Checks syntax of reStructuredText and code blocks nested within it
Clone or download



Build status

Checks syntax of reStructuredText and code blocks nested within it.


From pip:

$ pip install rstcheck

Supported languages in code blocks

  • Bash
  • Doctest
  • C (C99)
  • C++ (C++11)
  • JSON
  • XML
  • Python
  • reStructuredText


With bad Python syntax:


.. code:: python

$ rstcheck bad_python.rst
bad_python.rst:7: (ERROR/3) (python) unexpected EOF while parsing

With bad C++ syntax:


.. code:: cpp

    int main()
        return x;
$ rstcheck bad_cpp.rst
bad_cpp.rst:9: (ERROR/3) (cpp) error: 'x' was not declared in this scope

With bad syntax in the reStructuredText document itself:

$ rstcheck bad_rst.rst
bad_rst.rst:1: (SEVERE/4) Title overline & underline mismatch.


usage: rstcheck [-h] [-r] [--report level] [--ignore-language language]
                [--ignore-messages messages] [--ignore-directives directives]
                [--ignore-substitutions substitutions] [--ignore-roles roles]
                [--debug] [--version]
                files [files ...]

Checks code blocks in reStructuredText.

positional arguments:
  files                 files to check

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -r, --recursive       run recursively over directories
  --report level        report system messages at or higher than level; info,
                        warning, error, severe, none (default: info)
  --ignore-language language, --ignore language
                        comma-separated list of languages to ignore
  --ignore-messages messages
                        python regex that match the messages to ignore
  --ignore-directives directives
                        comma-separated list of directives to ignore
  --ignore-substitutions substitutions
                        comma-separated list of substitutions to ignore
  --ignore-roles roles  comma-separated list of roles to ignore
  --debug               show messages helpful for debugging
  --version             show program's version number and exit

Ignore specific languages

You can ignore checking of nested code blocks by language. Either use the command-line option --ignore or put a comment in the document:

.. rstcheck: ignore-language=cpp,python,rst

Ignore specific errors

Since docutils doesn't categorize their error messages beyond the high-level categories of: info, warning, error, and severe; we need filter them out at a textual level. This is done by passing a Python regex. As example you can pass a regex like this to ignore several errors:

(Title underline too short.*|Duplicate implicit target.*')

Configuration file

You can use the same arguments from the command line as options in the local configuration file of the project (just replace - for _). rstcheck looks for a file .rstcheck.cfg in the directory or ancestor directory of the file it is checking.

For example, consider a project with the following directory structure:

├── foo
│   └── bar.rst
├── index.rst
└── .rstcheck.cfg

.rstcheck.cfg contains:

ignore_messages=(Document or section may not begin with a transition\.$)

bar.rst contains:



.. one::


rstcheck will make use of the .rstcheck.cfg:

$ rstcheck docs/foo/bar.rst


To enable Sphinx:

$ pip install sphinx

The installed Sphinx version must be at least 1.5.

To check that Sphinx support is enabled:

$ rstcheck -h | grep 'Sphinx is enabled'

Usage in Vim

Using with Syntastic:

let g:syntastic_rst_checkers = ['rstcheck']

Using with ALE:

Just install rstcheck and make sure is on your path.

Use as a module

rstcheck.check() yields a series of tuples. The first value of each tuple is the line number (not the line index). The second value is the error message.

>>> import rstcheck
>>> list(rstcheck.check('Example\n==='))
[(2, '(INFO/1) Possible title underline, too short for the title.')]

Note that this does not load any configuration as that would mutate the docutils registries.


To run all the tests, do:

$ make test

Unit tests are in

System tests are composed of example good/bad input. The test inputs are contained in the examples directory. For basic tests, adding a test should just be a matter of adding files to examples/good or examples/bad.


3.3 (2018-03-17)

  • Parse more options from configuration file (thanks to Santos Gallegos).
  • Allow ignoring specific (info/warning/error) messages via --ignore-messages (thanks to Santos Gallegos).

3.2 (2018-02-17)

  • Check for invalid Markdown-style links (thanks to biscuitsnake).
  • Allow configuration to be stored in setup.cfg (thanks to Maël Pedretti).
  • Add --recursive option to recursively drill down directories to check for all *.rst files.

3.1 (2017-03-08)

  • Add support for checking XML code blocks (thanks to Sameer Singh).

3.0.1 (2017-03-01)

  • Support UTF-8 byte order marks (BOM). Previously, docutils would interpret the BOM as a visible character, which would lead to false positives about underlines being too short.

3.0 (2016-12-19)

  • Optionally support Sphinx 1.5. Sphinx support will be enabled if Sphinx is installed.

2.0 (2015-07-27)

  • Support loading settings from configuration files.

1.0 (2015-03-14)

  • Add Sphinx support.

0.1 (2013-12-02)

  • Initial version.