Naming conventions for variables, functions, etc.

March 11, 2020
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The golden rule of code layout is that code should be written to be readable. And that means readable by others, including you in the future.

Three principles of naming follow:

1. Names should mean something.

2. Names should be as short as possible.

3. Use your judgement to balance (1) and (2).

The third one’s where all the fun arises. Do we use “i” or “n” for integer loop variables by convention? Yes, we do. Do we choose “inv_logit” or “inverse_logit”? Stan chose “inv_logit”. Do we choose “complex” or “complex_number”? C++ chose “complex”, as well as choosing “imag” over “imaginary” for the method to pull the imaginary component out.

Do we use names like “run_helper_function”, which is both long and provides zero clue as to what it does? We don’t if we want to do unto others as we’d have them do unto us.

P.S. If the producers of Silicon Valley had asked me, Winnie would’ve dumped Richard after a fight about Hungarian notation, not tabs vs. spaces.

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