How to Fix the Syntax Error in WordPress

Michael Oldborn

There are many WordPress tutorials that require you to add code snippets to your website. Unfortunately, one small mistake can cause the entire site to break down, which is very scary, especially for new users. If you’re trying something new on your WordPress site and you get the “Syntax error, unexpected…” error, don’t panic. (Note: You can see the tutorial video at the end of the article.)

Common Causes of Syntax Errors in WordPress

A syntax error may occur when you paste the code incorrectly. Maybe you missed a part while copying the code or maybe there is an extra closing tag at the end of the script.

This is a PHP open tag: <?php and this is a closing tag: ?>.

When you copy and paste a PHP code snippet, it usually contains the open tag and causes a syntax error. You probably don’t need to include the explicit tag, as you’re pasting the snippet into existing code.

You may also get a syntax error when editing your theme in the WordPress Customizer. If this happens, you usually know what the problem is or at least where in the file it is occurring. If you’re not sure, don’t worry. You can find the error by making a few changes to the wp-config.php file.

Another reason you might see this message is because of a plugin update or installation. The extension may not be compatible with your WordPress version or there may be other issues with the game. If you’re updating or installing a plugin when the error occurs, that’s most likely the source of the problem.

Why Is It Important To Fix WordPress Syntax Error?

A syntax error is an indication that something isn’t right in your site’s code. This issue can break your website and leave you with a blank page or error message.

If your website is down or inaccessible this will obviously hinder the User Experience (UX). Having a blank page where your site should be, in addition to hurting your traffic and conversion rates, can also hurt your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rankings.

Parse Error: Syntax Error, What Does Unexpected Ending in WordPress Mean?

Parse error syntax error Unexpected end in WordPress can be the simplest of errors and still cause a big problem.

The error has two parts:

Syntax Error – This error is caused by an error in the PHP structure when a character is missing or added that should not be.

Unexpected – This means that a character is missing from the code and PHP reaches the end of the file before it can find what it’s looking for. The error will eventually contain information describing what they saw unexpectedly.

If you see Parse Error in WordPress: Syntax Error, Unexpected end, it simply means that WordPress has detected that something is missing or added in the code. It could be something as simple as a comma, semicolon, closing parenthesis, or too many parenthesis.

The missing syntax may be in code you’ve written or pasted into your website, or in a theme or plugin you’ve installed or updated. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to find and fix. However, you will need to understand how the code works and how to organize it.

How to Solve Parse Error: Syntax Error Unexpected End in WordPress

How-to-Solve-Parse-Error

The unexpected end of the actual parse error syntax error in WordPress will have a different ending depending on what is causing the error.

Examples:

1- syntax error, unexpected end of file

2- syntax error, unexpected token

3- syntax error, unexpected variable

4- syntax error, unexpected identifier

The error message usually includes the specific token, variable, identifier, etc., which it doesn’t like. defines. We will see a few examples of this as we go.

Testing Parse Error Syntax Error Unexpected End in WordPress

WordPress has made many improvements to the way it handles code. Now instead of running bad code and killing your website, if there is a previous version of the code running, it will try to use that code instead when viewing the site to visitors.

This will prevent your site from showing the error to your visitors and crashing your site. It’s still possible for your site to crash and lock you out, but it’s harder now.

Also, code editors now show markup, so it’s easy to specify variables and other code elements. This makes it easy to test code in plugin and theme code editors within WordPress.

Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t always give you a clear message. Sometimes there is no message, content is missing or does not show the website. All of these are fixable, but may require a little more troubleshooting.

Let’s look at a few examples. We’ll start with something easy.

 

Editing Plugin Code

First, start with the last thing you did. In this example, I edited the code in a plugin file. The file has reverted to the last known good code, so my changes are not working. See the error. It will tell you what is causing the error code and the line of code where the error is located.

In this example, WordPress expects to see a semicolon, but unexpectedly sees a parenthesis.

It’s simple. First, look at the line above it. We see the word break ending in case 4. We are lucky to have other cases to compare with. Above is case 3 that ends with break , but this one has a closing semicolon.

Then edit the code causing the error.

Here is another example in the same plugin file. This shows the error on line 488. However, this line of code is correct. Still, it gives me a clue. It describes it as an unexpected variable.

If we look at the code above 488, we’ll see that a closing parenthesis is missing. This causes WordPress to see the next line incorrectly.

Simply add the closing parenthesis and update the file. The code now works properly. These issues were simple, but oftentimes if you see a parse error syntax error ending unexpectedly in WordPress, it’s just like in these examples.

Fix Parse Error When You Can't Find The Error

If it’s not displaying for you or you’re not sure where it’s coming from, there are two ways to find the parse error. Here’s a look at both methods.

Debug Mode

define( 'WP_DEBUG', false );

If you have this code, change false to true.

If you don’t have this line of code, look for a line that says:

“Stop editing! Happy blogs.” and paste this code:

define( 'WP_DEBUG', true );

Upload the website. This displays the error and you now have a place to start troubleshooting.

Debug Plugin

Query Monitor,  is one of the most popular debugging plugins. It provides tools that you can access from the front-end and the back-end, and as an overlay from the top menu bar.

This will enable various debugging tools, including an error log where you can find the information you need.

Fixing Syntax Error Using FTP

To fix the syntax error, you need to edit the code that caused this error. You can remove it or correct the syntax.

Usually beginners panic because this error causes your entire site to become inaccessible. If you pasted the code using the Appearance » Editor section of your WordPress dashboard, you are locked out.

The only way to fix this is to access the file you last edited using FTP. After installing the FTP program, connect it to your website and navigate to the theme file that needs to be edited. If you forgot which file you need to edit, just look at the error code. The error will tell you exactly which file and which line you need to edit.

You can either remove the code you added last time or write the code in the correct syntax. After you finish removing or editing the code, save the file and upload it back to your server.

After that visit your WordPress site, refresh the page and you should see your site working again.

Fix Parse Error If Your WordPress Access Is Locked

If you don’t have access to the admin dashboard, you’ll have to make your changes another way. To make your edits you need to download the file from the server containing the error and open it in a code editor.

In my case, I was making changes to the function.php file for the Twenty Twenty One theme. I made a mistake in my syntax and my site crashed. All it shows is this error which doesn’t help.

The best options are to use FTP or your server’s cPanel. For this example I will use cPanel but the process is the same. First, open File Manager in cPanel.

Next, open the folder of the website you are working on. If it’s the primary site, you may see a globe icon. Otherwise, open the folder containing the website’s name.

Go to wp-content folder.

Go to the folder with the theme or plugin you want to edit. In this case, I’m editing a theme.

Select the folder of the theme or plugin. I choose the folder of Twenty Twenty One theme.

Then navigate to the file you edited when the problem occurred. I was editing the functions.php file. Download or edit the file to work offline. I recommend downloading a backup before making changes.

Your code editor can provide information about the error. In my case, it shows expecting a parenthesis on line 29. In reality, line 17 is missing a parenthesis, causing the editor to think it needs a parenthesis.

Adding square brackets eliminates the error. Now I can upload my new file to replace the existing one or save it if I’m using the online editor.

Video Tutorial

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We hope this article helped you fix the syntax error in WordPress. You may also want to see our list of the most common WordPress errors and how to fix them.

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