Fixing Indentation Error: Unindent Does Not Match Any Outer Indentation Level


Indentation plays a crucial role in Python programming, as it is used to define the scope of code blocks. Unlike other programming languages that use curly braces or keywords to delineate code blocks, Python relies solely on indentation to determine the hierarchical structure of the code. When the indentation levels are not matched correctly, it can lead to the dreaded “IndentationError: unindent does not match any outer indentation level” error. In this article, we’ll delve into the causes of this error, how to fix it, and some best practices to avoid it in the future.

Understanding Indentation in Python

Indentation in Python is used to group statements into blocks, such as functions, loops, and conditional statements. When you start a new block, you increase the indentation level, and when you exit a block, you decrease the indentation level. The standard indentation in Python is four spaces, although you can also use tabs if you prefer.

Here’s an example of a simple Python code block with proper indentation:

def greet(name):
    print(f"Hello, {name}!")


In this example, the print statement is indented four spaces to indicate that it belongs to the greet function.

Causes of the Indentation Error

The “IndentationError: unindent does not match any outer indentation level” error occurs when the indentation level of a line of code does not match the indentation level of the surrounding code block. Here are a few common scenarios that can lead to this error:

  1. Inconsistent Indentation Level: When the indentation level of a line of code is not consistent with the surrounding code block, it can cause an indentation error. For example:
def greet(name):
    print(f"Hello, {name}!")
  print("Goodbye!")  # Incorrect indentation

In the above example, the second print statement has a different indentation level than the first one, causing an indentation error.

  1. Missing Indentation: If you forget to indent a line of code that should be part of a code block, it can also lead to an indentation error:
def greet(name):
print(f"Hello, {name}!")  # Missing indentation

In this case, the print statement should be indented to be part of the greet function, but it has been left unindented, resulting in an error.

  1. Mixed Tabs and Spaces: Python interprets tabs and spaces differently, so mixing them can cause indentation issues. If you accidentally mix tabs and spaces for indentation, Python may not be able to determine the correct indentation level, leading to an error.

Fixing the Indentation Error

To fix the “IndentationError: unindent does not match any outer indentation level” error, you need to carefully examine the indentation levels in your code and make the necessary adjustments. Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Identify the Line Causing the Error: Most Python interpreters and IDEs will provide you with the line number and file where the indentation error occurred. Use this information to locate the problematic line of code.
  2. Check the Indentation Level: Examine the indentation level of the line causing the error and compare it to the surrounding code block. Ensure that the indentation level is consistent with the block it belongs to.
  3. Correct the Indentation: If the indentation level is incorrect, adjust it to match the surrounding code block. Remember to use four spaces or a consistent number of tabs for indentation.
  4. Check for Mixed Tabs and Spaces: If you suspect that you may have mixed tabs and spaces, use an editor or tool that can help you identify and fix these issues. Many modern code editors have features that can highlight mixed indentation or automatically convert tabs to spaces (or vice versa).
  5. Test the Code: After correcting the indentation, test your code to ensure that the error has been resolved and that the code behaves as expected.

Here’s an example of how to fix the indentation error in the code snippet from earlier:

def greet(name):
    print(f"Hello, {name}!")
    print("Goodbye!")  # Corrected indentation

In this corrected version, the second print statement is indented to the same level as the first one, aligning it with the greet function.

Best Practices for Avoiding Indentation Errors

To minimize the occurrence of indentation errors in your Python code, consider following these best practices:

  1. Use a Code Editor with Indentation Support: Choose a code editor that provides indentation support and automatically adjusts the indentation level when you press the Enter key or tab key. Many popular code editors, such as Visual Studio Code, PyCharm, and Sublime Text, offer this functionality.
  2. Stick to a Consistent Indentation Style: Decide whether you want to use spaces or tabs for indentation, and stick to that choice throughout your codebase. Mixing tabs and spaces can lead to indentation issues.
  3. Use Automatic Formatting Tools: Take advantage of automatic code formatting tools, such as black, autopep8, or yapf, which can help maintain consistent indentation and coding style across your project.
  4. Review Code Regularly: Regularly review your code to ensure that the indentation levels are correct, especially after making changes or adding new code blocks.
  5. Practice Writing Indented Code: As you gain more experience with Python, indentation will become second nature. Practice writing code with proper indentation, and pay close attention to the structure of your code blocks.


The “IndentationError: unindent does not match any outer indentation level” error can be frustrating, but it’s also a valuable learning opportunity. By understanding the causes of this error, learning how to fix it, and following best practices for indentation, you can write cleaner, more error-free Python code. Remember, proper indentation is not just a matter of syntax; it also contributes to the readability and maintainability of your codebase.

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