The Importance of Commenting Your Code
Imagine yourself as a software developer, trying to understand a piece of code that you wrote two years ago. You might find it vague, confusing, and unclear making it challenging to make sense out of your own work.
This scenario might sound like an exaggeration, but it highlights the importance of commenting code. Commenting your code ensures that both you and others can easily understand it, speeding up the development process.
In this article, we’ll discuss why commenting your code is crucial and how you can write effective comments. Scenario 1: Not Commenting Your Own Code
When writing code, you might work on a project for weeks, months, or even years.
In such cases, relying on your memory alone is unrealistic and risky. Even if the code works, it might not be easily readable or understandable on the second read.
This is where commenting your code comes in. Readability: When you write comments, you are creating short notes for yourself or anyone else who reads your code.
Good comments explain the context, what a particular piece of code does, and how it does it. Variables: Comments help readers understand the meaning and purpose of variables, which can be tricky in large projects or when dealing with multiple developers.
Suppose you’re working on a project with other developers who might not know the ins and outs of your code. In that case, taking a few seconds to comment on a variable’s purpose is vital.
Functions: Commenting functions is as critical as commenting variables, if not more. A good comment details the function’s input variables, output, purpose, and what the function does.
This information is valuable to anyone trying to understand the codebase. Organization: You might have put years of hard work into writing your code, but the reality is that it won’t be perfect.
Commenting your code is an effective way to organize and restructure it. The act of explaining and describing your code in comments can identify areas where the code could be improved, making it more logical and intuitive.
Scenario 2: Others Reading Your Code
Picture this: you’re working on a group project, but you’re falling behind due to time constraints. You’re playing catch-up and have to skim through other developers’ code to try and understand what’s going on.
But, their code is lacking comments, making it difficult for you to keep up. In this scenario, we see the importance of writing code comments that are understandable for others.
Skimming: When reading code to better understand it, most people skim through quickly. They might miss pertinent details if the code lacks comments.
But, if the code is well-commented, it’s easier for others to skim through it and find what they need. Readability: We’re not just talking about the basic meaning of the code.
Good comments will help you understand not just what code is doing, but why it is doing it, and can make it easier to identify and fix errors. Comments: Well-written comments provide valuable insights into a codebase, especially if the original developer is not around.
Most people simply don’t have the time to read through every line of code in a massive project. That’s why good comments are highly valued.
Variables: As with developing code, understanding the purpose and meaning of variables is also crucial when reading code. Commented variable names will help anyone reading the code understand the variables’ core values and how they can be manipulated.
Functions: In most cases, functions make up a large portion of code. Comments can help keep track of the inputs, outputs, and what a particular function does.
Comments can also help when there’s a need to modify existing code, helping other developers understand how the code interacts with other sections.
How To Write Comments in Python
So, comments are essential when developing code. But how do you write them effectively?
Follow the tips below to write commentary that will make your code as clear as possible for yourself and other developers.
Python Multiline Comments
A multiline comment is a comment that spans multiple lines. You start a multiline comment with ”’ and end it with ”’.
Using the # symbol for multiline comments will give you a syntax error, as it is purely reserved for single-line comments. When using multiline comments, it’s important to document every function’s purpose in your code clearly.
Python Commenting Shortcuts
Learning to use shortcut buttons for commenting will save you a lot of time. For instance, you can hold Ctrl and select several lines of code and use Ctrl+/ to comment on several lines at once.
In contrast, using Ctrl + Shift + K is a shortcut for toggling comments in Visual Studio Code. Additionally, you can try using multiple cursors to add comments on several lines at once.
Python Commenting Best Practices
One of the best practices when commenting code is to write for yourself, but assume that other people will also have to read it later. Outlining your code provides an opportunity to express your understanding of how the code works.
By explaining why a particular function exists and how it accomplishes its task, you can help others understand your reasoning. Another useful practice is to use comments when debugging your code.
