We’ve all been caught up in the religious war of coding standards. Whether it’s ‘tab vs spaces’ or ‘3 spaces vs 4 spaces’ or ‘curly brace on same line as if clause or curly brace on line below if clause’, these arguments can take up a significant amount of time on a project. Ken Arnold has an interesting post where he recommends that coding standards be integrated into the language specification, and enforced by the compiler. His reasons:

1. There’s no real productivity difference between one coding style and another.

2. There’s real productivity lost in setting up pretty printers, re-formatting code manually, and arguing about the better style.

3. If programmers have latitude, they’ll use it. (See perl.)

So, take away the freedom of programmers to format their code in a non standard manner. Make coding style part of the compiler–not as a warning though (as Bruce Eckel says “when you discover you can ignore them [warnings], you do”)–actually have the compiler error out if the formatting is incorrect.

Sure, I’d wail along with the rest of the coding community, for a while. But then I’d adjust, especially if the tools were there. And I’d probably be more productive. Talk about tough love.

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