HTML semantics cheat sheet


  • <title>

    • Second most important piece of content.

    • Shown in the browser tab & search results.

    • Should be unique for every page on the site.

  • <link href="…" rel="stylesheet">

    • For linking CSS and other resources like feeds.

    • href is the path the file.

    • rel has different values for other resources.

  • <header>

    • When inside <body> it’s the website masthead.

    • When inside <article> it’s the most important information.

  • <footer>

    • When inside <body> it’s the website footer.

    • When inside <article> it’s the least important information.

  • <main>

    • Primary content of the page.

  • <nav>

    • Defines a group a navigation links.

  • <article>

    • A piece of content that’s independent.

    • Could be removed from this website and still make sense.

  • <section>

    • A group in a series of related content pieces.

  • <aside>

    • Secondary content not required to understand the main content.

  • CSS link tag

    • <link href="css/main.css" rel="stylesheet">
  • Navigation inside header

    • <header>
            <li><a href="#">Stegosaurus</a></li>
            <li><a href="#">Triceratops</a></li>
            <li><a href="#">Ankylosaurus</a></li>
  • Main content groups

    • <body>
          <p>© 2063 Dinos-R-Us</p>


  • <ul>

    • An unordered list—the order of items isn’t important.

    • Can only have <li> elements as direct children.

  • <ol>

    • An ordered list—the order of the items is important.

    • Could be alphabetical, numerical, best to worst, etc.

    • Can only have <li> elements as direct children.

  • <li>

    • A single list item.

    • Must be inside a <ul>, <ol> or <menu>.

    • Can have most other elements inside it.

  • <dl>

    • A description list—a grouping of terms and definitions.

    • Words & definitions, titles & summaries, data points, etc.

    • Can only have <dt> and <dd> elements as direct children.

  • <dt>

    • Description title, the term of the item.

    • Must come before the <dd>.

  • <dd>

    • Description definition, the data, or text of the item.

    • Can be multiple <dd> tags underneath one <dt>.

  • Unordered list

    • <ul>
  • Ordered list

    • <ol>
  • Description list

    • <dl>
        <dd>2.3 m</dd>
        <dd>4 tonnes</dd>
  • <menu>

    • For semantically marking up a web application’s toolbar of buttons.

    • The <menu> tag also uses <li> tags inside—one for each toolbar button.

    • You may still have to remove the bullets.

  • Menu toolbar list

    • <menu>


  • <a href="…">

    • For making hyperlinks.

    • href is the path to where the link should go.

  • <h1>

    • The most important piece of content on the page.

    • On the homepage this should be the company’s name.

    • On inside pages this should be the page title.

  • <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, <h5>, <h6>

    • Content headings, each a sub-heading of the one above.

    • The <h2> is a sub-heading of <h1>, <h3> a sub-heading of <h2>, etc.

  • <hgroup>

    • Allows you to group multiple headings together and have them semantically treated as a single heading.

    • It’s primary purpose is for subheadings.

  • <p>

    • A generic paragraph of text.

  • <blockquote>

    • A large, stand alone quote from another source.

  • <cite>

    • A citation for another source, often used with quotations.

    • A person’s name, a URL, a book, a movie title, etc.

  • <q>

    • A small quotation embedded within other content.

  • <em>

    • A string of emphasized, slightly more important text.

    • Screen readers will change their voice for this text.

  • <strong>

    • A string of highly emphasized, much more important text.

    • Screen readers will change their voice for this text.

  • <ins datetime="…">

    • Content that was inserted after the document was published.

    • datetime defines when it was added.

  • <del datetime="…">

    • Content that was deleted after the document was published.

    • datetime defines when it was removed.

  • <abbr title="…">

    • An acronym or abbreviation, like “HTML”, “CSS”, etc.

    • title contains the expanded version, like “Hypertext Markup Language”.

  • <dfn>

    • A definition of a term on the page.

    • Should only be used once of the term.

  • <mark>

    • Used to highlight a piece of text for reference.

    • The keywords in a search results page, the current navigation item.

  • <i>

    • Defines technical term, a ship name, a book title, a thought, sarcasm, another language.

  • <b>

    • Defines a keyword, like product name in a review, a lead sentence in a paragraph.

  • <s>

    • Content that’s no longer relevant to the document.

    • Consider if the <del> element is better suited first.

  • <u>

    • Labels the text as having a non-textual annotation.

    • A misspelled word, a Chinese proper name, etc.

  • <small>

    • Represents side comments and fine print.

  • <address>

    • Contact information, email, tel, postal address, etc.

