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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

1.3 A Word About Comments

Before our programs get much more complicated, we should see how C++ handles comments. Comments help the human readers of our programs. They are typically used to summarize an algorithm, identify the purpose of a variable, or clarify an otherwise obscure segment of code. Comments do not increase the size of the executable program. The compiler ignores all comments.

There are two kinds of comments in C++: single-line and paired. A single-line comment starts with a double slash (//). Everything to the right of the slashes on the current line is a comment and ignored by the compiler.

The other delimiter, the comment pair (/* */), is inherited from the C language. Such comments begin with a /* and end with the next */. The compiler treats everything that falls between the /* and */ as part of the comment:

   #include <iostream>
   /* Simple main function: Read two numbers and write their sum */
   int main()
   {
       // prompt user to enter two numbers
       std::cout << "Enter two numbers:" << std::endl;
       int v1, v2;           // uninitialized
       std::cin >> v1 >> v2; // read input
       return 0;
   }

A comment pair can be placed anywhere a tab, space, or newline is permitted. Comment pairs can span multiple lines of a program but are not required to do so. When a comment pair does span multiple lines, it is often a good idea to indicate visually that the inner lines are part of a multi-line comment. Our style is to begin each line in the comment with an asterisk, thus indicating that the entire range is part of a multi-line comment.

Programs typically contain a mixture of both comment forms. Comment pairs generally are used for multi-line explanations, whereas double slash comments tend to be used for half-line and single-line remarks.

Too many comments intermixed with the program code can obscure the code. It is usually best to place a comment block above the code it explains.

Comments should be kept up to date as the code itself changes. Programmers expect comments to remain accurate and so believe them, even when other forms of system documentation are known to be out of date. An incorrect comment is worse than no comment at all because it may mislead a subsequent reader.

Comment Pairs Do Not Nest

A comment that begins with /* always ends with the next */. As a result, one comment pair cannot occur within another. The compiler error message(s) that result from this kind of program mistake can be mysterious and confusing. As an example, compile the following program on your system:

   #include <iostream>
   /*
    * comment pairs /* */ cannot nest.
    * "cannot nest" is considered source code,
    * as is the rest of the program
    */
   int main()
   {
       return 0;
   }

When commenting out a large section of a program, it can seem easiest to put a comment pair around a region that you want to omit temporarily. The trouble is that if that code already has a comment pair, then the newly inserted comment will terminate prematurely. A better way to temporarily ignore a section of code is to use your editor to insert single-line comment at the beginning of each line of code you want to ignore. That way, you need not worry about whether the code you are commenting out already contains a comment pair.

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