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      How to Fix Syntax Errors in WordPress

      If you found this article because you’re staring at a WordPress error message where your website used to be, take a deep breath and put on your superhero cape (tights are optional).

      Yes, there’s a problem, but it’s possible to fix it.

      Your site hasn’t disappeared into the ether. It’s still there, behind that error message. The issue may be something as simple as a missing semicolon in a PHP file. WordPress syntax errors aren’t frequent, but they do occur and are relatively simple to correct.

      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 take 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.

      A WordPress syntax error message.

      This may include the presence of a grammatical mistake, a misspelled word or missing symbol, or an incorrect punctuation mark in your site’s code. In WordPress, this is usually a PHP error.

      Skip the Stress

      Avoid troubleshooting when you sign up for DreamPress. Our friendly WordPress experts are available 24/7 to help solve website problems — big or small.

      Common Causes of Syntax Errors in WordPress

      A syntax error may occur when you’ve pasted code incorrectly. Maybe you missed a portion when you copied the code or perhaps 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 often includes the open tag, causing a syntax error. Since you are probably pasting the snippet into existing code, you don’t need to include the open tag.

      You may also get a syntax error when you are editing your theme in the WordPress Customizer. If this happens, you’ll generally know what the problem is, or at least where in the file it’s occurring. If you aren’t 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 a plugin update or installation. The extension may not be compatible with your WordPress version, or there may be other issues at play. If you were updating or installing a plugin when the error happened, that’s most likely the source of the problem.

      Why Fixing the WordPress Syntax Error Matters

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

      If your website is down or inaccessible, it will obviously hamper the User Experience (UX). Besides hurting your traffic and conversion rates, having a blank page where your site should be can also hurt your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rankings.

      WordPress syntax error messages can be concerning, especially if you aren’t familiar with website code. Fortunately, as you’ll see, most syntax errors have a simple solution.

      How to Fix a Syntax Error in WordPress via SFTP

      When a syntax error occurs, you can fix it by either removing or correcting the code containing the error. Either way, you’ll need access to the file where the problem is occurring. If you’re locked out of your WordPress admin dashboard, you can access this by using a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client.

      If you’re a DreamHost customer, this process is especially easy. There’s no need to download a third-party application. You can access your website files using our dedicated WebFTP tool.

      DreamHost’s WebFTP login screen.

      If you aren’t a DreamHost customer or prefer to use an FTP client, FileZilla is a good option. Note that you’ll always want to connect using the more secure Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) rather than FTP. This will ensure the transferred data is encrypted.

      You will need some information to connect to your website via SFTP:

      • Server/Hostname
      • Username
      • Password
      • Port

      You can find this information by logging into your web hosting account. DreamHost users can navigate to Manage Account. If you’re using another hosting provider, they may call this area something different — if you need help, contact your host or visit their knowledge base.

      From the account management area, look for FTP Users (or FTP Accounts, depending on your web host) and select Manage Users to view your Host, Username, and Port settings. If you don’t know your FTP password, you can reset it with the link provided.

      DreamHost FTP user information.

      Next, open your FTP client and enter your login credentials. Once logged in, under your WordPress site’s directory, you will see the wp-adminwp-content, and wp-includes folders, and a list of other files.

      A WordPress site directory via SFTP.

      If your screen looks similar to the above example, you’re in the right place! Now, it’s time to enable debugging to get more information about the syntax error.

      Enable Debugging to View the Syntax Error Location

      If you were working on your website when the error occurred, you should have a good idea of where to look for the issue. However, if you’re unsure, there’s no need to guess. Debugging will show you the exact location of the error.

      To enable debugging, you can add the following snippet of code to your wp-config.php file:

      define( 'WP_DEBUG', true );

      Be sure to put the code before /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */ toward the bottom of the file.

      WordPress debugging code added to the ‘wp-config.php’ file.

