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Formatting function types

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(initial version taken from old Haskell-Cafe post)
 
(Seel also: link to old rant)
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==Seel also==
 
==Seel also==
   
* Lauri Alanko in Haskell Cafe on [http://www.haskell.org/pipermail/haskell-cafe/2010-December/087846.html Formatting function types]
+
* Lauri Alanko in Haskell Cafe on [http://www.haskell.org/pipermail/haskell-cafe/2002-November/003617.html Formatting function types]
  +
* and once again [http://www.haskell.org/pipermail/haskell-cafe/2010-December/087846.html with more participants]
   
 
[[Category:Syntax]]
 
[[Category:Syntax]]

Revision as of 14:15, 11 July 2011

A very common way (at least in the base libraries) of formatting function types seems to be this:

hPutBuf :: Handle                       -- handle to write to
        -> Ptr a                        -- address of buffer
        -> Int                          -- number of bytes of data in buffer
        -> IO ()

I remember when I first started learning Haskell, and these many-arrowed functions seemed very strange to me: "Okay, we give it a handle, and get a pointer, and, um, from this we get an int, and from this an action? Er?"

The problem here is that the first parameter has a distinguished look while the other parameters and the return value all look the same. I think that a naive reader is inclined to assume that line breaks are situated at major structural boundaries. Consider two different interpretations of the structure of the type term:

  (((Handle               (Handle
  -> Ptr a)             ->(Ptr a
  -> Int)               ->(Int
  -> IO ())             -> IO ())))

Which one looks more natural?

The point of this rant is just this: the aforementioned multi-line formatting style should only be used for left-associative infix operators. For right-associative ones (such as the function arrow), the One True Way is this:

Handle ->
Ptr a ->
Int ->
IO ()

Unfortunately the first (misleading) style is used by Haddock for library documentation and GHC for error reporting.


Seel also