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Avoid These Common SQL Syntax Errors: A Guide for Developers

Common SQL Syntax Errors: What You Need to Know

For anyone new to SQL (Structured Query Language), it’s quite common to run into various errors when writing SQL queries. Though frustrating, its essential to know that you are not alone.

Many SQL developers, including experienced ones, still commit syntax errors with their code, leading to an array of issues from minor bugs to the most catastrophic data loss. In this article, we will explore five common SQL syntax errors and explain why it’s essential to know them.

What Is a Syntax Error in SQL? A syntax error occurs when the computer can’t understand the SQL statement.

This issue arises when the query you entered doesn’t meet specific language rules and conventions, making it challenging to compile and execute it by the database server. Syntax errors are common in SQL coding and usually lead to runtime errors, meaning the error message you see is after running your query.

Misspelling Commands

Misspelling commands in your query may seem like a rookie mistake, but even the seasoned SQL developer can misspell a command, especially when continuously jumping across several programming languages. SQL commands, such as SELECT, FROM, WHERE, AND, OR, and JOIN, are critical to your query and must be accurate for the database server to understand and parse the SQL statement.

Forgetting Brackets and Quotes

Another common syntax error in SQL is the failure to include quotes and brackets when necessary. Using quotes is especially crucial when working with texts or string data types.

Without quotes, the server will treat it as a variable instead of a string that will lead to an error. Similarly, omitting brackets required when using subqueries or functions will cause SQL statements to fail to parse, leading to incorrect results and a runtime error.

Invalid Statement Order

The order of SQL commands in your query is critical to obtain accurate results or join two or more tables correctly. It would be best to ensure that you follow a precise structure when constructing a query statement to avoid syntax errors.

For instance, the SELECT statement comes before the FROM statement. If you interchange the orders, you’ll receive an error message.

Omitting Table Aliases

Table aliases are essential to make SQL queries, especially those that require joining tables across large databases, more readable and maintainable. They are shorthands used to rename a table in a query, allowing you to handle large amounts of data without confusion easily.

Omitting table aliases is another common syntax error in SQL that can result in duplicates or incorrect results.

Using Case-Sensitive Names

SQL is case-insensitive. However, most database management systems are case-sensitive with object names such as table names, column names, and database names.

It’s essential to ensure that each name is written in the right format, lest you receive errors. To avoid being caught off guard, you should always standardize the writing convention of your names.

For example, suppose you have a table named “inventory.” In that case, you should always refer to it as “inventory” and not “INVENTORY” or “Inventory.”

Novice SQL Coders and Common Mistakes

Database management systems are at the center of how modern businesses collect, store, and analyze vast amounts of data. As such, SQL skills are becoming increasingly vital for modern-day software developers, data analysts, and IT professionals.

However, novice SQL coders are likely to commit one or more syntax errors. These mistakes are due to a lack of knowledge or attention to detail resulting in several data integrity issues.

Significance of Knowing SQL Syntax Errors

Knowing SQL syntax errors is crucial, especially for novice developers seeking to improve their coding skills. It helps to streamline coding efficiency and effectiveness while avoiding additional time spent running through hundreds of lines of code for minor syntax errors.

Additionally, understanding syntax errors helps improve developer skills and appraisal while reducing employer frustration from unnecessary delays and overspending.

Structured Analysis for Identifying Errors

Structured analysis is an essential method for identifying syntax errors that you may have missed in your SQL code. It involves working through your code using a structured approach to catch errors that your SQL editor or database management system would not flag up.

Specifically, this method requires developers to analyze their SQL code thoroughly, line by line, to identify any syntax issues and verify the database schema and the information stored.

Final Thoughts

Often, the smallest mistakes can cause the most significant problems, especially in SQL code. Syntax errors can be costly, especially for individuals and companies dealing with a large volume of data.

However, by following SQL syntax conventions and navigating common issues, SQL scripters can save themselves time and prevent unwarranted mistakes. Understanding common syntax errors is an essential step towards improving your skill set and coding efficiency.

Syntax Error 1:

Misspelling Commands

One of the most common syntax errors in SQL is misspelling commands. SQL has specific command words that software developers should use to accomplish database tasks efficiently.

Spelling errors in SQL commands can result in runtime errors, syntax errors, and incorrect results.

Definition of Syntax Error

A syntax error is an error in code, programming, or scripting where the language rules and conventions are violated. In SQL syntax, a misspelling error is one of the common types of syntax errors.

