Coding Style Guidelines

Disclaimer: Most of these guidelines were taken from an image that I saw here, but I’m re-posting the recommendations on this webpage to include more information and present everything in a more readable font.

Citation: Jason Nicholson (2022). Matlab Style Guidelines Cheat Sheet (Link), MATLAB Central File Exchange. Retrieved December 7, 2022.

1. Naming Conventions

1.1. Variables

  • Variable names should be mixed case starting with lowercase
    • velocity, angularAcceleration.
  • Variables with a large scope should have meaningful names.
  • Variables with a small scope can have short names.
    • Small scope x, y, z
    • Large scope: velocity, acceleration
  • The prefix n should be used for variables representing the number of objects:
    • nFiles, nCars, nLines
  • Use a convention on pluralization consistently.
    • point, pointArray
  • Variables representing a single entity number can be suffixed by “No.”
    • tableNo, employeeNo
  • Iterator variables should named or prefixed with i, j, k, etc
    • iFiles, jColumns
  • For nested loops, the iterator should be alphabetical order and helpful names:
    • for iFiles = 1:nFiles
      • for jPositions = 1:nPositions
      • end
    • end
  • Avoid negated boolean variable names.
    • ~IsNotFound~ instead use isFound
  • Acronyms, even if normally uppercase should be mixed or lowercase.
    • Use: html, isUsaSpecific
  • Avoid using a keyword special value name.
    • Just don’t do it.

1.2. Constants

  • Named constants should be all uppercase using underscores to separate words.
  • Constants can be prefixed by a common type name.

1.3. Structures

  • Structure names should be mixed case and begin with a capital letter:
    • Car, DumpTruck
  • Do not include the name of the structure in the field name.
    • Use: Segment.length
    • Avoid: Segment.segmentLength

1.4. Functions

  • The names of functions should document their use.
  • Names of functions should be written in lower or mixed case.
    • width( ), computeTotalWidth()
  • Functions should have meaningful names.
    • Use computeTotalWidth
    • Avoid compwid
  • Functions with single output can be named for the output
    • shearStress(), standardError()
  • Functions with no output argument or which only return a handle should be named after what they do.
    • plotfft()
  • Reserve the prefix get/set for accessing an object or property.
    • getObj(), setAppData()
  • Reserve the prefix compute for methods where something is computed.
    • computeSumOfResiduals(),
    • computeSpread()
  • Reserve the prefix find for methods where something is looked up.
    • findOldestRecord()
  • Reserve the prefix initialize for instantiating an object or concept.
    • InitializeProblemState()
  • Reserve the prefix is for boolean functions.
    • isCrazy, isNuts, isOffHisRocker
  • Use complement names for complement operations:
    • get/set, add/remove, create/destroy,
    • start/stop, insert/delete,
    • increment/decrement, old/new, begin/end,
    • first/ last, up/down, min/max,
    • next/previous, open/close, show/hide,
    • suspend/resume, etc.
  • Avoid unintentional shadowing of function names. Use which -all or exist to check for shadowing.

1.5. General

  • Abbreviations in names be avoided
    • Use computeArrivalTime
    • Avoid compArr
  • Consider making names pronounceable.
  • All names should be in English.

2. Files And Organization

2.1. M-Files

  • Modularize code.
  • Use small well-designed pieces to make the whole.
  • Write functions that are easy to test.
  • Make interaction clear the inputs and outputs rather than global variables.
  • Replace long lists of arguments with structures.
  • Partitioning. All sub-functions and most functions should do one thing very well.
  • Use existing functions rather than custom coded functions when possible.
  • Move blocks of code used in multiple m-files to functions.
  • Use sub-functions when a function is only called by one other function.
  • Write test scripts for every function.

2.2. Input/Output

  • Make input and output modules for large functions.
  • Format output for easy use. For humans, make it human-readable. For machines, make it parsable.

3. Statements

3.1. Variables and Constants

  • Variables should not be reused unless required by memory limitations.
  • Related variable of the same type can be declared in a common statement. Unrelated variables should not be declared in the same statement.
    • persistent x, y, z
  • Document important variables in comments near the start of the file.
  • Document constants with end of line comments.
    • THRESHOLD = 10; % Max noise level

3.2. Global Variables

  • Minimize use of global variables and constants.
  • Consider using a function instead of a global constant.

3.3. Loops

  • Variables used in loops should be initialized immediately before the loop.
    • result = zeros(nDays, 1);
    • for iDay = 1:nDays
      • result (iDay) = foo(iDay);
    • end
  • Minimize the use of break and continue in loops.
  • The end lines in named loops can have comments to clarify the code block. for index=1:2
    • if index==1
      • doSomething(index);
    • end % End if
      • end % End for

3.4. Conditionals

  • Avoid complex conditional expressions. Use temporary logical variables instead.
    • isValid = (v >= lowerLimit) &
      • (v <= upperLimit);
    • isNew = isMember (v, valueArray);
  • Avoid the conditional expression “if 0”.
  • An if-else sequence should include the else condition.
  • The usual case should be put in the if-part and the exception in the else-part an if-else statement.
  • A switch statement should include the otherwise condition.
  • Use a switch sequence if the variable is a string.
  • Use switch statements in place of many nested if-else–if-else statements when possible.

3.5. General

  • Avoid cryptic code. You should be able to look at it a month from now and know what it does
  • Use parentheses for clarity even if not need because of operator precedence.
  • Minimize de use of numbers in expressions. Use a named constant instead.
  • Always use a zero before the decimal point.
    • THRESHOLD = 0.5
  • Make floating point comparisons with caution.

4. Layout, Comments, And Documentation

4.1. Layout

  • Contents should be kept within the first 80 columns.
  • Lines should be split after commas, spaces, and operators.
  • Align a continued line with the beginning of the expression on the
  • previous line
    • totalSum = a + b + c …
      • d + e;
  • Basic indentation should be 4 spaces.
  • In general, a line of code should contain only one executable statement.
  • Short singe statement if, for, or while statements can be written on one line.
    • if (condition), statement; end

4.2. White Space

  • Surround =, &, and | by spaces.
  • Follow commas by a space.
  • Keywords should be followed by a space.
  • Blocks of code should be separated by three blank lines or section break.
  • Use code alignment wherever it enhances readability.


  • Comments justify poorly written code.
  • Comments should agree with the code but not restate the code.
  • Comments should have the same indentation as the statement(s) referenced.
  • Traditional function header comments should support help and look for help prints continuous block of comments.
  • look for searches 1“ comment line of all m-files on the path.
  • Function headers should discuss any special requirements for the input/output argument and describe any side effects of the function.
  • Write the function name using correct case in the function header comments.
    • function runEverything % runEverything runs all mfiles in its folder
  • Put any copyright lines and change history after the function header with a blank line in between.
  • All comments should be in English.

4.4. Documentation

  • Write header comments with text markup to provide user documentation. Include sections that correspond to a help page: syntax, description, example, and see also.
  • Consider writing the documentation first to better define inputs, outputs, and functionality.
  • Consider using a source control tool such as SVN or GIT. If you do not use a source control, document changes by adding change history comments after the function header or near the top of the script.

Last Modified: 2023 October 03, 10:12

Author: Zero Contradictions