How to fix the Unicode Error in Python?

Unicode errors can be frustrating. You’re trying to run your Python script, but you keep getting this pesky error message saying “Unicode error.”

What does this mean, and how can you fix it? Keep reading to find out.

What is a Unicode Error?

A Unicode error occurs when you try to process a string of text that contains characters that are not part of the standard ASCII character set. The ASCII character set consists of only 127 characters, which is not enough to represent all the world’s languages.

As a result, other character sets have been developed, such as ISO-8859-1 (also known as Latin-1) and UTF-8. These character sets contain more than just the standard ASCII characters; they also include accented letters, Cyrillic characters, Japanese kanji, etc.

How to Fix a Unicode Error

There are two ways to fix a Unicode error. The first is to explicitly specify the encoding of your text file.

For instance, if your text file is encoded in UTF-8, you can add the following line to the top of your Python script:

-- coding: utf-8 --

This tells Python that your script is encoded in UTF-8.

The second way to fix a Unicode error is to use the decode() method. This method takes two arguments: the encoding of the original string and the errors handling scheme.

For example, if you have a string encoded in Latin-1, you can decode it with the following line of code:

decoded_string = original_string.decode('iso-8859-1', 'ignore')
Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

This will ignore any characters that cannot be decoded from Latin-1 and return a Unicode string. You can also use the ‘replace’ errors handling scheme, which will replace any undecodable characters with a replacement character (usually ‘?’ or ‘\ufffd’).

decoded_string = original_string.decode('iso-8859-1', 'replace')
Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

Unicode errors can be frustrating, but they’re actually quite easy to fix. All you have to do is either specify the encoding of your text file or use the decode() method.

With just a few lines of code, you can get rid of those pesky Unicode errors for good

Andy Avery

I really enjoy helping people with their tech problems to make life easier, ​and that’s what I’ve been doing professionally for the past decade.

Recent Posts