Readable If Statements

To kick of the Coding Yups and Nopes section, I’ll start with something simple. There are a set of things to do, and a set of things to avoid. For each thing, there are one or more reasons justifying its classification. These reasons are ordered by descending importance and increasing subjectivity.

– Nope:

if (condition) doWork();
else doOtherWork();

  • If you’re stepping through with a debugger (I used gdb), it is difficult to tell when stepping over the line if the statement is executed. To do so you must determine the value of condition, or determine if the function was called based on its side effects.
  • If you add an additional statement to the false case, it’s possible that braces may be forgotten, leading to incorrect operation.
  • Assuming the reason for putting both condition and statement on one line was to use less lines, the benefits of this are negated by the decreased readability of such a statement. By putting both condition and statement on one line, searching for a specific condition becomes more difficult.
  • Assuming other parts of your code are scoped and indented, this breaks that pattern.

if (condition) {
    doWork();
} else doOtherWork();

  • Similar to the above case. Basically this is inconsistent and has none of the advantages of either method.

if(condition){
    doWork();
}

  • This is a pure spacing issue. if is not a function, please do not call it as one. Also, that brace is squashed against that parentheses, give it some room! Skimping on spacing issues like this while writing makes it harder to read later.

+ Yup:

if (condition) {
    doWork();
} else {
    doOtherWork();
}

  • The perfect if-else statement. Well spaced, condition and statement on separate lines.

if (error) return;
if (error) break;
if (error) continue;

  • When used only for error/early exit conditions, these help to condense code so that the reader can quickly get to the meat of a function.
  • The statements and the condition are on one line because I do not consider the flow control statements return, break, and continue to contribute useful work, such that it should be scoped in braces and on its own line.
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