  • Blockquotes

    • <blockquote>
        <p>Dinosaurs may be extinct from the face of the planet, but they are alive and well in our imaginations.</p>
        <footer>— <cite>Steve Miller</cite></footer>
  • Addresses

    • <address>
        Jet Propulsion Laboratory
        <br>4800 Oak Grove Drive
        <br>Pasadena, California
  • Text edits

    • <p>Launchpad 39A owned by <del datetime="2014-04-14">NASA</del> <ins datetime="2014-04-14">SpaceX</ins></p>
  • Heading groups

    • <hgroup>
        <h1>Star Wars</h1>
        <h2>The Empire Strikes Back</h2>
  • Abbreviations

    • <abbr title="Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan">ST:TWOK</abbr>
  • Other languages

    • <i lang="fr">Bonjour</i>

Images & media

  • <img src="…" alt="…">

    • Embeds an image that’s important to the content.

    • src is a path to the image file.

    • alt describes the image if it cannot be seen.

  • <figure>

    • Embeds annotated images, illustrations, photos, code, etc.

    • Could be moved out of place and would still make sense.

  • <figcaption>

    • For adding a caption/annotation to the <figure>.

    • Must be inside a <figure> element—cannot stand alone.

  • <picture>

    • Responsive image insertion—allows developers to provide different images for different contexts.

  • <video poster="…" autoplay loop muted controls>

    • For embedding movies into a website.

    • poster is the path to an image that’s displayed before the video plays.

    • autoplay will hint the video to start automatically.

    • loop triggers whether the video should repeat or not.

    • muted can be added to not play sound by default.

    • controls shows or hides the browser’s player buttons.

  • <audio autoplay loop muted controls>

    • For embedding sounds into a website.

    • autoplay will hint the audio to start automatically.

    • loop triggers whether the audio should repeat or not.

    • muted can be added to not play sound by default.

    • controls shows or hides the browser’s player buttons.

  • <source>

    • Must be inside <picture>, <video> or <audio> to define the different versions of content.

    • For example, in video it gives paths to the MP4 and WEBM formats.

  • <track>

    • Used to pair captions, chapters, etc. with <video> elements.

  • Basic images

    • <img src="images/dino.jpg" alt="An beautiful, long-necked Brontosaurus">
  • Figures & captions

    • Use only if there’s a caption.

    • <figure>
        <img src="images/dino-small.jpg" alt="">
        <figcaption>So many dinosaurs I can’t even count!</figcaption>
  • Responsive images

    • See Responsive & retina images for details.

    • <picture>
        <source media="(min-width: 60em)" srcset="images/dino-wide.jpg">
        <source media="(min-width: 38em)" srcset="images/dino-rectangle.jpg">
        <img src="images/dino-small.jpg" alt="All the dinosaurs!">

Data & code

  • <sub>

    • Defines text as being subscript.

  • <sup>

    • Defines text as being superscript.

  • <var>

    • Represents a variable in math or programming.

  • <time datetime="…">

    • Marks some text as a time or date.

    • datetime defines the machine readable version.

  • <data value="…">

    • Marks elements as being a numerical piece of information.

    • value provides the machine readable version.

  • <meter value="…" min="…" max="…">

    • Represents a single number in a range of numbers.

    • value is the current number.

    • min is the minimum number.

    • max is the maximum number.

  • <progress value="…" min="…" max="…">

    • Represents the current position in a series of steps.

    • value is the current position.

    • min is the minimum position.

    • max is the maximum position.

  • <code>

    • Defines a piece of text as a code sample.

  • <pre>

    • A piece of text that has a specific formatting, where tabs, whitespaces, etc. should be maintained.

  • <kbd>

    • Something a user should type into their computer.

  • <samp>

    • Something a user should see output from a computer.

  • Time

    • Apollo 11 landed on the moon <time datetime="1969-07-20T20:18">July 20, 1969</time>
  • Data

    • Argentinosaurus weighted approximately <data value="90">90 tonnes</data>
  • Maths

    • E = mc<sup>2</sup>

Meaningless tags

  • <div>

    • Inherits meaning from its children.

    • Divides content into logical groups, when no other tag is better suited.

    • Has restrictions on what elements it can be inside.

  • <span>

    • Inherits meaning from its children.

Be careful

  • <br>

    • Creates a line break that’s significant to the content.

    • Useful in poems and addresses where the division of lines is important.

    • Do not use to create space in a design—use margins and padding.

  • <hr>

    • Represents a thematic break in the content.

    • For example, a scene change or topic change.

    • Do not use to create a horizontal line—use CSS borders.

  • <button>

    • Represents a interactive, clickable button.

    • Should be used in forms and with JavaScript.

    • Do not use to link to another page—use the <a> tag.

  • <wbr>

    • Presents an opportunity for the browser to add a line-break if necessary.

    • Groups strings of text, when no other tag is better suited.

  • Links that go nowhere

    • The href always needs a value—# means nowhere.

    • <a href="#">Nowhere</a>
  • Links on the same page

    • Add an id="" to the element to jump to, refer to that inside the href

    • <a href="#herbivores">See the herbivores</a>
      <h2 id="herbivores">Herbivores</h2>
  • Links to other files

    • Just write the name of the HTML file, also include any folders its inside.

