The Syntax vs The Spirit

Avatar of Chris Coyier
Chris Coyier on

UGURUS offers elite coaching and mentorship for agency owners looking to grow. Start with the free Agency Accelerator today.

Sometimes I literally can’t remember how to write a for loop. Not like funny ha-ha I can’t remember how to spell “psychology” but really I can figure it out in a few seconds. Like, go to Google, type in “for loop PHP”, click on a promising result, copy and paste, then alter it.

I’m mostly a front-end guy, but I’m essentially a professional programmer. Isn’t that ridiculous and embarrassing? Meh.

I’m in and out of a lot of different languages in any given day. A for loop is different in all of them. Here they are:

for i in 1..5
  puts i
for (i = 0; i < 5; i++) {
for ($i = 1; $i < 5; $i++) {
  echo $i;
@for $i from 1 through 5 {
  .n-#{$i} { color: red; }
- (1..16).each do |i|
  %div #{i}
for i in [1...16]

They are all different. None are very difficult to understand, but the for loop is probably the simplest construct you’ll need to write in a language, so you can imagine it gets worse.

So what.

All those languages have perfectly good reasons for why they do that the way they do. It is a minor inconvenience to maneuver the correct characters into place to get them to do the job.

What matters is:

  • I know what a for loop is
  • I know when to reach for a for loop
  • I know the difference between a for loop and other loops
  • I know the potential dangers of a for loop

Nevermind the syntax, it’s the spirit that counts.