      Once you save the file and refresh your website in your browser, you should see a text string indicating the location of the error, including the file, name, and line number.

      A WordPress syntax error message.

      Be sure to disable debugging once you’ve fixed the syntax errors, as leaving this feature on isn’t recommended for live websites.

      You’ve now located the syntax error. After noting the information, it’s time to get to work fixing it. You can use the directions below to address the error according to its location.

      Fix a Syntax Error Caused By a Plugin Update

      If you were installing, updating, or editing a plugin file when the syntax error occurred, the simplest and fastest solution is to disable the plugin. That’s what we’ll do first.

      Access your website via SFTP. Once you’re connected, go to the wp-content/plugins directory, and locate the plugin folder with the error.

      While there, you can either disable the plugin or correct the file that contains the error — if you know what’s causing the issue. If not, you can disable the plugin by renaming its folder in the plugins directory.

      If you go to your website’s URL and refresh the browser, your site should appear normal. However, if you want to continue using the plugin, you’ll need to resolve the error rather than simply disabling it.

      To correct the plugin error, locate the file and line number from the error message. Identify any missing or incorrect code on that line. If you’re unsure what’s causing the error, you can paste the snippet into a code editor to help you identify it.

      You can always disable the plugin as a short-term fix. Then, you can reactivate it later, once the error is corrected. This may be the best approach, especially if the plugin isn’t essential to your website’s operation.

      Fix Syntax Error Caused By Editing a Theme File Improperly

      To fix an error that occurred while editing your theme, access your 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 code snippet into the file, delete your edits to restore the file to its stable version.

      If you don’t see what’s causing the problem, you can use a code editor to help identify the error. Once you correct the problem, open a browser window, and navigate to your URL to verify that your site is up and running again.

      Use a Code Editor to Identify Syntax Errors

      There are several free code editors available online, like Sublime Text and Atom. You can use any of these tools to help diagnose and fix syntax errors.

      In the illustration below, the functions.php file is missing a semicolon on the last line.

      Syntax errors shown in a code editor.

      The editor indicates the syntax error with a yellow bar beside the line number (610). Once we add the semicolon, the error resolves, and the yellow flag disappears. You can practice writing or editing code in an editor before making changes to your website’s files.

      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’re pasting code or making edits to 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 syntax before pasting code into your website. This is a smart practice for ensuring that a code snippet is correct before adding it to files on a live site.

      Another way to prevent issues is to enable debugging when making changes to your site, in order to flag errors before going live. This is the time to make sure everything is compatible with your WordPress core files and works as it should.

      Finally, we suggest deleting any unused plugins and themes. Not only can this help prevent syntax errors, but it is also a good security measure, so it’s a win-win.

      Take Your WordPress Site to the Next Level

      Whether you need help navigating the WordPress dashboard, decoding an error log, or fixing a faulty plugin, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly digest so you never miss an article.

      Ready to Fix That Syntax Error?

      Almost 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, errors can still happen.

      In this article, we explained what syntax errors are and their most common causes. Then we provided a step-by-step guide for fixing syntax errors in your WordPress installation. These are usually simple to resolve, but it’s best to take measures to prevent the problems from appearing in the first place, such as using a code editor to check code before adding it to your site.

      Properly maintaining your website is one of the best ways to avoid issues and keep it running smoothly. DreamPress hosting (with free WordPress migration) is specifically designed for the WordPress environment. Plus, if you ever do encounter a problem, we’ve got you covered with automatic daily backups and a support team of WordPress experts!

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      Apache Configuration Error AH00526: Syntax error

      Part of the Series:
      Common Apache Errors

      This tutorial series explains how to troubleshoot and fix some of the most common errors that you may encounter when using the Apache web server.

      Each tutorial in this series includes descriptions of common Apache configuration, network, filesystem, or permission errors. The series begins with an overview of the commands and log files that you can use to troubleshoot Apache. Subsequent tutorials examine specific errors in detail.