    • <a href="dinos.html">Dinosaurs</a>
      <!-- or in another folder -->
      <a href="herbivores/stegosaurus.html">Stegosaurus</a>
  • Links to other websites

    • Always start with https:// or less ideally http://

    • <a href="">Wikipedia</a>
      <!-- Adding `rel="external"` for outward-bound sites is good -->
      <a href="" rel="external">Wikipedia</a>
  • Links to phone numbers

    • Start with tel:, use international format

    • <a href="tel:+18005552368">Call Me!</a>
    • Also send a text message with sms:

    • <a href="sms:+18005552368&body=Who%20ya%20gonna%20call">Call Me!</a>
      <!-- or without a default number -->
      <a href="sms:&body=Who%20ya%20gonna%20call">Call Me!</a>
  • Links to email addresses

    • Pops open a new email message, start with mailto:

    • <a href="">Thomas</a>
      <!-- Add a subject too -->
      <a href="">Thomas</a>
      <!-- Even a default body -->
      <a href="">Thomas</a>
    • %20 is used to escape spaces—See more percent-encoding examples

Date/time formats

Apply to the datetime="" attribute of the <time>, <del> & <ins> elements.

  • Year

    • Format: YYYY

    • Example: 1963

  • Year, month

    • Format: YYYY-MM

    • Example: 1963-11

    • Nov. 1963

  • Year, month, day

    • Format: YYYY-MM-DD

    • Example: 1963-11-23

    • Nov. 23, 1963

  • Year, week

    • Format: YYYY-Wdd

    • Example: 1963-W47

    • 1936, the week of Nov. 18–24

  • Hour, minute

    • Format: HH:MM

    • Example: 17:16

    • 5:16 PM

  • Hour, minute, second

    • Format: HH:MM:SS

    • Example: 17:16:20

    • 5:16:20 PM

  • Hour, minute, second, millisecond

    • Format: HH:MM:SS.sss

    • Example: 17:16:20.258

    • 5:16:20.258 PM

  • UTC timezone

    • Format: Z

    • Example: Z

    • UTC timezone

  • Timezone offsets

    • Format: ±HH:MM

    • Example: -05:00

    • Eastern Standard Time, Daylight Savings

  • Year, month, day, hour, minute

    • Format: YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM

    • Example: 1963-11-23T17:16

    • Nov. 23, 1963 at 5:16 PM

  • Year, month, day, hour, minute, second

    • Format: YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS

    • Example: 1963-11-23T17:16:20

    • Nov. 23, 1963 at 5:16:20 PM

  • Year, month, day, hour, minute, second, millisecond

    • Format: YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS.sss

    • Example: 1963-11-23T17:16:20.258

    • Nov. 23, 1963 at 5:16:20.258 PM

  • Year, month, day, hour, minute, UTC

    • Format: YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MMZ

    • Example: 1963-11-23T17:16Z

    • Nov. 23, 1963 at 5:16 PM UTC

  • Year, month, day, hour, minute, timezone

    • Format: YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM±HH:MM

    • Example: 1963-11-23T12:16-05:00

    • Nov. 23, 1963 at 12:16 AM EST

  • Year, month, day, hour, minute, second, timezone


    • Example: 1963-11-23T12:16:20-05:00

    • Nov. 23, 1963 at 12:16:20 AM EST

  • Year, month, day, hour, minute, second, millisecond, timezone

    • Format: YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS.sss±HH:MM

    • Example: 1963-11-23T12:16:20.258-05:00

    • Nov. 23, 1963 at 12:16:20.258 AM EST

  • Period of days

    • Format: PddD

    • Example: P686D

    • 686 days

  • Period of days, hours

    • Format: PddDThhH

    • Example: P686DT23H

    • 686 days, 23 hours

  • Period of days, hours, minutes

    • Format: PddDThhHmmM

    • Example: P686DT23H18M

    • 686 days, 23 hours, 18 minutes

  • Period of days, hours, minutes, seconds

    • Format: PddDThhHmmMssS

    • Example: P686DT23H18M14S

    • 686 days, 23 hours, 18 minutes, 14 seconds

  • Period of days, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds

    • Format: PddDThhHmmMss.sssS

    • Example: P686DT23H18M14.400S

    • 686 days, 23 hours, 18 minutes, 14 seconds, 400 milliseconds

  • Period of hours

    • Format: PThhH

    • Example: PT23H

    • 23 hours

  • Period of minutes

    • Format: PTmmM

    • Example: PT18M

    • 18 minutes

  • Period of minutes, seconds

    • Format: PTmmMssS

    • Example: PT18M14S

    • 18 minutes, 14 seconds

  • Exact date example

    • <time datetime="1963-11-23T12:16:20Z">Premiere of the most important TV show of all time!</time>
  • Simple time period

    • <time datetime="P365DT6H8M">Earth’s orbital period</time>
  • Range of time periods

    • Opossum gestation period: <time datetime="P12D">twelve</time> to <time datetime="P13D">thirteen</time> days.