[Solved] SyntaxError: invalid character in Python

Updated Mar 24, 2023 ⤳ 3 min read

The error “SyntaxError: invalid character” occurs once Python encounters an invalid character (according to Python’s syntax) in a statement. 

You may have invalid characters in a line of code if:

  • You’ve copied a code snippet from a web page, a PDF document, or another formatted text containing invalid characters.
  • Your active keyboard isn’t English, and you’ve typed an invalid character.

Here’s what the error message looks like:

File /dwd/sandbox/test.py, line 1
  book_title = ´Head First Python
SyntaxError: invalid character '´' (U+00B4)

This error also indicates which character causes the syntax error. 

How to fix it?

As mentioned earlier, this infamous syntax error occurs due to any character Python considers invalid.

To fix it:

  1. First: Inspect the error message and spot the invalid character.
  2. Then: Retype it with your English keyboard enabled.

Below are the most common characters that cause the issue:

  1. A pair of invalid quotation marks like ´´
  2. An invalid comma "," instead of ","
  3. Using "—" instead of "-" when subtracting numbers

Let's explore each scenario with some examples.

1. A pair of invalid quotation marks like ´´:  All string literals must be quoted in Python, with the standard single, double, or triple quotation marks.

The following code raises the "invalid character" error because we're using non-standard quotation marks:

# 🚫 Python SyntaxError: invalid character '´' (U+00B4)
book_title = ´Head First Python´

All we need to do is to quote characters with our English keyboard enabled:

# ✅ Correct:
book_title = 'Head First Python'
👇 Continue Reading

2. An invalid comma "," instead of ","Non-English keyboards (such as Chinese or Persian) usually have different forms of commas, which you can't use as delimiters in Python - even though they are totally fine commas.

This can happen in function arguments, tuples, lists, dictionaries, etc.

# 🚫 SyntaxError: invalid character ',' (U+FF0C)
book = { 'title': 'Head First Python''author': 'Paul Barry'}

As you can see, the above comma is slightly smaller than a normal comma. To fix the error, we retype it like so:

# ✅ Correct:
book = { 'title': 'Head First Python', 'author': 'Paul Barry'}

3. Using "—" instead of "-" when subtracting numbers: This one rarely finds its way into your program, but it's worth watching when copying code from another source. 

Here's an example:

a = 12
b = 76

# 🚫 SyntaxError: invalid character '—' (U+2014)
print(a — b)

Swapping this character with a hyphen fixes the error instantly:

a = 12
b = 76

# ✅ Correct:
print(a - b)

You might also get a similar syntax error due to non-printing characters hidden in the code. Debugging such errors are trickier than printed characters. Luckily, Python will explicitly mention it's a non-printing character that's causing the issue, and there are tools to detect them.

Alright, I think it does it! I hope this short guide helped you fix your problem.

Thanks for reading!

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