ValueError: Invalid format specifier

Hello coders! Today, we’re going to look at an error common in Python coding: the ValueError: Invalid format specifier. This Python error is seen quite frequently, especially among beginner coders.

What is ValueError: Invalid format specifier?

When working with Python, especially with string formatting, you may encounter the “ValueError: Invalid format specifier” error. This error typically occurs when an issue arises in the format specification of your f-string syntax in Python.

What causes the ValueError: Invalid format specifier error?

When using formatted string literals or f-strings, there is a specific syntax to follow. This error occurs when Python does not recognize the syntax used inside an f-string due to incorrect or invalid format specification. One particular instance where this error can crop up is when you’re using double brackets in your f-string which Python does not understand.

To illustrate, if you were trying to encode a JSON string in Python using formatted string literals and made a mistake in the formatting, e.g.:

request_1 = "request1"
request_2 = "request2"
request_3 = "request3"
json = f'{{"requests": [{request_1}, {request_2}, {request_3}]}}'

Executing the code above would lead to the “ValueError: Invalid format specifier” error.

Code Examples

Here is another case where the error may be encountered. Supposedly, we want to represent a number with two decimal places, and we use the incorrect syntax:

number = 12.34567
print(format(number, ";.2f"))

Running this code would result in a ValueError: Invalid format specifier.

How to resolve the ValueError: Invalid format specifier error?

Solution 1:

Try to make the code work in such a way that there are single brackets opening and closing, and not more. You can simply add an extra string concatenation like so:

json = f'"requests": [{request_1}, {request_2}, {request_3}]'

In this case, the double brackets issue is resolved by additional string concatenation, which makes it a more straightforward, easy-to-interpret structure for Python.

Solution 2:

Ensure there are no unnecessary spaces in your expressions, the error could be due to Python not recognizing spaces in certain positions of your f-string. Make sure your f-string expressions follow the correct format specification mini-language.

Solution 3:

You can also resolve this error by correctly placing the semicolon (;) in the format function. The proper syntax should be .2f, not ;.2f:

number = 12.34567
print(format(number, ".2f"))

The code above correctly displays the number to two decimal places without error.


1. What is f-string in Python?

F-string or formatted string literal is a kind of string literal available in Python 3.6 and above. F-strings provide a concise and convenient way to embed expressions inside string literals for formatting.

2. What is a format specifier in Python?

A format specifier in Python is a way of defining how individual values are presented. It can define the type of data, alignment, padding, width, precision, and other details of the output.


Understanding the “ValueError: Invalid format specifier” error and its causes is pivotal in writing successful Python code. When faced with this error, always remember to scrutinize your code for incorrect syntax in your f-string expressions or any unnecessary spaces in your f-strings. Happy coding!


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