A misspelled SQL command is the use of incorrect command words in a SQL script. Example of

Misspelling Commands

There are several SQL command words, such as SELECT, FROM, WHERE, AND, and OR.

A common example of a misspelled command is using “SELCT” instead of “SELECT” to start a SELECT statement. Other examples include forgetting the second ‘P’ in ‘DROP’, ‘INSRT’ instead of ‘INSERT’, ‘COULMN’ instead of ‘COLUMN’, etc.

Causes of SQL Spelling Errors

One of the primary causes of SQL spelling errors is human error. As a developer writes complex SQL queries, it is possible to make a mistake while typing these command words.

It is essential to pay attention to every word and letter while creating or editing a query to prevent errors. Additionally, SQL syntax errors can occur when a developer uses different SQL dialects or programming languages.

Different SQL implementations have command words written differently. When creating a query in a different SQL implementation, there is a higher likelihood of making a spelling error.

To avoid spelling errors, it is necessary to pay careful attention while writing the code and proofread your code for misspellings. Syntax Error 2:

Forgetting Brackets and Quotes

Another common syntax error in SQL is forgetting to include brackets or quotes.

Forgetting to bracket or quote can make a sentence or a query incomprehensible to the database system, leading to a syntax error.

Importance of Brackets and Quotes

Brackets and quotes are essential in SQL syntax as they help represent and differentiate various components of the SQL code. Adding brackets helps to subdivide a complex expression and inform the SQL interpreter on how to evaluate it.

On the other hand, quotes inform the SQL interpreter on how to treat a specific condition.

Difference in Execution Order with Brackets

In SQL, the execution order of an expression without brackets is ambiguous. For instance, assume we have a simple SQL query like WHERE A = B OR C > D AND E < F.

Without brackets, it is difficult to tell what should be evaluated first. Should the system evaluate the A = B condition first before the AND operator or the OR operator?

Adding brackets makes it easy to tell the execution order for each component.

Mixing Up Quotes

Mixing up quotes is another common syntax error in SQL. SQL has two types of strings; single-quoted strings (‘string’) and double-quoted strings (“string”).

Making an error by mixing the two can lead to syntax errors, depending on the database server’s configuration. For instance, if you want to insert data into a table with a column that accepts strings, you need to enclose the data in quotes.

If you use single-quotes to enclose the data and then use double-quotes to end the statement, you may receive a syntax error message. The correct way to structure the query would be to either use single-quotes to enclose the data and use single-quotes to end the statement or to use double-quotes to enclose the data and double-quotes to end the statement.


In conclusion, syntax errors are common in SQL, and they can be avoided entirely. Misspelling a command, forgetting quotes, or brackets can alter the SQL query’s overall meaning and cause syntactic errors in the database management system.

By understanding these common errors and learning how to avoid them, developers can produce more accurate and efficient SQL scripts that translate into better performance. As a new developer, it’s essential to take the time to become familiar with common errors in all programming languages to avoid headaches later on.

Syntax Error 3:

Invalid Statement Order

Another common error in SQL is the invalid statement order error. This error occurs when a developer uses the incorrect order for particular keywords during SQL query construction.

A statement with an invalid order will lead to syntax errors and affect the overall performance of the SQL script.

Predefined Keyword Order for SELECT Statements

In the SQL SELECT statement, the keywords are predefined to ensure proper execution of the SQL query. The developer needs to adhere to the correct order of these keywords to prevent syntax errors when working with SQL SELECT statements.

Correct Order of Keywords

The correct order of keywords in an SQL SELECT statement is SELECT, FROM, WHERE, GROUP BY, HAVING, ORDER BY, and LIMIT. The SELECT statement lists the columns to be selected from a table when queried, while the FROM clause identifies the table from which data will be selected.

The WHERE clause filters the data from the table before the results are displayed. The GROUP BY clause groups columns to generate summaries, and the HAVING clause selects groups based on given criteria.

Consequence of Incorrect Order

When an SQL SELECT statement is not written with the proper order of keywords, the query will not execute as anticipated. This can lead to syntax errors and may cause the database management system to freeze, resulting in slow performance.

Syntax Error 4:

Omitting Table Aliases

Table aliases give SQL code developers the ability to write more readable, maintainable code, especially where there are complex multiple joins or lengthy table names. These table aliases are shorthand to represent tables and columns when referencing them in SQL queries.

