How to Improve Code Readability and Maintainability with Action-Oriented Naming

Imagine you're handed a complicated piece of machinery and told to fix it... but there's no manual in sight. Sounds impossible, right? That's essentially what we face when we dive into poorly named and documented code. But what if there was a better way, a method to the madness? Meet action-oriented naming in code - your unsung hero in writing clean and understandable code.

First off, what exactly is action-oriented naming in code? It’s simple, really: It's the art of bestowing names upon variables, functions, classes, and methods such that they vividly convey their actions or intended outcomes. Think of it as labeling the parts of that complex machinery. The beauty lies in using verbs prominently to highlight what each element of your code does, rather than just what it is. It's the difference between a mute name tag and an eloquent description.

"In coding, the right word used in the right place can change everything. Action-oriented naming is like giving your code a voice that guides every developer lucky enough to meet it."

But...why is action-oriented naming so important, you ask? Well, let me enlighten you.

  • Readability: Your code practically becomes an open book, reducing the need for exhaustive comments.

  • Maintainability: Picture yourself or a fellow developer jumping into the code at a later date...crystal clear naming saves the day by making the code's purpose immediately apparent.

  • Reduced Ambiguity: Errors turn a tad less frightening when code elements have meaningful, action-focused names. Pinpointing problems becomes easier, saving invaluable time and nerves.

In short, action-oriented naming equips you to write code that's not just a labyrinth of logical operations but a coherent story that even future you will appreciate.

Now that we've established the importance of action-oriented naming, let's go a bit deeper into the art of choosing these names for your code elements.

The Art of Choosing Action-Oriented Names

Journeying into action-oriented naming is like exploring an untamed wilderness: full of potential, fraught with danger, and ripe for discovery. However, the essentials remain the same. Three guiding principles can illuminate your path:

  • Start with Action: Emphasize verbs to highlight what your code element does.

  • Focus on Clarity: Choose descriptive words that clearly convey purpose.

  • Embrace Conventions: Familiarize yourself with common naming conventions in your chosen language (like camelCase or PascalCase) for consistency.

It's as if you're writing the script of a play and your code elements are the characters. Each character must have a role, and the name should reflect that role in a straightforward, descriptive manner. For example, when picking a name for a function or method, consider its core action rather than its implementation. A method named 'CalculateTotal' is a winner: it's clear and to-the-point about what this function does. But a method name like 'ManipulateTotals'? That carries an air of mystery better suited to a John le Carre novel than a piece of code.

Benefits of Naming Conventions

Adopting a clear naming framework like object-action can instill consistency, convenience, and clarity, contributing to your code looking like a well-crafted novel. Well-named actions make your code decipherable at a glance, increasing its accessibility. You wouldn't call Sherlock Holmes 'John', would you? Then why label a method that validates user credentials as 'CheckX'?

Remember, you're not writing a short story solely for your enjoyment. You're writing in the language of computers, a language that several of your peers will read and interpret later.

Is it easy? Not at all. It's a skill that comes with time and experience. But once you’ve uncovered the magic of action-oriented naming, you'll find it not only a practical tool but a narrative device that makes your code a pleasure to read and revisit.

Action-Oriented Naming in Action

Let's dive a bit deeper and observe action-oriented naming at play. We'll start with variables. When it comes to your variables, be your own harshest critic. Ask yourself, "Does the name do justice to the purpose of the variable?" Remember, your variables are actors in your narrative. It's crucial they're appropriately cast.

Variables: Prioritize the use of verbs and descriptive nouns. For instance, consider the variable name 'price'. It's too vague, isn't it? A better choice would be something more specific and action-oriented like 'calculateProductPrice'. Our 'actor' here not only tells us it's related to a product's price, but also clearly communicates its role - it's here to calculate.

Moving on to functions and methods, these are your verbs - the actual actions. Your functions and methods bring your narrative to life, moving your story forward.

Functions/Methods: Emphasize the action each function or method performs. Sticking to our earlier example, let's take a function named 'send'. It leaves a lot to the imagination, doesn't it? What are we sending exactly? A more action-oriented name like 'sendNotificationEmail' paints a clearer picture. This name beautifully captures the function's purpose: sending a notification email.

