Chapter 3. Style

There is no programming language, no matter how structured, that will prevent programmers from writing bad programs.

L. Flon

It is the nobility of their style which will make our writers of 1840 unreadable forty years from now.


This chapter discusses how to use good programming style to create a simple, easy-to-read program. Discussing style before we know how to program might seem backward, but style is the most important part of programming. Style is what separates the gems from the junk. It is what separates the programming artist from the butcher. You must learn good programming style first, before typing in your first line of code, so that everything you write will be of the highest quality.

Contrary to popular belief, programmers do not spend most of their time writing programs. Far more time is spent maintaining, upgrading, and debugging existing code than is ever spent on creating new works. According to Datamation, the amount of time spent on maintenance is skyrocketing. From 1980 to 1990, the average number of lines in a typical application went from 23,000 to 1,200,000. The average system age went from 4.75 to 9.4 years.

What’s worse, 74% of the managers surveyed at the 1990 Annual Meeting and Conference of the Software Maintenance Association reported that they “have systems in their department, that have to be maintained by specific individuals because no one else understands them.”

Most software is built on existing software. I recently completed ...

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