In my previous question, I passed an argument into a Vimscript function and concatenated it into the command line. This works great, but when you pass a string that contains the # character, it balks with an error about the following:

E499: Empty file name for '%' or '#', only works with `:p:h`: read!<shellcmd>

The vimscript function looks like this:

function! GetJobLines(a:argA)

    " 1. Create a new buffer for the output

    " 2. Change directory to location of said script
    cd /home/leeand00/src

    execute "read!echo" shellescape(a:argA)


Running the command itself looks like this:

:call GetJobLines("C#")

Myself I thought that including shellescape() would have taken care of this, however this is not the case. I also tried adding \# to escape the # character, but that does not work either...

When I run the same command from the command line directly it does not cause an issue, and clearly this is a problem to be corrected in vimscript, I just don't know how.

  • A single backslash may not work with double-quoted strings. It really depends on how you're building your command to execute. Jan 4, 2017 at 16:53

2 Answers 2


The problem is that some characters are considered special by the Vim commandline. In your case, # refers to the alternate file name.

You can find the documentation with a full list at :help cmdline-special. This also includes the two possible ways to prevent this:

  • Prefix it with a backslash:

    :execute ":read !echo " . shellescape('C\#')
  • Use the fnameescape() function:

    :execute ":read !echo " . shellescape(fnameescape('C#'))

shellescape({string}[, {special}]) has an extra, optional argument {special} which exists exactly for this purpose.

When the {special} argument is present and it's a non-zero Number or a non-empty String (non-zero-arg), then special items such as "!", "%", and "<cword>" will be preceded by a backslash. This backslash will be removed again by the :! command.

Therefore, what you want to use is :execute ':read !echo' shellescape(a:argA, 1).

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