Naming Functions and Parameters

In any programming language, you can choose arbitrary names for your functions and parameters. For example, you could create a completely valid but confusing function like this:

func x239(jke: String) {
    
}

Notice that the function name (x239) and parameter name (jke) provides no clue what they do. Although this code is perfectly valid, it’s confusing so it’s always best to choose descriptive function names and parameter names such as:

func printGreeting(name: String) {
    
}

This function name (printGreeting) and parameter name (name) is much clearer as to the functions purpose, which is to take a name and print a greeting. Of course, this function could actually calculate a differential equation so it’s generally best to choose descriptive function and parameter names that actually describe the purpose of the function.

To call this function, you could use code like this:

func printGreeting(name: String) {
    print ("Hello there, \(name)")
}

printGreeting (name: "Sam")

The function call uses the printGreeting name and identifies the name (“Sam”). This is perfectly fine but in Swift, you have the option to use external parameter names. This means you can have two parameter names, an external and an internal parameter name.

The internal parameter name is what the function actually uses while the external parameter name is what you use to call the function. So to make the function call read more like an actual sentence, you could use an external parameter name like this:

func printGreeting(for name: String) {
    print ("Hello there, \(name)")
}

Notice that the function uses “name” as a variable for the actual code, but when you’re calling the function, you use the external parameter name like this:

printGreeting (for: "Sam")

Now the function call reads like a complete sentence such as “Print greeting for¬†Sam.”

You may not want to do this for your own function declarations and calls, but you’ll find that many Swift API calls use external parameter names specifically to make function calls seem more like a sentence, typically using external parameter names of “in,”, “for”, and “with”.

External parameter names simply help make code more readable although at the expense of also making function declarations more cumbersome to write. You can choose to use external parameter names or not, but whether you use them or ignore them, you’ll at least better understand why so many of Apple’s API functions look the way they do using external parameter names.

February 3rd, 2017 by
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