[sc34wg3] CTM: Semicolons

ktrainor ktrainor at ligent.net
Tue Feb 3 18:40:29 EST 2009

Hi Lars,

I recall having been part of a group of people asking for semicolons in a 
meeting in Kyoto.  As I recall, the argument made against the addition of 
semicolons was that a parser could get along without them.  The argument 
that I made for semicolons at the time was that they would be more clear to 
a human reader of the code.

Normally, human readers seem to be more intuitive than parser programs.  So, 
I am left arguing for fewer pieces of syntax while the parser people are 
saying that we need more.  Here, I find myself on the other side of the 

Simply put, I want human readers to understand the code at first glance.  
Human readers rarely give code more than a first glance.  So, if they get it 
wrong the first time, they may get it wrong forever.

I think this is a fair representation of the argument that I made for 
semis.  I hope that you find it helpful.


On Tue, 3 Feb 2009 18:49:14 +0100, Lars Heuer wrote
> Hi Lars,
> [...]
> > I find this difficult, I must say. I really don't want the wretched  
> > things at all, and now here we sit trying to judge where to put this  
> > pollution and where to leave it out, while the people who wanted extra
> > punctuation are silent. So effectively we're having to work out the  
> > details of a policy we disagree with.
> That's a very good summary of the situation.
> [...]
> > If you want to make an appeal to the community for a decision I'll be
> > happy to help you with that, but until that happens I'm going to take
> > the presence of semicolons all over this otherwise lovely syntax as a
> > given.
> Do you have something in mind how to ask the community? The last
> attempt to discuss the semicolons in the Infoloom list was not very
> fruitful.
> > So I guess what this boils down to is: I'd rather not have semicolons
> > anywhere other than between topic block properties, but I can live  
> > with this. If you seriously do prefer to have them everywhere, and  
> > nobody else speaks up, I think we should let you decide, since you are
> > the editor.
> Ha, ha. I'd like to kick semicolons, but I understand the comments I
> received from the tutorial. These comments are somehow aligned to the
> "Don't make me think"-principal: The user has to remember to add a
> semicolon after a template invocation within a topic-block but she
> must avoid that semicolon if the invokes a template outside of a
> topic-block. This could be strange to explain.
> The problem is, as you've pointed out, that the semicolons were
> introduced artificially. There was never a technical need for them. 
> If we'd have a technical need, it would be very easy to decide where 
> to put semicolons and where to leave them out.
> Due to our change of the mergemap-directive it requires a semicolon
> now and it makes sense (even if I think a dot ('.') would fit better)
> . Further it makes sense to align the the syntax of the other directives
> that they require a semicolon otherwise the user would be confused.
> I have to admit that I am a bit stuck with the semicolon issue. I
> don't know which way to go. Either input from the semicolon-lovers
> would be good or a hint from the community would be helpful.
> Best regards,
> Lars
> -- 
> Semagia 
> <http://www.semagia.com>
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> sc34wg3 at isotopicmaps.org
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