Methods and Parentheses

Ruby allows parentheses to be omitted from most method invocations. In simple cases, this results in clean-looking code. In complex cases, however, it causes syntactic ambiguities and confusing corner cases. We’ll consider these in the sections that follow.

Optional Parentheses

Parentheses are omitted from method invocations in many common Ruby idioms. The following two lines of code, for example, are equivalent:

puts "Hello World"
puts("Hello World")

In the first line, puts looks like a keyword, statement, or command built in to the language. The equivalent second line demonstrates that it is simply the invocation of a global method, with the parentheses omitted. Although the second form is clearer, the first form is more concise, more commonly used, and arguably more natural.

Next, consider this code:

greeting = "Hello"
size = greeting.length

If you are accustomed to other object-oriented languages, you may think that length is a property, field, or variable of string objects. Ruby is strongly object oriented, however, and its objects are fully encapsulated; the only way to interact with them is by invoking their methods. In this code, greeting.length is a method invocation. The length method expects no arguments and is invoked without parentheses. The following code is equivalent:

size = greeting.length()

Including the optional parentheses emphasizes that a method invocation is occurring. Omitting the parentheses in method invocations with no arguments gives ...

Get The Ruby Programming Language now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.