To sum up, action-oriented naming isn't just about clarity. It's about shaping up your code like a well-written, engaging story - a narrative that makes sense at the first glance and is easy to follow even in the wee hours of a long coding night. So let's take the mundane out of coding and infuse some action with sensible naming!

Best Practices and Tips

Having established a solid foundation on the topic of action-oriented naming, let's explore a few practical tips that can assist you in incorporating this valuable approach into your coding routine.

Uniformity rules: You'll seldom find a compelling novel or an insightful article that switches styles halfway through. The reason? Consistency invites familiarity, leading your readers down a clearly marked path towards comprehension. The same methodology applies to coding as well. Keeping your naming guidelines consistent ensures that future developers (and you as well at a later date) can interpret and manage your code effortlessly. For instance, should you decide to adopt camel casing for your variable names and Pascal casing for your class names, be sure to stick through with your choices throughout your code. Similarly, if 'Derive' is your preferred verb for functions related to mathematical operations, stick to it and avoid using alternatives like 'Compute'. The main objective here, as always, is facilitating effective communication within your code.

Walking the Thin Line Between Clarity and Brevity: While an action-oriented name should provide a clear snapshot of the code's function, it's essential to remember that length matters. If a name stretches too long, it can make it unwieldy and undermine the code's overall readability. Conversely, an overly short name might fall short of adequately conveying the purpose of your code. Achieving the perfect blend of descriptiveness and conciseness is crucial. For instance, retrieveCustomerDataFromDatabase, although descriptive, is somewhat cumbersome, while getCustomerInfo, despite being brief, lacks clarity. A fitting middle ground might be getCustomerData.

Adhering to Coding Conventions: Each programming language comes with its own recognized best practices and guidelines, and these often include naming conventions. Steering clear of these conventions can puzzle other developers who are accustomed to the norm. For example, Python typically employs lowercase function names with words separated by underscores to boost readability, such as calculate_discount. Keeping in line with such language-specific practices ensures that your code meets community standards.

Deploying Tools/Linters for Naming Standards Compliance: Leveraging tools or linters can be a great way to consistently ensure action-oriented naming in your code. These tools analyze your code for potential errors and stylistic inconsistencies. Many linters can be configured to enforce particular naming conventions, aiding you in maintaining a clean, comprehensible codebase. Tools like ESLint for JavaScript or Pylint for Python can serve as allies in cultivating streamlined, communicative code.

By internalizing and applying these best practices, you can create a codebase that encapsulates readability, maintainability, and self-documentation. Remember, a proficiently written code is akin to an engaging book: it captivates its audience, leading them seamlessly through its logical pathways, devoid of any convoluted intricacies.


In sum, embracing action-oriented naming in code is akin to utilizing a precise language to navigate a foreign city. It clears any ambiguity, enabling both the original author and subsequent developers to understand the code's intent effortlessly. The advantages are manifold: a personable coding experience, the reduction of debugging nightmares, and an overall streamlining of the code maintenance process.

Like learning any language, proficiency in action-oriented naming evolves through diligent practice. So, why wait? Start today. Consider revisiting a past project and identify places where you could enhance clarity through action-oriented naming. Make your code a well-lit path rather than a labyrinth where future developers (including your future self!) could easily get lost.

Key Takeaways

  • Implementing action-oriented naming in code, like using verbs and descriptive language, helps to clarify the function or intent of code elements, improving readability and maintenance, and aiding debugging.

  • Names of variables, methods, classes, and functions should accurately reflect their purpose or behavior, and be easily understandable to others who may encounter the code later.

  • Action-oriented names such as calculateDiscountAmount, updateUserInformation, or customerDataManager are examples of self-explanatory, meaningful naming.

  • Non-descriptive names or overly broad terms can lead to confusion, misunderstanding, and potential errors or debugging nightmares. These can be avoided with clear, specific, and action-oriented naming.

  • Coding is like storytelling--your code should clearly communicate its process and purpose. Your naming choices help to clarify this narrative by providing clear 'signposts' or 'instructions' to guide the understanding of the code's purpose and function.

  • Practicing with simple programs, such as a user account creation system, can strengthen your skills in selecting meaningful, action-oriented names for code elements.