Troubleshooting _csv.error: Need to Escape, But No Escapechar Set - A Detailed Guide

Facing issues with _csv.error? Don't worry, we've got you covered. In this guide, we will explain what the error message "_csv.error: need to escape, but no escapechar set" means and provide a step-by-step solution to tackle it.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding the Error
  2. Step-by-Step Solution
  3. FAQs

Understanding the Error

The _csv.error: need to escape, but no escapechar set error typically occurs when you are reading or writing a CSV file using Python's csv module. This error is triggered when the CSV module encounters a special character (like a delimiter or a quote character) within the data, but an escape character has not been specified.

For example, the following code reads a CSV file with a comma as a delimiter:

import csv

with open("example.csv", "r") as csvfile:
    reader = csv.reader(csvfile, delimiter=',')
    for row in reader:

If the CSV file contains a special character like a comma within a field, the csv.reader function will throw the _csv.error: need to escape, but no escapechar set error.

Step-by-Step Solution

To resolve this error, follow these steps:

Identify the special characters: Determine the delimiter, quote character, and any other special characters that may be present in your CSV file.

Set the escape character: Specify an escape character using the escapechar parameter in the csv.reader() or csv.writer() functions. The escape character should be different from the delimiter and quote character.

Here's an example of how to set the escape character when reading a CSV file:

import csv

with open("example.csv", "r") as csvfile:
    reader = csv.reader(csvfile, delimiter=',', quotechar='"', escapechar='\\')
    for row in reader:

In this example, we have set the escape character to a backslash (\\). Now, the CSV module will use this character to escape any special characters within the data.


1. What is an escape character in CSV files?

Escape characters are used to indicate that the following character should be treated as a regular character rather than a special character (such as a delimiter or quote character).

2. How do I choose an escape character?

An escape character should be a character that is not commonly used in your data. The backslash (\\) is a common choice, but you can choose any character that suits your needs.

3. Can I use the same character as the delimiter, quote character, and escape character?

No, it's not recommended to use the same character for all three purposes. Doing so may cause confusion when parsing the CSV file, leading to incorrect results or errors.

4. What is the default escape character in Python's CSV module?

By default, Python's CSV module does not set an escape character. You need to explicitly specify one using the escapechar parameter.

5. Do I need to escape characters in CSV files when using other programming languages?

Yes, escaping special characters is a common practice when working with CSV files in any programming language. The process of specifying an escape character may differ depending on the language and library you are using.

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