Blog Post 1: The Importance of Words in Code

Blog » Blog Post 1: The Importance of Words in Code

Posted on 02 Feb 2013 22:20

In the field of computer engineering, writing is important not only to communicate ideas very efficiently, but rather to ensure the integrity of a computer program’s code. Computers, as advanced as they seem to be, need to be told every simple instruction perfectly in order to perform a given task correctly. A reader can see mistakes and still understand what the writing is talking about based on common sense and their knowledge of the subject. On the other hand, however, a computer would not know what to do if they came across “duble” instead of “double”. In addition, leaving out even one instruction can cause the program to be inoperable, since the computer cannot use common sense to know what to do next. These are just a few of the reasons why good writing isn't simply useful, but practically one of the most important skills in computer science and engineering as a whole.

When developing a program, using the correct grammar and avoid spelling mistakes is of the utmost importance. Even the minutest error, such as forgetting to add one letter to the end of a word or not inserting a semicolon in the end of a line of code, can basically render the code entirely useless. For example, when I was typing up my first program in C++ a few days ago, simple forgetting to add one bracket at the end of my block of code basically prevented me from turning the code into a executable program. When compiling the code, which basically turns the inputted text into numbers that the computer can understand, the compiler checked over my code to see if it had any errors before using it. Thus, writing well and correctly the first time served a huge purpose for me since going back to fix small errors over and over lead to me taking an extra 10 minutes to produce a working program. One can only imagine how much more time it would take on program codes hundreds of lines long, especially since the program I was creating wasn't even more than 20 lines total. Thus, writing serves a huge purpose for me as well as the field of computer science and computer engineering in general, since even though the general structure of code and the way punctuation is used varies a lot, it is still a form of written language, with many of the words often being the same as their English counterparts.

Furthermore, the content of the code is just as important as the spelling, just like writing in English. As stated in Programming Principles and Practice Using C++,

The difference between such descriptions and programs is one of degree of precision: humans lend to compensate for poor instructions by using common sense, but computers don' t. For example, ‘turn right in the corridor, up the stairs, it'll be on your left,’ is probably a fine description of how to get to the upstairs bathroom. However, when you look at those simple instructions, you'll find the grammar sloppy and the instructions incomplete. A human easily compensates.” (Stroustrup, 44)

Thus, even a small discrepancy in written instructions is fatal when writing a computer program, since it is unable to understand what you want it to do if it isn't told everything step by step.

When many people think of writing, they think only of an individual hunched over their desk, writing a formal essay in pen or typing up an informational article online. However, the applications of writing extend far beyond that, serving as an essential part of programs and various other computer-based applications, which also uses writing regardless of the computer language employed. Though my ability to write fast and create detailed and creative essays is fairly good, I believe that I currently am not well suited to writing like a computer scientist at the moment. Instead of being about precision of ideas, programming focuses on precise words and punctuation, where the computer itself acts as the strictest spell checker in the world. Often times I ignore mistakes in my writing, going back to fix them later when needed, as long as they don’t impact the overall integrity of my work. However, to be an excellent computer engineer, I must become stringent in the way I approach my writing and correct any mistake I may make, as an error is unforgivable in programming. Writing is beyond important, it is absolutely essential to my field of computer science and engineering and by striving to perfect it, I can set myself up for being much more successful at my career in the future.


- Stroustrup, Bjarne. Programming: Principles and Practice Using C++. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Addison-Wesley, 2009. Print.

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