As a seasoned WordPress user, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of fixing parse errors that may crop up on your website.

One such issue we commonly face is the dreaded parse error syntax error unexpected.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into understanding this error, how to fix it, and preventive measures to minimize the chances of encountering it in the future.

Understanding Parse Errors: Syntax Error Unexpected

What is a parse error?

A parse error, in simple terms, is an issue that arises when the PHP interpreter fails to understand a piece of code in your WordPress website.

The syntax error unexpected is a specific type of parse error that occurs when there’s an unexpected element, like a missing semicolon or an extra bracket, in the code.

Causes of syntax error unexpected in WordPress

Usually, this error occurs due to incorrect code modifications, either in your theme or plugin files. Other common causes include:

  • Missing or extra characters, like brackets or semicolons
  • Mismatched opening and closing tags
  • Incorrectly nested code blocks

Common scenarios where syntax errors occur

  • Editing a theme or plugin file directly
  • Updating a theme or plugin with incorrect code
  • Installing a poorly-coded plugin or theme

Preparing for Error Resolution

Importance of backups

Before diving into fixing the error, let me remind you of the golden rule: always create a backup of your WordPress site. A backup will save you from potential disasters, and you’ll have a safety net to fall back on if something goes wrong.

Creating a backup of your WordPress site

There are several ways to create a backup:

  1. Manually backing up your files and database
  2. Using a backup plugin, like UpdraftPlus or BackupBuddy
  3. Relying on your web host’s backup service, if available

Tools and resources for error resolution

To tackle parse errors like a pro, you’ll need some essential tools and resources, such as:

Identifying and Locating the Error

Interpreting error messages

When a parse error syntax error unexpected occurs, WordPress usually displays an error message on your website with details like the file name, line number, and sometimes even the problematic code.


Parse error: syntax error, unexpected ')' in /public_html/wp-content/themes/mytheme/functions.php on line 12

This error message tells us that there’s an unexpected closing parenthesis in the functions.php file of the mytheme theme on line 12.

Using debugging tools in WordPress

WordPress offers a built-in debugging tool called WP_DEBUG. To enable it, open your wp-config.php file, and add or modify the following line:

define( 'WP_DEBUG', true );

Remember to turn it off once you’re done, as leaving it enabled can expose sensitive information to your site visitors.

Identifying problematic code or files

With the error message or the debugging tool, you should have enough information to locate the problematic file and line number.

Resolving Parse Errors: Syntax Error Unexpected in WordPress

Editing the Code Manually

Accessing the affected file(s)

To access the file, you can use either your hosting control panel’s file manager or an FTP client.

Best practices for editing code

When editing the code, keep in mind the following best practices:

  • Always create a backup before making changes
  • Edit the code using a proper code editor
  • Be cautious with changes and avoid making multiple changes at once
  • Double-check the syntax and formatting

Common code issues and fixes

Here are some common issues and their fixes:

  • Missing semicolon: Ensure that each statement ends with a semicolon (;).
  • Mismatched brackets or braces: Check for missing or extra opening/closing brackets ([]) or braces ({}).
  • Mismatched PHP tags: Ensure that every opening PHP tag (<?php) has a corresponding closing tag (?>).

Saving and uploading the corrected file(s)

Once you’ve made the necessary changes, save the file and upload it back to your server using the file manager or FTP client. Refresh your website to see if the error is resolved.

Using Plugins and Themes

Deactivating and reactivating plugins

Sometimes, the error might be caused by a plugin. In such cases, you can deactivate all plugins by renaming the plugins folder in wp-content to something like plugins_old. If the error disappears, rename the folder back to plugins and then deactivate each plugin individually in the WordPress dashboard to pinpoint the problematic one.

Identifying problematic plugins

Once you’ve identified the problematic plugin, you can:

  • Delete it and look for an alternative
  • Contact the plugin developer for support
  • Attempt to fix the error yourself by following the steps mentioned in the “Editing the Code Manually” section

Changing themes to resolve errors

If the error is caused by a theme, you can switch to a default WordPress theme (like Twenty Twenty-One) to see if the error persists. If the error is resolved, you can:

  • Contact the theme developer for support
  • Attempt to fix the error yourself
  • Look for an alternative theme

Advanced Solutions

Restoring from a previous backup

If the error persists even after trying the above solutions, you can restore your site from a previous backup. Remember that this will revert your site to an earlier state, and you may lose any changes made since the backup.

