5 Typical SQL Syntax Mistakes

In learning any kind of language, as a beginner you make mistakes. But that’s how we learn. When learning SQL, the same process applies. And after a while, you begin to see patterns in those mistakes, which is why can be classified here. So, without further ado, here are the five most common syntax mistakes that all SQL learners, no matter their age or previous experience, make:

Keyword errors

This one is pretty simple to explain, and anyone can make it. But the fact is, in SQL or any programming language, a little misspell will lead to a failure in the operation of the command. Spelling mistakes are incredibly easy to commit too, so don’t be hard on yourself in this respect, just try to be as careful as possible. Precision is a key principle here.

“In SQL, misspellings can really open up a can of worms too as what can begin as just a simple typo due to a lack of concentration can actually become a larger issue as more errors are reported. Yet the root cause was just one small misjudgment. Errors in the structure of the command (meaning the word order that you use) cause the same mistake, Be careful, check and check again, these are the important takeaways,” says Brice Carroll, a technical writer at State of writing and OX Essays.

Command arrangements

We have already seen how the arrangement of the order of keywords can create problems, but you can extend this to commands that have been structured incorrectly too. It could be that all of your commands are written correctly, but you have included them in the wrong order, which will inevitably create an error. To state that again, even though each individual command is precise, the combination that you have used, or more accurately, the combination order by which you have entered them, creates the error.

Quotation marks

It’s a fact that many native English speakers (or speakers of any language that use them as a device) make mistakes when it comes to writing quotation marks in general prose writing – “do I use single or double quotes?” is a common question people ask themselves. In SQL, learners have similar struggles, but the difference here is that it results in an error in the command you are trying to run, as opposed to an annoying little mistake that your English teacher would ‘tut-tut’ over.

“In SQL there are instances where double quotation marks should go first, for example with general quotes, but other times they need to go inside the single quotes depending on the query. Learning which is which is not just important for your English teacher, it’s important for your SQL programming too,” warns Lisa Kwan, a developer at Academized and Australian Help.

The incorrect ordering of statements

This is another common mistake (which is why it is on this list), but once again it can be easily overcome. The grammar in SQL is not particularly complex (it’s not French, for example), but the order of the statements is a critical element. Any error pertaining to the syntax of the statement will mean that the order if wrong, so always make this your first port of call in terms of checking and addressing the issue.

Errors in Table Names

A priority in using SQL is of course getting to know all of the table names that you need to use, and just as with commands, any mistakes in terms of spelling here will result in an error.

The good news here, before you start breaking down everything that you have done up to the point that the error is identified, is that the error message you receive will give you a really big clue as to the mistake you have made, and in most cases it is a misspelling. Be careful in that a misspelling in SQL can also be in terms of underscores and quotation marks, as we have already seen here. Easily done, but easily rectified, and that is a theme with SQL.


What can you ascertain from the mistakes included here? First of all, you can see that in the vast majority of cases, errors are caused by tiny mistakes in the language you have entered, and can be fixed incredibly easily. But, of course, first you must learn the basics, and then practice repeatedly. And that is the key takeaway: just keep learning SQL, and those errors will soon be eradicated.

  • Nick says:

    Very well put together article that addresses the common SQL syntax mistakes. For me, learning in college was learning from my mistakes to learn the basic SQL syntax. I have learned from my mistakes with SQL syntax but that is all part of it!

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