General Naming Conventions


This section describes general naming conventions that relate to word choice, guidelines on using abbreviations and acronyms, and recommendations on how to avoid using language-specific names.

✓ DO choose easily readable identifier names.

For example, a property named HorizontalAlignment is more English-readable than AlignmentHorizontal.

✓ DO favor readability over brevity.

The property name CanScrollHorizontally is better than ScrollableX (an obscure reference to the X-axis).

X DO NOT use underscores, hyphens, or any other nonalphanumeric characters.

X DO NOT use Hungarian notation.

X AVOID using identifiers that conflict with keywords of widely used programming languages.

According to Rule 4 of the Common Language Specification (CLS), all compliant languages must provide a mechanism that allows access to named items that use a keyword of that language as an identifier. C#, for example, uses the @ sign as an escape mechanism in this case. However, it is still a good idea to avoid common keywords because it is much more difficult to use a method with the escape sequence than one without it.

X DO NOT use abbreviations or contractions as part of identifier names.

For example, use GetWindow rather than GetWin.

X DO NOT use any acronyms that are not widely accepted, and even if they are, only when necessary.

✓ DO use semantically interesting names rather than language-specific keywords for type names.

For example, GetLength is a better name than GetInt.

✓ DO use a generic CLR type name, rather than a language-specific name, in the rare cases when an identifier has no semantic meaning beyond its type.

For example, a method converting to Int64 should be named ToInt64, not ToLong (because Int64 is a CLR name for the C#-specific alias long). The following table presents several base data types using the CLR type names (as well as the corresponding type names for C#, Visual Basic, and C++).

C#Visual BasicC++CLR
byteByteunsigned charByte
ushortUInt16unsigned shortUInt16
uintUInt32unsigned intUInt32
ulongUInt64unsigned __int64UInt64

✓ DO use a common name, such as value or item, rather than repeating the type name, in the rare cases when an identifier has no semantic meaning and the type of the parameter is not important.

✓ DO use a name similar to the old API when creating new versions of an existing API.

This helps to highlight the relationship between the APIs.

✓ DO prefer adding a suffix rather than a prefix to indicate a new version of an existing API.

This will assist discovery when browsing documentation, or using Intellisense. The old version of the API will be organized close to the new APIs, because most browsers and Intellisense show identifiers in alphabetical order.

✓ CONSIDER using a brand new, but meaningful identifier, instead of adding a suffix or a prefix.

✓ DO use a numeric suffix to indicate a new version of an existing API, particularly if the existing name of the API is the only name that makes sense (i.e., if it is an industry standard) and if adding any meaningful suffix (or changing the name) is not an appropriate option.

X DO NOT use the "Ex" (or a similar) suffix for an identifier to distinguish it from an earlier version of the same API.

✓ DO use the "64" suffix when introducing versions of APIs that operate on a 64-bit integer (a long integer) instead of a 32-bit integer. You only need to take this approach when the existing 32-bit API exists; don’t do it for brand new APIs with only a 64-bit version.

Portions © 2005, 2009 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc. from Framework Design Guidelines: Conventions, Idioms, and Patterns for Reusable .NET Libraries, 2nd Edition by Krzysztof Cwalina and Brad Abrams, published Oct 22, 2008 by Addison-Wesley Professional as part of the Microsoft Windows Development Series.

Framework Design Guidelines
Naming Guidelines