Use Searchable Names

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Single-letter names and numeric constants have a particular problem in that they are not easy to locate across a body of text.

One might easily grep for MAX_CLASSES_PER_STUDENT, but the number 7 could be more troublesome. Searches may turn up the digit as part of file names, other constant definitions, and in various expressions where the value is used with different intent. It is even worse when a constant is a long number and someone might have transposed digits, thereby creating a bug while simultaneously evading the programmer’s search.

Likewise, the name e is a poor choice for any variable for which a programmer might need to search. It is the most common letter in the English language and likely to show up in every passage of text in every program. In this regard, longer names trump shorter names, and any searchable name trumps a constant in code.

My personal preference is that single-letter names can ONLY be used as local variables inside short methods. The length of a name should correspond to the size of its scope If a variable or constant might be seen or used in multiple places in a body of code, it is imperative to give it a search-friendly name. Once again compare:

for (int j=0; j<34; j++) {
    s += (t[j]*4)/5;


int realDaysPerIdealDay = 4;
const int WORK_DAYS_PER_WEEK = 5;
int sum = 0;
for (int j=0; j < NUMBER_OF_TASKS; j++) {
    int realTaskDays = taskEstimate[j] * realDaysPerIdealDay;
    int realTaskWeeks = (realdays / WORK_DAYS_PER_WEEK);
    sum += realTaskWeeks;