CS1711 C++ Programming Standards

The following standards, based on those for CS180 at Purdue University, are to be followed in writing C++ programs. They are important enough to be part of the grading criteria for all programs. Any failure to respect the standards will prevent your receiving full credit. It is your responsibility to ask about anything that you do not understand in the standard which you need for a programming assignment. Constructs not covered in this standard are to be implemented in a readable fashion consistent with class programs.


The purpose of these rules are (1) to introduce you to a representative set of coding standards that are typical in professional programming and (2) to help you develop good style as a habit, something you will find necessary to successfully complete large programs. There is no doubt that you can write C++ programs to solve the small problems in this course without attention to style. But you must keep in mind that you are building programming and problem-solving skills, not merely finding the answers to problems handed out as exercises.


In this course each C++ file name should clearly represent what it is and each should have the ``.cpp'' suffix. File names for handing in assignment problems will be specified with the problem description. We will use the Visual C++ Environment. Instructions on using the environment will be provided in the Labs.


At the beginning of each program there should be a comment block that contains:
  1. The program name.
  2. The your name and user name.
  3. The date the program was completed.
  4. A brief description of the program that describes the method or algorithm used to obtain the solution, the major data structures (if any) in the program, and other general comments including extra features.
  5. The file name

An example of the required format is as follows:

//  Program:  Converting temperatures                                           
//  Author:  Jane Doe, jnde@mta.ca
//  Description:  brief description of the program                    
//  Date:  September 28, 1999
//  Course Information: CS 1711, Section A, Assignment 2, Problem 1
//  Filename: convert.cpp 


  1. You must use mnemonic names for all identifiers. These are names that have meaning in the problem. The names should suggest the use of the identifier.

  2. Each identifier declaration (including function declarations) must be accompanied by a comment that explains its use.

  3. Classes and Structs must begin with a capital letter (for example, Date, Vehicle, Software_engineer).

  4. Variable names must start with lower case letters (for example, student, temperature, weight, salary). Separate any multiple words in a variable name by using upper case letters (for example payRate, fuelLevel, serialNumber). Note: We adopt this standard to conform with your text. Many authors use underscore for this purpose (e.g. pay_rate, serial_number.)

  5. Constant values used in your program will be given in const declarations. Constant identifiers must always appear in upper case letters. For example:
    const float BASE = 2.0;       // divisor to obtain base 2
    const char HYPHEN = '-';      // signals word continued on next line
    const int NAME_LENGTH = 20;   // names can be 20 characters

  6. Do not declare globally-visible variables. Globally-visible constants, enumerated types, classes, structures, and file names are permitted.


  1. Each constant and variable declaration must be on a separate line that includes a comment that explains what each is. For example:
    float volts;                     // voltage in the circuit 
    int amps;                        // amperage in the circuit 
    char circuitName[NAME_LENGTH];  // name of the circuit 

  2. Each statement should be on a line by itself. For example, instead of
    left = nextLeft;    right = nextRight;
    left  = nextLeft;     // move to the left
    right = nextRight;    // move to the right
    Occasionally this may be violated, for example for index initialization.

  3. Each function must be preceded by a comment block describing its purpose, parameter(s), and the function(s) it calls. The format to be used is as follows:
    //  Function: findSpaceCost
    //  Purpose:  calculates and returns the charge for shipping cargo  
    //            between two planets.                                  
    //  Parameters:  distance - distance in miles between two planets
    //               weight   - weight in pounds of item being shipped
    //  Calls:  function cargoRates

  4. Comment blocks must be set apart from the code by at least one blank line, making it easy to see where the code ends and comment begins.

  5. The main function should begin with
    void main ()
    even though that will lead to a warning from some C++ compilers, and notice that your text uses the common
    int main ()

  6. Function prototypes must include the type and name of each parameter:
    float expo (float value, int exponent);

  7. Use the endl construction (instead of \n) to indicate end-of-line. For example, use
    cout << "Today's date is " << today << endl;
    instead of
    cout << "Today's date is " << today << "\n";


Alignment and indentation of lines of C++ statements is extremely important for the readability of programs. Indentation and the use of blank lines increase the readability of your programs.

Use whitespace (blank lines and spaces on lines) liberally!
Use parentheses liberally!!

The body of a control structure, such as an if, a switch, a while, a do, or a for statement, must be indented. You may use from 3 to 6 spaces per level of indentation.

Each multiple line control structure body must be surrounded by braces on a separate line. If the number of lines in the control structure body exceeds 5 there must be a comment indicating the origin of the structure.

Thus, the main constructs will appear as follows in your programs:

if statement

if (expression)
or if more than 5 lines in the body:
if (expression)
  }  // end if (expression)

if-else statement

if (expression)
  } // end if (expression)
switch statement

switch (selector variable)
   case case-1-value: case 1 statements;
   case case-2-value: case 2 statements;
   case case-n-value: case n statements;
   default: default statements;
  }  // end switch (selector)


while statement

while (expression)
  }  // end while (expression)

do-while statement

do  // while (expression)
while (expression);

for statement

for (initialization; test; increment)
  } // end for (initialization)


  1. Use stepwise refinement. The programming assignments given are ones that can be solved in a step-by-step manner. The method of solution used in your program should exhibit this kind of structure.

  2. Modularize your program. When a problem solution readily splits into distinct tasks, your program should handle each task in a separate function and in a straightforward manner. In many cases the assignment will specify functions and their parameters.

  3. Make your program efficient. Your algorithm should be direct and not unnecessarily complicated. Proper use of data structures will often simplify an algorithm.

  4. All variables used in a function must either be declared as parameters or be declared locally within the function.


  1. All input values must be echoed in a readable manner unless otherwise indicated.

  2. The program output should be readable and clearly labelled. Headings should be used when appropriate.

  3. Finally, of course, your program should produce correct results!

Return to CS1711 page