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C Style: Standards and Guidelines (contents)

CHAPTER 1 : Standards


CHAPTER 1 : Standards

1.1 Standards
1.2 Guidelines
1.3 What are standards for?
1.4 What are coding standards for?
1.5 Who are coding standards for?
1.6 Coding standards vs. programming standards
1.7 Using this book

1.8 Summary

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1.1 Standards

A standard, by definition, is a fixed mark, a measure or model of quality. It defines the detail of how a thing may be consistently made to the same high 'standard'.

A standard in practice is characterized by the fact that it is both required and enforced. If the standard is not followed, the work typically has to be redone. Standards may be specified in great detail, and often require a great deal of work to learn and follow.

There is a limit to the things that can be effectively standardized, for several reasons:

  • Some items are too fuzzy for absolute standards to be imposed. An approximation can be made, but in some contexts it may be sensible to exceed a firm limit.
  • Some items are too contentious to be standardized. Arguments against standardization balance out arguments for standards, and a clear, logical decision cannot be made.
  • Some items are too uncertain to be standardized. Where there is insufficient information on an item or on its viability as a standard, then it is unsafe to make it a standard.
  • Some items are too detailed. In some situations the level of detail which can be included in a standard is restricted by that which can be remembered by its implementers.
  • Some items cannot be enforced. Where items cannot be checked or corrected, then a standard is impotent.

In these cases, guidelines may be an effective alternative to standards.


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