Interpreting Errors

Since TypeScript is a heavily focused Developer Help oriented programming language, its errors messages try to be super helpful when something goes wrong. This can lead to a slight information overload for unsuspecting users of compilers that aren't so helpful.

Lets look at an example in an IDE to break apart the process of reading an error message.

type SomethingComplex = {
  foo: number,
  bar: string
function takeSomethingComplex(arg: SomethingComplex) {
function getBar(): string {
  return 'some bar';

// Example error production
const fail = {
  foo: 123,
  bar: getBar

takeSomethingComplex(fail); // TS ERROR HAPPENS HERE

This example demonstrates a common programmer error where they fail to call a function (bar: getBar should be bar: getBar()). Fortunately this mistake is caught by TypeScript as soon as it doesn't meet the type requirements.

Error Categories

There are two categories of TypeScript Error messages (succinct and detailed).


The objective of the succinct error message is to provide an example conventional compiler description of the error number and message. For this example the succinct message looks like:

TS2345: Argument of type '{ foo: number; bar: () => string; }' is not assignable to parameter of type 'SomethingComplex'.

It is fairly self explanatory. However, it doesn't provide a deeper breakdown of why the error is happening. That is what the detiled error message is for.


For this example the detailed version looks like:

Argument of type '{ foo: number; bar: () => string; }' is not assignable to parameter of type 'SomethingComplex'.
  Types of property 'bar' are incompatible.
    Type '() => string' is not assignable to type 'string'.

The objective of the detailed error message is to guide the user to the reason why some error (type incompatability in this case) is happening. The first line is same as the succinct, followed by a chain. You should read this chain as a series of responses to the developer question WHY? between lines i.e

ERROR: Argument of type '{ foo: number; bar: () => string; }' is not assignable to parameter of type 'SomethingComplex'.

CAUSE ERROR: Types of property 'bar' are incompatible.

CAUSE ERROR: Type '() => string' is not assignable to type 'string'.

So the root cause is,

  • for property bar
  • there is a function () => string while it was expected as a string.

This should help the developer fix the bug for the bar property (they forgot to invoke () the function).

How it shows up in an IDE Tooltip

The IDE normally shows the detailed followed by the succinct version in a tooltip as shown below:

IDE error message example

  • You normally just read the detailed version forming the WHY? chain in your head.
  • You use the succinct version if you want to search for similar errors (using the TSXXXX error code or portions of the error message)

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