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The 5 most common types of errors in programming and how to avoid them

There are mainly 5 types of programming errors. Syntax error • Logic error • Semantic error • Runtime error • Compilation error
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The famed computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra summed it up well when he said “if debugging is the process of removing bugs, then programming must be the process of putting them in.”

It happens very rarely, if at all, that code gets shipped without programming errors, also known as bugs. They are a natural and inevitable part of the software development process. The experts simply get comfortable with navigating these and quickly fixing them before they can cause issues for the end users.

Since dealing with such errors is part and parcel of programming, this article would help you understand the most common types of errors and how to be cognizant of them in the future. 

The 5 most common types of errors in programming 

1. Syntax errors

Syntax errors are perhaps the most common type of error that beginners make. These are mistakes in the code structure, such as using incorrect syntax or forgetting to close a bracket. Syntax errors are usually caught by the compiler or interpreter, so they are easy to fix. 

To avoid syntax errors, it is important to familiarize yourself with the syntax of the programming language you are using. You can also get a good grip on the error messages that the compiler or interpreter provides. A good integrated development environment (IDE) would always provide syntax highlighting and code completion, features that can help you spot syntax errors as you type. 

2. Logic errors

Logic errors are mistakes in the logic of the code, which can result in the program behaving unexpectedly or failing to produce the desired output. These errors are often more difficult to spot compared to syntax errors as they don’t interfere with the running of the code. 

To avoid logic errors, make sure to break your code down into small, manageable chunks, and test each piece separately before moving on to the next. You can also make use of debugging tools to fix logic errors.  

3. Semantic errors

Semantic errors are mistakes in the meaning of the code. For example, you can use the wrong variable name or call a function with the wrong arguments. These errors are difficult to spot as they do not hamper the code from running. 

One way to avoid semantic errors is to use clear, descriptive variable and function names. It is also a good idea to use a linter, which is a tool that checks your code for semantic errors and other style issues. 

4. Runtime errors

Runtime errors are mistakes that occur while the program is running. For example, attempting to access an index of an array that is out of bounds or dividing by zero. These errors are specifically difficult to debug, as they may not be immediately apparent in the written code. 

To avoid runtime errors, test your code thoroughly and use error-handling techniques such as try-catch blocks to handle unexpected conditions. 

5. Compilation errors

Compilation, the process of converting a high-level programming language into a lower-level language, takes place so that the computer can better understand the language. Compilation errors occur when the computer is not able to make the conversion reliably. This prevents the software from being launched or tested. 

The best way to avoid a compilation error is to run the compiler often to get early feedback. Once you’ve made many changes and see lots of compiler warnings or errors, it can get very daunting. By running your compiler often, you would be able to spot the errors sooner.

How to avoid errors in your code

There are many types of different programming errors that can make their way into your code. With practice, you would be able to be cognizant of them and sift through the code quickly to spot them before they blow up. 

To actively get there you should:

  • Familiarize yourself with the syntax and semantics of the programming language
  • Carefully break down your code
  • Test the code thoroughly at unit level
  • Use debugging and error-handling techniques
  • Add comments in your code to easily comb through your files
  • Avoid switching context while coding to search for links or code snippets
Recommended reading: How to prepare your engineering team for product launch

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