Lesson 6

Variable Naming Conventions - Best Practices

Understanding Variable Naming Conventions

Welcome! In this lesson, we'll shift gears from arithmetic to another crucial aspect of COBOL programming: variable naming conventions. While arithmetic operations are vital for calculations, understanding how to name your variables properly will make your code more readable and maintainable. This ensures that others (and you in the future) can easily understand what your code is doing.

What You'll Learn

In this lesson, you'll learn about:

  1. Importance of Descriptive Names: Why using meaningful variable names is essential.
  2. Consistency in Naming: How consistency in variable naming improves readability.
  3. Practical Examples: Illustrations with COBOL code to reinforce these best practices.

First, why is this important? Using clear and consistent variable names helps anyone reading your code understand its intent. This is especially critical in business applications, where clarity can prevent errors and improve collaboration among developers.

Let's look at some COBOL examples to illustrate good and bad naming practices:

1IDENTIFICATION DIVISION. 2PROGRAM-ID. SimpleDemo. 3 4DATA DIVISION. 5WORKING-STORAGE SECTION. 6 7*> Bad Examples: 8*> Non-descriptive names 901 z PIC 9(5). 10 11*> Inconsistent naming 1201 CUSTOMER_ID PIC 9(5). 1301 customerName PIC A(20). 14 15*> Best Practices: 1601 CUSTOMER-ID PIC 9(5). 1701 CUSTOMER-FIRST-NAME PIC A(20). 1801 CUSTOMER-LAST-NAME PIC A(20). 19 20PROCEDURE DIVISION. 21 MOVE 12345 TO CUSTOMER-ID. 22 MOVE "John" TO CUSTOMER-FIRST-NAME. 23 MOVE "Doe" TO CUSTOMER-LAST-NAME. 24 25 DISPLAY "Customer ID: " CUSTOMER-ID. 26 DISPLAY "Customer Name: " CUSTOMER-FIRST-NAME " " CUSTOMER-LAST-NAME. 27 STOP RUN.

Note that in the other units, we didn't use the conventions described above, since from the language learning perspective, it is not that important, and we want you to learn all different ways of writing code. But in the real world, it is crucial to follow these conventions.

Breaking Down the Code
  1. Bad Practices:

    • Using non-descriptive names like z makes it hard to understand what the variable represents.
    • Inconsistent naming conventions can lead to confusion. Notice the mix of lowercase and uppercase in the variable names.
    • Examples:
      101 CUSTOMER_ID PIC 9(5). 201 customerName PIC A(20).
  2. Good Practices:

    • Use descriptive and consistent names for better readability and maintainability.
    • Examples:

In this example, properly named and formatted variables immediately convey their purpose, making the code easier to read and understand.

Why It Matters

Adopting best practices for variable naming will significantly improve your coding efficiency. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Readability: Clean, well-named variables make your code easier to read and understand.
  • Maintainability: Consistently named variables make it easier to find and fix bugs.
  • Collaboration: Clear code helps team members quickly understand your work, speeding up collaboration.

By mastering these naming conventions, you'll write more professional and maintainable COBOL programs. Isn't that exciting? Let's dive into the practice section and solidify these concepts together.

Enjoy this lesson? Now it's time to practice with Cosmo!

Practice is how you turn knowledge into actual skills.