4m 58s
    2. Creating inline styles
      4m 53s
    3. Exploring the style element
      5m 13s
    4. Basic font styling
      9m 24s
    5. Changing color
      4m 55s
    6. Taking styles further
      5m 24s
    7. Lab: Controlling basic styles
      5m 10s
    8. Solution: Controlling basic styles
      3m 26s
  8. 5m 44s
    1. Next steps
      2m 56s
    2. Additional resources
      2m 48s

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