How to Solve the R Error: attempt to apply non-function

This error message really needs to be renamed: check for the clumsy typo. When you see this, walk through your formulas around the location of the error message. Ninety nine percent of the time you’re looking at a basic syntax issue with how you are laying out your calculations in your r code. This is a common error when you have a clumsy typo in an argument or mathematical operator.

One of your calculations, likely one which uses brackets to break up your order of operations, is missing an operator somewhere in the code. There is a significant difference in how R handles the following two statements, identical except for a single character.

  • profit = units * (unit_price – unit_cost)
  • profit = units (unit_price – unit_cost)

In the first example, R will solve for the calculation inside the brackets (price – cost) and multiply it by the value in the variable units. Simple math. Unfortunately, this is a massive change in the mathematical operation.

In the second example, since there is no * to identify what operation to pursue, R interprets the whole thing as a function call. Solve for the difference between price and cost and apply the function that is named units to transform the result.

Except of course, there is no function named units. But there is an object named units. So what the heck, lets apply THAT to the value in question. So a very confused variable (units) which is most definitely NOT an R function (not even close!) is suddenly “applied” (Dr. Evil air quotes) to the value we fed it.

At which point the program realizes it is trying to do completely unnatural things to an innocent little variable and throws an error: attempt to apply non-function.

SIGH. And this is why we can’t have nice things.

How To Fix “Attempt to apply non-function”

Joking aside, this one is straight forward. Look at your calculations with a fine toothed comb, paying close attention to any situation where you use brackets. Make sure you separate those bracketed items from other elements of the calculation with an appropriate operator (+, -, %, *, other operators).

If all else fails, check your function name and object method references. This is especially true if you imported an r package that overlaps with your existing r code function(s).

Troubleshooting Tips:

  • Carefully examine your code for any missing operators, like +-*, or %.
  • Use appropriate brackets to ensure the correct order of operations.
  • Confirm that your function calls and object references are accurate, particularly after integrating new packages that might contain overlapping function names with your existing code.

By diligently reviewing your code for these small but impactful oversights, you can avoid one of the most common errors in R programming. Remember, even a single-character typo can significantly shift the intended meaning of your code, causing R to stumble and produce an error. So, maintaining a keen eye for detail is crucial in resolving the “attempt to apply non-function” message and keeping your coding efforts on track.

Frequently Asked Questions

Resolving the ‘Error in x self finalize()’ in R

To correct the issue where R is indicating a non-function is being called, review the function’s syntax and ensure that all objects are correctly defined and being used appropriately. Debugging may reveal a variable is being called as a function erroneously.

Addressing the ‘Computation failed in stat_bin’ Error in ggplot2

When encountering this error message with ggplot2, check for syntax errors in the code, such as missing or misplaced operators. Make sure that the ggplot2 library is correctly installed and loaded. Additionally, verify that all variables are correctly formatted for the statistical computation.

Corrective Steps for ‘Read_csv: attempt to apply non-function’ Error in R

If this error occurs while trying to read a CSV file in R, ensure that the reader function is correctly called with the appropriate syntax. The package containing the reader function (e.g., readr) must be installed and loaded.

Diagnosing the ‘Invalid Call to Non-Function’ Alert in Google Sheets

An alert such as this in Google Sheets typically arises from a formula error. Inspect the formula for correctness and consistency, paying close attention to the syntax and reference calls made within the formula.

Handling ‘Target of Assignment Expands to Non-Language Object’ in R

When R presents this message, it often signifies a syntactical mistake with the assignment operator. Double-check that the left-hand side of an assignment is a valid language object in R, such as a variable name, and is not inadvertently a function call or other structure.

Deciphering and Fixing ‘Could Not Find Function’ in R

The message ‘Could not find function‘ suggests that R cannot locate a specific function within the available packages or the global environment. To resolve this, confirm that the appropriate package is installed and loaded. If it is a user-defined function, check that it is correctly written and accessible in the script.

R needs to chill on this error message. This is basically a syntax error — a bad parenthesis or creating a conflict through the juxtaposition of an argument or expression.

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