Article by Kevin Savetz

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Copyright © by Kevin Savetz

Q: I want to give my item descriptions a more exciting look. Can you share some basic HTML tips?

A: A little bit of basic HTML can make your product descriptions a lot more readable. You don't need to be a computer whiz to add simple HTML to your auction listings. Some folks go a little crazy by adding gaudy spinning graphics, fancy backgrounds, and loads of color, but you don't have to go that far. Please.

HTML, by the way, stands for HyperText Markup Language -- it is the system people use to create Web pages. eBay, Amazon Auctions and Yahoo!Auctions all let sellers use HTML as part of their listings, and each site offers its own tips for using it. (See Rover Recommends for the links.)

There are several ways that you can add HTML to your listings: with an HTML editor, using a program dedicated to creating auction listings, or by typing the HTML yourself in the item description.

An HTML editor is a program that creates the HTML code for you: simply design a page using familiar functions to set the font size, insert images, and so on, then paste the resulting HTML code into your auction listing. There are many, many different HTML editors available. Search one of the Net's file archives, such as, to find one. (We've linked to one simple editor for Windows, CoffeeCup HTML Editor Express, in the Rover Recommends section.)

Or, you can opt to use a listing creation program, an application whose sole purpose in life is to help you list items for sale. Among other things, these can help make pretty listings replete with HTML. They add the listings to the auction site automatically, so you don't even need to futz with cutting and pasting HTML code. Again, there are many choices (such as Auction Poster 98 and Advertisement Wizard) although most of these programs only work with eBay.

The final option, and the one that I prefer, is to add HTML to your auction listing yourself. The downside here is that you have to learn a teeny bit of HTML. The upside is you don't need a special program, and this works with every auction site that allows HTML.

One of the simplest HTML commands, or "tags," for making your listing more readable is the paragraph tag: <p>. It starts a new paragraph to break up text: Bid on my tasty granola cakes!<p>I have been selling granola cakes on the Internet since 1996.

All HTML tags appear in those <angle brackets>.

Emphasizing single words or phrases is just as easy. The <b> <i> and <u> tags activate bold, italic, and underlined text, respectively. To turn off the emphasis, use </b> </i> and </u>. The slash deactivates a feature. <u>Granola</u> is <b>not</b> just for hippies <i>anymore!</i>

There are a few ways to make text larger than the norm. One of the easiest ways is with the headline tags: <h1> produces big text, <h2> yields slightly smaller text, all the way down to <h6>. Don't forget to use the same tags with a slash to turn off the headline when you're done. <h1>Bid on my granola flavor six-pack</h1>

The <center> and </center> tags are for centering text. Guess what? You can combine tags: <center><h2>Chewy or crunchy?</h2></center>

Finally, here's an easy way to make nice-looking lists.

<li>Grandma's generic granola
<li>BBQ flavor (our most popular!)
<li><b>NEW!</b> Peach cobbler granola

There are many more HTML tags you can use to spruce up your listings. To learn about them, check out the HTML tutorials and help link.

By the way, don't use the <head>, <html>, <title>, or <body> tags in your listings: they're automatically added in the proper places by the auction site.

Recommended Sites:

HTML help for Amazon Auctions
HTML help for Yahoo!Auctions
HTML help for eBay
General HTML tutorials and help
CoffeeCup HTML Editor Express
Auction Poster 98
Advertisment Wizard

Articles by Kevin Savetz