      An Apache AH00526: Syntax error message occurs when there is a typo or misconfigured setting somewhere in your Apache configuration files. It is a generic error that can be indicative of a number of underlying problems.

      The error can be detected using apachectl configtest before an invalid configuration is loaded. It can also be found using the systemctl and journalctl commands. In the latter two cases, Apache will be unable to run because of the error.

      If you have detected the error using apachectl then skip to the Troubleshooting Using the Built in apachectl Command section of this tutorial. Otherwise, the next section will explain how to use systemctl to troubleshoot the error.

      Troubleshooting with systemctl

      Following the troubleshooting steps from the How to Troubleshoot Common Apache Errors tutorial at the beginning of this series, the first step when you are troubleshooting an AH00526 error is to check Apache’s status with systemctl. It is important to understand if the error affects the running process, or if it is preventing Apache from starting up.

      On Ubuntu and Debian derived Linux distributions, run the following to check Apache’s status:

      Ubuntu and Debian Systems

      • sudo systemctl status apache2.service -l --no-pager

      On CentOS and Fedora systems, use this command to examine Apache’s status:

      CentOS and Fedora Systems

      • sudo systemctl status httpd.service -l --no-pager

      The -l flag will ensure that systemctl outputs the entire contents of a line, instead of substituting in ellipses () for long lines. The --no-pager flag will output the entire log to your screen without invoking a tool like less that only shows a screen of content at a time.

      Since you are troubleshooting an AH00526: Syntax error message, you should receive output that is similar to the following:


      ● apache2.service - The Apache HTTP Server Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/apache2.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled) Drop-In: /lib/systemd/system/apache2.service.d └─apache2-systemd.conf Active: failed (Result: exit-code) since Wed 2020-07-15 13:45:49 UTC; 1min 37s ago . . . Jul 15 13:45:49 f17f01056c5b systemd[1]: Starting The Apache HTTP Server... Jul 15 13:45:49 f17f01056c5b apachectl[15860]: AH00526: Syntax error on line 2 of /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf: Jul 15 13:45:49 f17f01056c5b apachectl[15860]: Invalid command 'SSSLCertificateFile', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration Jul 15 13:45:49 f17f01056c5b apachectl[15860]: Action 'start' failed. Jul 15 13:45:49 f17f01056c5b apachectl[15860]: The Apache error log may have more information. Jul 15 13:45:49 f17f01056c5b systemd[1]: apache2.service: Control process exited, code=exited status=1 Jul 15 13:45:49 f17f01056c5b systemd[1]: apache2.service: Failed with result 'exit-code'. Jul 15 13:45:49 f17f01056c5b systemd[1]: Failed to start The Apache HTTP Server.

      In this case, Apache is not running because of the syntax error. The error is caused by an extra S character at the beginning of the SSSLCertificateFile line in the /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf file. The correct directive should be SSLCertificateFile, so editing the file to fix the directive name in this example would resolve the error and allow Apache to start.

      The systemctl output in this example also includes some lines from the systemd journal. If your output indicates a specific line in your configuration file is generating the syntax error, you can skip the journalctl and apachectl configtest troubleshooting steps. Instead, you can go directly to the file to inspect and edit the erroneous line to resolve the error.

      If your output does not give specific information about the error location in Apache’s configuration files, you will need to examine journalctl output from the systemd logs. The following section explains how to use journalctl to troubleshoot an AH00526 error.

      Troubleshooting with journalctl logs

      If your systemctl output does not include specifics about an AH00526 syntax error, you can proceed with using the journalctl command to examine systemd logs for Apache.

      On Ubuntu and Debian-derived systems, run the following command:

      • sudo journalctl -u apache2.service --since today --no-pager

      On CentOS, Fedora, and RedHat-derived systems, use this command to inspect the logs:

      • sudo journalctl -u httpd.service --since today --no-pager

      The --since today flag will limit the output of the command to log entries beginning at 00:00:00 of the current day only. Using this option will help restrict the volume of log entries that you need to examine when checking for errors.