Contacting the theme or plugin developer for assistance

If you’re still unable to resolve the error, consider reaching out to the theme or plugin developer for assistance. They’re usually eager to help and can provide valuable insights into the issue.

Seeking help from the WordPress community

The WordPress community is vast and incredibly helpful. You can seek assistance from forums, Facebook groups, or even local WordPress meetups.

Preventing Future Parse Errors

Regularly updating plugins and themes

Keep your plugins and themes up-to-date to minimize the risk of encountering parse errors. Updates often include bug fixes, security patches, and compatibility improvements.

Employing best practices for code editing

Follow the best practices mentioned earlier in this article whenever you edit your theme or plugin files. This will reduce the likelihood of introducing syntax errors.

Monitoring your site for errors

Regularly monitor your site for errors and address them as soon as they appear. Tools like Uptime Robot and WP Rocket can help you keep tabs on your site’s performance and uptime.

Utilizing quality themes and plugins

Always opt for well-coded and reputable themes and plugins. Read reviews and check the developer’s track record before installing a new plugin or theme on your website.

FAQ on parse error syntax error unexpected

What causes a parse error syntax error unexpected?

It’s usually due to incorrect code modifications in your theme or plugin files. Common causes include missing or extra characters, mismatched opening and closing tags, and wrongly nested code blocks.

These errors can occur when editing files, updating themes or plugins, or installing poorly-coded themes or plugins.

How can I locate the error?

WordPress typically displays an error message with details like the file name, line number, and sometimes even the problematic code. You can also enable WP_DEBUG in your wp-config.php file to get more information about the error.

Can I fix the error without coding knowledge?

While some coding knowledge is helpful, you can still try resolving the error by deactivating and reactivating plugins or switching themes. If the error is caused by a specific plugin or theme, contact the developer for support or look for an alternative.

Is it safe to edit code directly in the WordPress dashboard?

Editing code directly in the WordPress dashboard is risky, as a small mistake can cause errors or even lock you out of your site. It’s better to use a code editor and an FTP client to access and edit files safely.

How can I prevent parse errors in the future?

Preventing parse errors involves regularly updating plugins and themes, following best practices for code editing, monitoring your site for errors, and opting for well-coded, reputable themes and plugins.

Can a backup help me in resolving the error?

Yes, having a backup is crucial. If you can’t resolve the error, you can restore your site to an earlier state using a backup. Make sure to create regular backups of your WordPress site.

What if I can’t fix the error myself?

If you’re unable to fix the error, consider contacting the theme or plugin developer for assistance. You can also seek help from the WordPress community through forums, Facebook groups, or local meetups.

What tools do I need to fix parse errors?

Some essential tools for fixing parse errors include a code editor (e.g., Sublime Text, Atom), an FTP client (e.g., FileZilla, Cyberduck), and access to your hosting account’s control panel (e.g., cPanel, Plesk).

Can a plugin help me fix parse errors?

There isn’t a specific plugin designed to fix parse errors, but some security plugins might alert you to potential issues. It’s still important to understand the error and follow the appropriate steps to resolve it.

Are parse errors a security risk for my website?

Parse errors can expose sensitive information about your site and make it vulnerable to attacks. Furthermore, they affect your site’s user experience, as visitors will see the error message instead of your content.

It’s vital to fix parse errors promptly to maintain your site’s security and functionality.

Ending thoughts on “parse error syntax error unexpected”

In this article, we’ve explored the ins and outs of fixing the parse error syntax error unexpected in WordPress.

By following the steps outlined, you should be well-equipped to tackle this issue head-on. Remember, vigilance and ongoing maintenance are key to a healthy WordPress site.

And when in doubt, don’t hesitate to tap into the vast and supportive WordPress community for help.

If you liked this article about Parse Error: Syntax Error, Unexpected, you should check out this article about WordPress SSL Error.

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