Style Matters

In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.

- Henry Wadsworth



Idiomatic Python, described with the abjective “Pythonic”, is code that conforms to the Python community’s norms and makes good use of language features. But it is more than that: truly pythonic code achieves a difficult to describe aesthetic, a sense of beautiful utility, brevity, and conciseness that simply “fits in your brain.”

Conversely, its easy to spot the antithesis of Pythonic code. Perhaps it “works”, but it is overly complex, ignores community practices, disregards language features, is hard to comprehend, and/or looks suspiciously like code written in another language. These sorts of issue are collectively known as “code smells” or “antipatterns” and understanding and avoiding them is hallmark of a good python programmer.

Of course, we all start off writing “smelly” code, but its important to improve. Like painting a masterpiece, writing pythonic code takes practice and exposure to pythonic code bases will improve your tastes. The open-source python ecosystem is the best place to learn Pythonic coding styles.


There is a danger, especially among less experienced programmers, in enforcing rules with blind dogmatic zeal, such “foolish consistencies” can often overshadow more important issues. Occasionally there are good reasons to disregard certain guidelines. You should take the content in this module as a good guideline, not a list of indelible commandments. In most cases, project consistency is the most important consideration.


In this module, we will:

  1. Discuss the principles of the Zen of Python and tenants of Pep8, as well as other community standards.
  2. Detect code smells/antipatterns.
  3. Cover ways to improve common style issues.


Additional Resources