Omitting these table aliases can lead to errors and increase the likelihood of syntax errors.

Purpose of Table Aliases

The purpose of table aliases is to make SQL code more readable, easy to explain and maintain. Table aliases can help identify which tables are necessary in joins, making it simple to use every row from one table in another.

This helps to create a more natural flow of SQL code that is easy to understand.

Ambiguous Column Name Error

One of the common errors that developers can face when they omit table aliases is the ambiguous column name error. This may occur when two or more tables have a column with the same name.

Without table aliases, the database management system may not be able to evaluate which table a given column comes from, resulting in an error. Declaring table aliases in these cases will help the database management system to identify which table each column belongs to, helping to avoid the ambiguous column name error.

Correct Usage of Table Aliases

To correctly use table aliases in SQL queries, define them right after the table name by providing a unique character for each table. The syntax goes as follows: FROM table1 alias1, table2 alias2 WHERE alias1.column1 = alias2.column2.

It’s important to note that the alias chosen should be descriptive of the table it represents. Using a letter or number sequence that does not relate to the table will make the SQL code harder to read and understand.

For instance, if working in a database with “user” and “order” tables, we can use aliases “u” and “o” to refer to the respective tables.


Syntax errors are common in SQL and often crop up when developers omit table aliases, use the wrong keyword order, misspell commands, or forget quotes and brackets. However, by taking a little extra time and care in SQL coding, developers can easily avoid these issues and produce better-performing, more efficient SQL scripts.

Paying attention to the correct usage of table aliases, keyword order, quote usage, and brackets when writing an SQL query can save both time and effort and lead to fewer errors in the long run. Syntax Error 5:

Using Case-Sensitive Names

Using case-sensitive names is another common syntax error in SQL.

It involves naming database objects such as tables and columns with the same or different cases, which can lead to issues in code execution. This article explores the case sensitivity of object names in databases, the need for double quotes when working with case-sensitive names, and best practices for avoiding case-sensitive names.

Case Sensitivity of Object Names in Databases

Databases are capable of recognizing and interpreting both uppercase and lowercase characters in SQL code. However, the object names (e.g., tables, columns, stored procedures, etc.) within the database may be case-sensitive or case-insensitive, depending on the database system used.

For instance, MySQL is case-sensitive, while SQL Server is case-insensitive when it comes to object names. The case sensitivity of object names in databases is a crucial factor to consider in SQL development.

Improper casing can cause incorrect data selections or result in syntax errors that may frustrate developers during SQL code execution. Therefore, developers should take necessary precautions when naming objects in a database.

Need for Double Quotes

When working with case-sensitive names, one needs to use double quotes around object names whose cases are different than what was defined in the database schema to avoid syntax error occurrences. By enclosing the object name in double quotes, SQL interpreters recognize it as the correct object, even when it is not in the standard case format.

For instance, let’s take an example of a column name “schoolName.” In an SQL statement, it must be written as “schoolName” with double quotes to avoid ambiguity and to ensure that the database management system recognizes the column name correctly.

Avoiding Case-Sensitive Names

One of the best practices for avoiding case-sensitive name issues is to stick with a standard case format when naming objects. This practice ensures that all object names in the database schema maintain standard writing conventions, making them easier to read and understand.

Additionally, it makes it impossible to have multiple versions of the same name that could result in ambiguity. Another way to avoid case-sensitive names is by choosing a different naming convention.

For instance, using underscores to separate words, identifying the object types with a prefix, using camelCase for first-letter capitalizations, etc., can help define object columns in a straightforward and non-ambiguous manner.


Errors caused by case-sensitive names in SQL, though minuscule, can affect query execution and result in database inconsistencies. It is essential to maintain object naming conventions so that the SQL parser can use case-insensitive matching efficiently.

Double quotes are also necessary when working with cases that differ from standard writing conventions to avoid ambiguity and syntax errors. By following best practices in naming objects and encoding SQL statements correctly, developers can avoid syntax errors arising from case-sensitive name issues.

In conclusion, syntax errors are common in SQL, and they can significantly affect the performance of SQL code. The most common syntax errors include misspelling commands, forgetting quotes and brackets, using case-sensitive names, invalid statement orders, and omitting table aliases.

These errors can lead to various errors such as syntax error, ambiguous column name, and runtime errors. It is crucial to adhere to SQL programming standards, proofread code for misspellings, use brackets and quotes whenever

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