When I changed the Theme to Twenty Seventeen a few of the pages had the following text instead of the Header image:

Notice: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /var/www/wp-content/plugins/exclude-pages/exclude_pages.php on line 92 class="page-template-default page page-id-835 page-parent logged-in admin-bar no-customize-support wp-embed-responsive ecwd-theme-twentyseventeen has-header-image page-two-column colors-light">

I have not been able to resolve his.

  • 2
    this looks like an issue with the exclude-pages plugin, have you contacted their support and made sure the plugin is up to date?
    – Tom J Nowell
    Jan 23 at 17:16
  • 1
    it looks like this was written by Simon Wheatley but it's abandoned and hasn't been touched in 12 years: wordpress.org/plugins/exclude-pages you should deactivate it and find an alternative
    – Tom J Nowell
    Jan 23 at 17:18

1 Answer 1


The error message you're encountering in WordPress suggests a notice-level issue in the code, specifically in the exclude_pages.php file of the 'Exclude Pages' plugin. This issue seems to be related to PHP's handling of variables and references. Here's how you can address it:

Understand the Error: The notice is indicating that a variable is being assigned by reference in an improper manner. This often happens when using the =& operator in PHP, which is used to assign a reference to a variable.

Check Your PHP Version: Different PHP versions may handle references differently. Make sure your server is using a PHP version that is compatible with both WordPress and your plugins. A more recent PHP version could be stricter about reference assignments.

Edit the Plugin File:

Backup: First, make a backup of the exclude_pages.php file. Edit: Open /var/www/wp-content/plugins/exclude-pages/exclude_pages.php. Find Line 92: Look for the code at line 92. Update the Code: The exact change depends on the code. If it’s something like $variable =& some_function();, you can usually safely change it to $variable = some_function();. This removes the reference assignment.

Alternative Solutions:

Update the Plugin: Ensure the 'Exclude Pages' plugin is updated to its latest version. Plugin updates often fix such compatibility issues. Check for Plugin Conflicts: Deactivate other plugins temporarily to see if the issue persists. Sometimes, conflicts between plugins can cause unexpected errors. Switch to a Different Plugin: If the 'Exclude Pages' plugin is outdated or not maintained, consider using an alternative plugin that offers similar functionality.

Testing and Debugging:

After making changes, test your website thoroughly to ensure that everything is functioning correctly. You can enable WordPress debugging by adding define('WP_DEBUG', true); in your wp-config.php file to see if any other issues arise. Remember to turn this off on a live site after debugging. Contact Plugin Support: If you're uncomfortable editing plugin files or if the issue persists, it’s advisable to contact the plugin’s support for a resolution.

Remember, directly editing plugin files is generally not recommended because your changes will be overwritten when the plugin is updated. In such cases, contacting the plugin developer for a fix is the best course of action.

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