Home > Articles > Programming > Windows Programming

Robert C. Martin's Clean Code Tip of the Week #2: The Inverse Scope Law of Function Names

  • Print
  • + Share This
The longer the scope of a function, the shorter its name should be. Functions that are called locally from a few nearby places should have long descriptive names, and the longest function names should be given to those functions that are called from just one place.
Like this article? We recommend

I have a simple rule. The longer the scope of a function, the shorter its name should be. Functions that are called from far and wide should have short evocative names like push, close, read, or kill. Functions that are called locally from a few nearby places should have long descriptive names like parseColumnHeader or callScenarioForRow. Indeed, the longest function names should be given to those functions that are called from just one place.

Consider a function like parseColumnHeader below:

protected void parseColumnHeader() {

  headerColumns = table.getColumnCountInRow(1);

  for (int col = 0; col < headerColumns; col++) {

    String cell = table.getCellContents(col, 1);

    if (cell.endsWith("?"))

      funcs.put(cell.substring(0, cell.length() - 1), col);

    else

      vars.put(cell, col);

  }

}

This function has a very small scope. It's called from two places. Once from production code, and once more from a unit test. Here is the production code that calls it:

private void invokeRows() {

  parseColumnHeader();

  for (int row = 2; row < table.getRowCount(); row++)

    invokeRow(row);

}

What does the function name tell us about its behavior? What does it mean to "parse" a "column header". One of my guidelines for clean code is that you should not have to look inside a function to know what it does. Instead the names of each called function should give you enough information so that you can continue to read without jumping to their implementation. In this regard the name parseColumnHeaders fails.

So let's look at the implementation of parseColumnHeader and see if we can come up with a better name. The first line tells us that the first row of the table contains column headers. (perhaps the name of the variable should be changed from headerColumns to columnHeaders). The next line tells us that we are looping through each column of the column headers. Inside the loop we check the column header to see if it ends with a ?. If so we put the column header into a list named funcs; otherwise we put it into a list named vars.

So, what this function is doing is allocating the column headers between the funcs and vars lists. Can we say this in an evocative function name? How about gatherFunctionsAndVariablesFromColumnHeader? That certainly tells us the intent of the function. It also makes invokeRow much easier to understand.

private void invokeRows() {

  gatherFunctionsAndVariablesFromColumnHeader();

  for (int row = 2; row < table.getRowCount(); row++)

    invokeRow(row);

}

Now we can see that before we invoke a row we figure out which columns are functions and which are variables.

A long function name like this is much better than a comment because its documentary value appears both where the function is defined, and also where the function is used. Moreover, a long and precise name like this is much more likely to be kept long and precise, than a name like parseColumnHeaders. For example, if a new kind of column were added, we'd likely change the name of gatherFunctionsAndVariablesFromColumnHeader but we'd likely not change the name of parseColumnHeaders.

You might think that changing the name of the function is a bad idea, and that we should choose names that are not likely to change. Indeed, isn't that what the Open Closed Principle is all about? Yes and no. You see there is another rule. As behavior gets more complex, the function name should become more generic and the complexity should be managed by extracting simpler functions. So if we added a new column type, we might change the name of the function to gatherInvocationParametersFromColumnHeaders, and then we might break the function into several smaller functions.

If the name of the function remained parseColumnHeaders then we would not be so tempted to break the function into smaller functions. We could just live with the imprecise name and let the function get ever more complicated. But with a name like gatherFunctionsAndVariablesFromColumnHeader we are almost forced to break the function up and change the name to something more generic, but not less precise.

Indeed the gatherFunctionsAndVariablesFromColumnHeader function is probably already too large. We could easily split it as follows:

protected void gatherFunctionsAndVariablesFromColumnHeader() {

  columnHeaders = table.getColumnCountInRow(1);

  for (int col = 0; col < columnHeaders; col++)

    putColumnHeaderInFunctionOrVariableList(col);

}



private void putColumnHeaderInFunctionOrVariableList(int col) {

  String cell = table.getCellContents(col, 1);

  if (cell.endsWith("?"))

    funcs.put(cell.substring(0, cell.length() - 1), col);

  else

    vars.put(cell, col);

}

The morals of this story are:

  • Functions in small scopes should have long and precise names.

  • You should not have to read the body of a function to know what it does. It's name should tell you.

  • The more complex the behavior of a function, the more generic its name, and the more sub functions should be extracted from it.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020