      If you have an AH00526 error in your Apache configuration, look through the journalctl command output for lines like the following:


      -- Logs begin at Tue 2019-11-05 21:26:44 UTC, end at Tue 2020-06-09 15:13:01 UTC. -- . . . Jun 09 15:12:28 f17f01056c5b apachectl[3157]: AH00526: Syntax error on line 3 of /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf: Jun 09 15:12:28 f17f01056c5b apachectl[3157]: Invalid command 'SSLCertificateFile', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration . . .

      The first line of output is the AH00526 error. Since this error is a general error related to an invalid setting or a typo in a configuration file, the next line explains what caused the error. In this case it is a directive called SSLCertificateFile, which will only be valid if the ssl module is enabled.

      If you encounter an AH00526 error that is related to an invalid SSLCertificateFile directive, you can resolve it by enabling the ssl module and then restarting Apache to make the error go away.

      For Ubuntu and Debian systems, run the following to enable the module:

      • sudo a2enmod ssl
      • sudo systemctl restart apache2.service

      On CentOS and Fedora systems, ensure that the mod_ssl package is installed, and then load the module by adding it to Apache’s /etc/httpd/conf.modules.d directory in a file like this:

      • sudo yum install mod_ssl
      • echo "LoadModule ssl_module modules/" | sudo tee > /etc/httpd/conf.modules.d/00-ssl.conf
      • sudo systemctl restart httpd.service

      Once the module is referenced by Apache and you restart it using the command that is appropriate to your Linux distribution, the server will start up if there are no more errors in the configuration.

      However, if there are more errors, Apache and systemctl status will continue to report them and attempt to explain why the server cannot be started. systemctl will output failure messages like this on Ubuntu and Debian systems:

      Ubuntu & Debian Output

      Job for apache2.service failed because the control process exited with error code.
      See "systemctl status apache2.service" and "journalctl -xe" for details

      And on CentOS, Fedora, and RedHat derived systems, a failed startup message will be similar to the following:

      CentOS and Fedora Output

      Job for httpd.service failed because the control process exited with error code.
      See "systemctl status httpd.service" and "journalctl -xe" for details.

      When Apache will still not start because of errors, using the apachectl configtest command can be the most efficient and effective way to diagnose issues. The next section will explain how to use the utility to resolve an AH00526 error that is again related to an invalid SSLCertificateFile directive.

      Troubleshooting with apachectl

      To troubleshoot an AH00526 error with Apache’s apachectl utility, you can test your Apache configuration using the configtest sub-command. This tool will parse your Apache files to determine whether it’s valid and, if not, locate incorrect settings in the Apache configuration.

      The apachectl configtest command is useful for catching syntax errors before reloading apache with a new configuration. This test can help you to avoid service outages in the event of a misconfigured setting in your Apache files.

      The following example configuration test command will return an AH00526 Syntax error message, and explains that the likely problem is that Apache is referencing an empty SSLCertificateFile:

      • sudo apachectl configtest


      AH00526: Syntax error on line 3 of /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf: SSLCertificateFile: file '/etc/ssl/certs/' does not exist or is empty

      In this example output, the /etc/ssl/certs/ file does not exist as the error message notes. Adding an SSL/TLS certificate to the file, or removing the directive will resolve the issue.

      A successful apachectl configtest invocation should result in output like this:


      Syntax OK


      In this tutorial you learned how to troubleshoot an Apache AH00526 syntax error. The first step when investigating any Apache error is to examine the server’s status with systemctl status apache2, or systemctl status httpd depending on your Linux distribution. From there, you can determine whether Apache is running correctly, or if it is unable to start because of the error.

      After you have determined Apache’s status, you can diagnose it further using journalctl to examine the systemd logs for the process. You can also use the apachectl configtest command to check the configuration files for errors directly.

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