Adding comments can help you remember your thought process, allowing you to correct issues quickly.
Python Commenting Worst Practices
Although commenting your code is essential, care must be taken to avoid worst practices. One common mistake is over-commenting, or adding comments where none are needed.
For instance, adding a comment next to every line in your code can quickly become overwhelming and distracts readers from the code’s meaning. Another pitfall is putting rude comments in code.
Some developers might not take kindly to these types of comments and can affect discussions around the codebase. Lastly, one issue arising from masking problems with comments is when a developer misidentifies a problem, and attempts to patch it with additional code.
This practice leads to poor coding practices that may lead to errors.
In summary, commenting your code is crucial when writing code, and for other developers who must read it. Good comments explain what the code does, how it does it, and why.
Comments can also help to organize code, identify areas for improvement, and facilitate debugging. When it comes to Python code, using commentary shortcuts, outlining code, and using comments to identify issues can help improve your skills.
Just remember, when writing comments, avoid over-commenting and steer clear of rude comments. With these best practices in mind, you’ll be on your way to becoming a better developer with well-commented code.
Practicing Commenting Your Code
When learning to code, it’s easy to overlook the importance of commenting your code. Some programmers think of comments as a chore or an unnecessary distraction from programming.
However, commenting your code is essential for anyone working on a project, whether it be a team project or a personal side project. In this section, we’ll explore ways to improve your commenting skills through writing more comments, reviewing old code, helping others, and signing comments.
Write More Comments
Practicing commenting your code can be a great way to improve your skills. As you write more code and feedback from others, you can begin to see how well-written comments can improve readability and logic.
One strategy to increase comments over time is to set a goal, say, adding an extra comment to every ten lines of code. Additionally, try using commenting to modify other people’s code, or your own code, as you learn more.
Finally, documenting functions and variables as soon as you create them can prevent issues in the future and save time when updating the codebase.
Review Old Code
Reviewing old code can also give you the opportunity to improve your commenting skills. Going back and reviewing old code to make it more readable and easy to understand can be a valuable exercise.
Look back to when you began writing code, for starters. See what comments you missed and determine how useful they are in understanding your older projects.
Converting the older comments into a more standardized language and format can give you perspective on how your skills have developed over time.
Help Someone Else
Helping others with their code can also improve your commenting skills. When reviewing others’ code, make sure to frequently ask what portions might have a clear focus.
This can ice-break the interaction and allow the person to identify the pain-points they have with their script. Explain the code critically and beta-test/debug the code to know how it runs under different circumstances.
Add comments when you modify the code and provide feedback on adding more clarity to existing comments. Helping someone else understand your code can help you get a better sense of how others interpret your work.
Sign Your Comments
Adding a signature to your comments is a great way to improve accountability and cooperation when working on a project. Signing comments shows authors care enough to accept responsibility for their work.
You can use a name or alias with contact information in case others have questions or need help with the codebase. Besides accountability, adding a signature to explaining what needs to be done makes it easier for collaborators or clients to know who worked on the project when reviewing.
In the end, commenting your code is essential, and modifying code comments can be a great way to improve your skills. Practicing commenting your code and reviewing old code can help you get a better feel for what makes for high-quality comments, and how you can use them to be a better developer.
Helping others with their code is another way to improve your commenting skills, and adding signatures to your comments can be a great way to show ownership and cooperation. Remember to take the time to develop your skills in this area, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more successful and well-respected developer!
In conclusion, commenting your code is a vital aspect of coding that can help improve readability, organization, and collaboration.
It also allows developers to better understand their own work, ensuring that code can be easily reviewed, modified, and updated in the future. Practicing commenting your code, reviewing old code, helping others, and signing comments are ways to improve your commenting skills and become a better developer.
Overall, the benefits of commenting your code are indisputable and should not be overlooked. By taking the time to write clear and concise comments, you can help ensure the success of any project and the ease of future modifications.