Routines: Functions & Procedures

Posted on 27 Jan, 2021 _________ Routines ________ | | Functions Procedures (Returns a value) (Doesn't return a value)

Best practices

  • A routine should not w/r global variables instead it should communicate with other routines.

  • A routine should have a single, clearly defined purpose (1 Task = 1 Routine)

  • Hide Pointer Operation:

    • Isolate pointer operations in routines by this you can be certain that the code is correct & if in future you find a better data type then pointers you can change the program without traumatizing your code.

  • Use a function if the primary purpose of the routine is to return the value indicated by function "name" otherwise use a procedure.

  • Don't hesitate to create small functions even if the operation seems one or two liner

  • Make sure a function always returns a valid value (mentally exercise each possible control flow path).

  • Don't return references or pointers to local data since they will be out of scope once the function completes instead save the information as a class/struct member data.


  • Make sure cohesion is strong inside a function, below are some types of cohesion you need to worry about

    • Functional Cohesion: It is the strongest and best kind of cohesion (a routine performs one & only one operation). E.g. GetCustomerName(), EraseFile().

    • Sequential Cohesion: I exists when a routine contains operation that must be performed in a specific order, that share data from step to step & that don't make up a complete function when done together.

    • Temporal Cohesion: It occurs when operations are combined into a routine because they are all done at the same time. E.g Startup(), Shutdown(). Functions like these tend to be a hodgepodge of code to fix this think of temporal routines as organisers of other events. Startup() for e.g would read a config file, setup a memory manager etc. Make the temporal routine to perform specific activities rather than performing operations directly itself.

    • Logical Cohesion: It occurs when several operations are stuffed into the same routine & one of the operations is selected by a control flag that's passed in. Instead of having using a flag to decide on operation its cleaner to have n routines each of which does 1 distinct operation. If the operations use the same code or share data the code should be moved into a lower level routine & all the routines should be packaged into a class/module. Its all right to write a logically cohesive routine if its code consist solely of a series of if or case statements calls to other routines (only dispatching commands), its generally called a "event handler".

Naming a routine()

  • Avoid meaningless, vague verbs for e.g HandleCalculation(), OutputUser(). The verb is vague because the operation performed by the routine are vague. The routine suffers from weakness of purpose & the weak name is a symptom.

  • Make names of routines as long as necessary and possible (9-15 chars)

  • To name a function, use a description of return value.

  • To name a procedure, use a strong verb + object. E.g CheckOrderInfo(), PrintDocument()


  • Put parameters in "INPUT-MODIFY-OUTPUT" order i.e, list the parameters that are input first, input-and-output second & output only third.

  • Put status or error variables last (think Go errors)

  • Don't use routine parameters as working variables. It's dangerous to use the parameters passed in a routine as working variables use local variables instead (think formal/actual parameters)

Most of the stuff documented here is inspired and/or taken from the legendary books: Clean Code & Code Complete. This can be understood as a summary of some chapters from these books.

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