Re: [R] R programming style

From: Scillieri, John <>
Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2008 14:50:13 -0500

I second that, Code Complete is a great book! For anyone interested in improving their code no matter what language, (it has a C++/Java-type focus but is definitely applicable to R), it would definitely be a good place to start.

I've read some negative reviews claiming that everything he writes is 'obvious' (use good variable names, short concise functions, limit nested conditionals, etc) but on more than one occasion I've gone back over the book and thought of new places to improve my code.


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Earl F. Glynn
Sent: Monday, February 11, 2008 2:30 PM
Subject: Re: [R] R programming style

"David Scott" <> wrote in message
> Can anyone provide further pointers to good style?

While not written for R specifically, the book "Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction" (2nd Edition) discusses a number of good concepts for writing good code in any language: 735619670

In particular, Part IV "Statements" gives a number of useful suggestions by type of statement, e.g., straight-line code, conditionals, loops, ...

There are some practices used in R that I think should be improved. For example, many years ago I was taught in a software engineering class that the use of "magic numbers" was a bad practice, yet we find magic numbers used in R in many places.

Instead of using "1" or "2" in an "apply", I'll write something like this trying for some sort of mnemonic

apply(x, BY.ROW<-1, sum)
apply(z, BY.COL<-2, mean)

I find BY.ROW or BY.COL to be more mnemonic than the magic numbers 1 and 2.

The "sides" 1, 2, 3, and 4 in an axis statement should have some sort of mnemonic definition, too, perhaps:

axis(BOTTOM<-1, ...)

But I believe I was ostracized in this E-mail list the last time I suggested such mnemonics instead of magic numbers.

Earl F. Glynn
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