Hasan Zahra

c programming styles - the one i use and why

there are many c programming styles. c programming style refers to things like bracket placement, how you declare functions, spaces around operators, using parenthesis for sizeof(), comments, etc.


some use brackets on the same line, some use them on the next. i personally add them on the same line, unless declaring a function, which i'll discuss later. for example:

if (condition) {
it is important to note that when a conditional only has one statement, i don't use parenthesis. for example:
if (condition)
i do this because i feel like having brackets on their own like clutters up the codebase unnecessarily, and adds extra lines. unless you're a programmer from the 70s being paid per line of code, why add extra lines within functions?


i use spaces instead of tabs, a tab being 4 spaces. some prefer using 8 instead, the linux kernel being a primary example. i don't use whitespace around parenthesis, but do around operators and commas. conditionals have a space before the parenthesis, but functions don't. for example:

int var = 2 + 4;

if (condition1 || condition2)
when structuring a file, i avoid using more than one blank line in a row. for example:
#include <stdio.h>



function declaration

to declare a function, i put the return type and modifiers on one line, the function name and arguments on the next, and then the opening bracket on the next line. this is done to avoid functions with a lot of arguments taking up too much space on a line. for example:

add(int a, int b)
    return a + b;
if a function has no arguments, always put void in the parenthesis. for example:
/* does nothing */


comments that fit on one line are denoted using /* comment */. comments that take up more than one line have an opening line, the contents of the comment (each line beginning with a *), and then the line closing the comment. for example:

/* this is a one line comment */

 * this comment takes up
 * multiple lines
 * so it uses this style

function(int a)
    return a + 2;  /* inline comments have 2 spaces */
this is done automatically by vim for multiline comments, and i don't use // because each line requires it. many editors handle multiline comments the same way. inline comments have 2 spaces to separate the code from the comment.


i've developed this style over time, taking inspiration from other styles, copying what i liked and leaving what i didn't like. i like the linux kernel's code style, but the 8 width tabs are not my favorite. i liked how suckless declares functions and styles brackets, so i copied their style.

at the end of the day it all comes down to personal preference, and if you really prefer a style you should use it. just use what works best for you (as long as you're keeping consistent with your codebase, so don't use your own style if it clashes with the style a project already uses). i'd use the linux kernel's style if i were to contribute code out of respect for maintainers. some people may hate the way i declare functions and others may love it. avoid big sins and you should be fine. these are things that are obvious - don't have a bunch of blank lines in the middle of a file, match whatever indentation you're using, etc. it is also worth noting that this isn't really very important when first starting out, and you should really focus on the basics first.