Nothing can disrupt your WordPress workflow more than seeing the dreaded “The editor has encountered an unexpected error” message. You’re trying to publish new content or edit a post, but WordPress refuses to cooperate.
This frustrating error essentially locks you out from the core purpose of your site. Before you panic and consider migrating away from WordPress entirely, take a deep breath. Troubleshooting techniques exist to properly diagnose the cause of this error and resolve it for good.
With a few targeted steps to isolate the culprit and some adjustments to your plugins, themes, server environment, or database, you can defeat the “unexpected error” and regain control of your backend.
This guide will walk you through the key fixes and preventative measures to cure the editor error, so you can get back to publishing great content.
What Causes This Error Message in WordPress?
There are a few potential causes of the ‘unexpected error’ message in the WordPress editor:
Plugin conflicts are one of the most common culprits. If you’ve recently installed a new plugin, it may be clashing with another plugin or theme. Try deactivating plugins one by one to isolate the conflict.
Like plugins, themes can also cause conflicts. Switching to a default WordPress theme like Twenty Twenty-One can help rule out any theme-related issues.
Server Resource Problems
Issues like CPU utilization, memory limits, or disk space can also create errors in WordPress. Talk to your hosting provider to rule out any server constraints.
Sometimes content like embedded videos, invalid HTML tags, or extended character sets can trip up the editor. Try removing any complicated formatting or media from the post content.
Corrupted tables, outdated indexes, or full disks can cause database issues that lead to errors. Check your database health and run repairs if needed.
Incorrect file or folder permissions can prevent WordPress from writing new content properly. Double check permissions are set correctly.
How to Fix ‘Unexpected Error’ in the WordPress Editor
Now that we’ve covered some potential causes, here are the specific techniques for fixing the ‘unexpected error’ message in WordPress:
1. Switch to the Default WordPress Theme
The first troubleshooting step is to switch your WordPress site to a default theme like Twenty Twenty-One. This allows you to rule out any theme-related conflicts.
To change the theme, go to Appearance > Themes in your WordPress dashboard. Hover over your active theme and click the ‘Activate’ button on the default theme thumbnail.
2. Deactivate All Plugins
Next, try deactivating all plugins. This isolates any plugin-related conflicts.
Go to the Plugins page in your dashboard, select all plugins, and click ‘Deactivate’. After deactivating, try opening the editor again.
3. Test with a New User Account
Log out of your admin account and create a brand new user. Attempt to access the editor while logged in with the new user. If the error persists, you likely have a theme, plugin or database issue versus a problem with your user account.
4. Enable WordPress Debug Mode
Debug mode provides more details about specific errors. To enable, add the following lines to your active theme’s functions.php file:
define( ‘WP_DEBUG’, true );
define( ‘WP_DEBUG_LOG’, true );
With debug mode enabled, the editor error should display a detailed warning about what went wrong. Search for the specific error message to identify solutions.
5. Increase PHP Memory Limit
A common debug mode error is: “Allowed memory size of ____ bytes exhausted”. This means your PHP memory limit needs to be increased.
Contact your hosting provider to increase the PHP memory limit allocated to your WordPress site. Often, raising it to 256 MB or higher resolves memory exhaustion errors.
6. Reinstall Theme Files
If the issue persists after activating the default theme, try reinstalling your active theme files.
Download a fresh copy of the theme ZIP file from the original source. Then, go to Appearance > Themes and click “Add New”. Upload the new ZIP file to reinstall the theme.
7. Clear Browser Cache
On most browsers, you can clear the cache by pressing CTRL/Command + Shift + R to do a hard refresh. This clears cached files so new code can load.
8. Restore WordPress Database
For stubborn editor errors, a WordPress database restore may be needed. Backup your database through phpMyAdmin or your hosting control panel.
Then create a new database and user account for WordPress. Upload a fresh WordPress core install and configure it to use the new database. Finally, run the database restore to populate the new database with your original data.
9. Troubleshoot File Permissions
Incorrect file permissions can prevent WordPress from writing or updating content properly. Make sure the following folders have permissions set to 755 or 775:
Also, verify that all files in the above folders are set to 644 permissions. Adjust permissions as needed, then retest the editor.
10. Contact Web Host Support
If you still can’t determine the cause of the error, reach out to your web host’s customer support. They can help troubleshoot server-related issues like low disk space, memory allocation, or PHP versions.
Preventing Future ‘Unexpected Error’ Messages
Here are some tips to help avoid intermittent editor errors going forward:
- Keep plugins updated – Use only the latest versions of plugins to avoid compatibility issues. Or limit plugins to only what’s essential.
- Watch for theme updates – Keep your themes updated to the latest versions to fix bugs and enhance compatibility.
- Clean the database – Run periodic cleanups to optimize database tables and clear out clutter.
- Back up regularly – Download full WordPress database backups in case you need to restore or repair your site.
- Monitor site health – Keep an eye on disk space, memory usage, databases, and other vitals.
- Limit customization – Don’t overly customize plugins, themes or core code in ways that might cause conflicts.
- Add debugging – Have constant DEBUG mode enabled during development to catch errors early.
Paying attention to these tips will help minimize editor errors and make them easier to fix when they do occur. With a little diligence, you can avoid most common causes of the notorious “unexpected error” message.
The Bottom Line
Dealing with the “unexpected error” message in the WordPress editor can be a headache, but resolving it doesn’t have to be a mystery. By methodically isolating potential causes like plugins, themes, server resources, and database issues, you can identify and fix the underlying problem.
With some targeted troubleshooting to adjust plugins, themes, permissions, PHP settings, or other configurations, you can eliminate the error and get back to publishing content.
Paying careful attention to site health, regular backups, and general best practices can also help prevent these annoying errors from occurring so frequently.
Don’t let the “unexpected error” stop you from using WordPress effectively. Follow the tips outlined here to troubleshoot the issue, fix it completely, and avoid any repeat occurrences.