Self-documenting code

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In computer programming, self-documenting (or self-describing) source code and user interfaces follow naming conventions and structured programming conventions that enable use of the system without prior specific knowledge.[1][2][3] In web development, self-documenting refers to a website that exposes the entire process of its creation through public documentation, and whose public documentation is part of the development process.[4]


Commonly stated objectives for self-documenting systems include:

  • Make source code easier to read and understand
  • Minimize the effort required to maintain or extend legacy systems
  • Reduce the need for users and developers of a system to consult secondary documentation sources such as code comments or software manuals
  • Facilitate automation through self-contained knowledge representation


Self-documenting code is ostensibly written using human-readable names, typically consisting of a phrase in a human language which reflects the symbol's meaning, such as numberOfWordsInThisArticle or TryOpen. The code must also have a clear and clean structure so that a human reader can easily understand the algorithm used.

Practical considerations[edit]

There are certain practical considerations that influence whether and how well the objectives for a self-documenting system can be realized.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schach, Stephen R. (2004). Object-Oriented and Classical Software Engineering. McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 0-07-286551-2. 
  2. ^ "The Myth of Self-Describing XML" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  3. ^ (See e.g., Use–mention distinction, Naming collision, Polysemy)
  4. ^ "Self Documenting Websites". Retrieved 2016-01-04. 

External links[edit]