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comp.lang.c FAQ list · Question 17.1

Q: What's the best style for code layout in C?

A: Kernighan and Ritchie, while providing the example most often copied, also supply a good excuse for disregarding it:

The position of braces is less important, although people hold passionate beliefs. We have chosen one of several popular styles. Pick a style that suits you, then use it consistently.

It is more important that the layout chosen be consistent (with itself, and with nearby or common code) than that it be ``perfect.'' If your coding environment (i.e. local custom or company policy) does not suggest a style, and you don't feel like inventing your own, just copy K&R.

Each of the various popular styles has its good and bad points. Putting the open brace on a line by itself wastes vertical space; combining it with the following line makes it hard to edit; combining it with the previous line prevents it from lining up with the close brace and may make it harder to see.

Indenting by eight columns per level is most common, but often gets you uncomfortably close to the right margin (which may be a hint that you should break up the function). If you indent by one tab but set tabstops at something other than eight columns, you're requiring other people to read your code with the same software setup that you used. (See also the Indian Hill Style Guide.)

The elusive quality of ``good style'' involves much more than mere code layout details; don't spend time on formatting to the exclusion of more substantive code quality issues.

See also question 17.2.

References: K&R1 Sec. 1.2 p. 10
K&R2 Sec. 1.2 p. 10

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