How to Correct a Syntax Error

By C.D. Crowder

Syntax errors are the most common problem for developers. A single syntax error can cripple even the best applications and websites. You can correct syntax errors easily once you find them. Typical errors include missing commas, semicolons and parenthesis. Debuggers are available in many software development kits to aid you in the location of syntax errors. However, you can find and correct syntax errors manually as well. Learning how to correct syntax errors is an essential part of being a software developer.

Step 1

Locate the syntax error manually. Step through each section of your code. Most code will be sectioned off into groups or functions. Carefully proof your code. Be sure to pay close attention to how lines are grouped. A common syntax mistake is incorrect grouping. For instance, if you have an If Else statement embedded in another If Else statement, be sure the embedded statement is surrounded by a separate set of parenthesis or brackets, depending on your language.

Step 2

Double-check notes sections. Notes are only for the developer to see. However, if the syntax isn't correct, the notes may become part of your application, which may not agree with existing code. Ensure the syntax around your notes is correct.

Step 3

Run a debugger if possible. This will make locating errors much easier. A debugger will be found under a menu such as Debug, Run or Tools or as part of your SDK's toolbar. Allow the debugger to run. Errors will be listed at the bottom or right side of your screen. Many debuggers will highlight possible errors in your code as well. A line number, along with the possible error, will be listed in the error message.

Step 4

Locate your syntax error if the debugger isn't correct. Sometimes a debugger will show you where your application stopped working correctly. The syntax error itself may be above or below the line listed in the debugger message. Check all syntax within the surrounding area, especially within the line's function.

Step 5

Run your application after correcting the syntax error. Check every possible function of your application to ensure it works correctly. If you find a problem, double-check the syntax in your code that surrounds the problem area. For instance, if your application has a log-in screen that isn't accepting passwords correctly, check the code for the log-in screen.

Tips & Warnings

  • Run your application after every function you add or after every change you make. This will narrow down the possible problem areas and reduce the number of lines you will need to look through to find and correct a syntax error.