I assume you found this article because of the WordPress error message that is on your website, take a deep breath and put on your developer hat (coffee is optional).
Yes, there is a problem, but it is possible to fix it. Your website didn’t disappear into thin air. It’s still there, behind that error message. The problem may be something as simple as a missing semicolon in a PHP file. WordPress syntax errors aren’t common, but they do occur and are relatively easy to fix.
In this article, we’ll explain what a syntax error is, along with some common causes. Then, we’ll walk you through the steps to locate and fix the error. Let’s get started!
What is a syntax error?
A syntax error occurs when a command is not written correctly. This may include the presence of a grammatical error, a misspelled word or a missing symbol or incorrect punctuation in your website code. In WordPress, this is usually a PHP error.
Why WordPress syntax bug fixes matter?
A syntax error indicates that something is not correct in your website code. This problem can make your site inaccessible, leaving you with an unpopulated page or an error message.
If your website is down or inaccessible, it will obviously affect the user experience (UX). As well as affecting your traffic and conversion rates, if you have a blank page where your website should be, you can know that it will affect your search engine optimization (SEO) rankings.
WordPress syntax error messages can be worrying, especially if you’re not familiar with website code. Fortunately, as you’ll see, most syntax errors have a simple fix.
Common causes of syntax errors in WordPress
A syntax error may occur when you pasted the code incorrectly. Maybe you missed a part when you copied the code or maybe there is an extra closing tag at the end of the script.
This is an open PHP tag <?php, and this is a closing tag ?>.
When you copy and paste a piece of PHP code, it often includes the open tag, causing a syntax error. Since you are probably pasting the snippet into existing code, it is not necessary to include the open tag. You may also get a syntax error when editing your theme in WordPress Customizer. If this happens, you will generally know what the problem is or at least where the file is located. If you’re not sure, don’t worry. You can locate the error by making a few changes to the wp-config.php file.
Another reason you might see this message is because of an update or plugin installation. The extension may not be compatible with your WordPress version or there may be other issues at play. If you are updating or installing a plugin when the error occurred, this is most likely the source of the problem.
How to fix a syntax error in WordPress via FTP
When a syntax error occurs, you can fix it by either removing or correcting the code containing the error. Either way, you will need access to the file where the problem occurs. If you are not logged into the WordPress admin panel, you can access this using an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client.
FileZilla is a good option. Note that you will always want to connect using the more secure Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) than FTP. This will ensure that the data transferred is encrypted.
You will need some information to connect to your website via SFTP:
Server / Host Name
You can find this information by logging into your web hosting account.
From the account management area, search for FTP users (or FTP accounts, depending on your web host) and select Manage Users to view the host settings, username and port. Then open the FTP client and enter your login details. Once connected, in the directory of your WordPress site, you will see the wp-admin, wp-content and wp-include folders and a list of other files. A good practice is to keep a backup of the files you are about to edit, better safe than sorry!
If your screen looks similar to the example above, you’re in the right place! Now it’s time to enable debugging to get more information about the syntax error.
Enable DEBUG to view the location of the syntax error. If you were working on your website when the error occurred, you should have a good idea of where to look for the problem. However, if you are not sure, there is no need to guess. Troubleshooting will show you the exact location of the error. To enable debugging, you can add the following code snippet to your wp-config.php file:
define ( ‘WP_DEBUG’, true );
Make sure you put the code before / That’s all … * / towards the bottom of the file.
After you save the file and refresh your site in the browser, you should see a text string indicating the location of the error, including the file, name and line number.
Be sure to disable debugging after you have fixed syntax errors, as leaving this feature is not recommended for live websites. You have now located the syntax error. Once you notice the information, it’s time to start working on the fix. You can use the instructions below to fix the error depending on its location.
Fix a syntax error caused by a plugin
If you install, update or edit a plugin file when the syntax error has occurred, the simplest and quickest solution is to disable the plugin. That’s what we’ll do first.
Access your website via SFTP. After logging in, go to the wp-content/plugins directory and find the plugin folder with the error. While you’re there, you can disable the plugin or correct the file containing the error – if you know what’s causing the problem. If not, you can disable the plugin by renaming its folder in the plugins directory.
If you go to your site’s URL and reload the page, your site should look normal. However, if you want to continue using the plugin, you will need to fix the error instead of simply disabling it.
To fix the plugin error, find the file and line number in the error message. Identify any missing or incorrect code on that line. If you’re not sure what’s causing the error, you can insert the snippet into a code editor to help you identify it. You can always disable the plugin as a short-term solution. Then you can reactivate it later once the error is corrected. This may be the best approach, especially if the plugin is not essential to the functioning of your website.
Fix syntax error caused by incorrect editing of a theme file
To fix an error that occurred while editing your theme, access the website via SFTP and navigate to the wp-content/themes folder. Open the appropriate theme folder and locate the file with the error – usually the functions.php file.
Edit the file and correct the error. Again, the syntax error code should display the line number. If the problem occurred when you pasted a piece of code into the file, delete the changes to restore the file to its stable version.
If you don’t see what is causing the problem, you can use a code editor to identify the error. Once you have corrected the problem, open a browser window and navigate to the URL to check that your site is back up and running.
Use a code editor to identify syntax errors
There are several code editors available for free online, such as Sublime Text and Atom. You can use any of these tools to help diagnose and fix syntax errors, these programs will automatically point out syntax errors.
How to avoid syntax errors in the future?
Using proper syntax can help you avoid errors in the future. PHP is a simple, flexible language. You can invest a little time to learn the basics. Then, when you paste code or modify your site’s files, you’ll know how to correct errors as you work.
As another option, you can keep a code editor handy to check the syntax before pasting code onto your website. This is a smart practice to make sure a piece of code is correct before adding it to files on a live site.
Another way to prevent problems is to enable debugging when you make changes to your website, to flag errors before applying them to the live version. This is the ideal time to make sure everything is compatible with your WordPress core files and working as it should. Finally, we suggest deleting any unused plugins and themes. Not only can this help prevent syntax errors, but it’s also a good security measure.
Are you ready to fix this syntax error?
Nearly 40% of all websites are built on WordPress, making it the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world. It’s a stable and secure platform, but even so bugs can occur.
These are usually simple to fix, but it’s better to take steps to prevent problems from occurring in the first place, such as using a staging module and debugging periodically.
And if you want quality, custom WordPress website hosting, you can trust the WordPress hosting packages we offer. You benefit from the hottest security and performance tools, and in case you run into difficulties, you’ll have the best technical support available.