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Good code is like a love letter to the next developer who will maintain it.

July 20, 2023

We often romanticize the notion of programming, presenting it as an abstract form of art, a science, or even a form of magic. The truth, however, is much more practical and grounded. Code, in its essence, is communication. At the start of my book, Learning JavaScript Design Patterns, I say "good code is like a love letter to the next developer who will maintain it". It is an intimate correspondence, from one developer to another, spanning time and space.

The Language of Love

A love letter is personal, sincere, and considerate. It's a poetic testament of feelings, often meticulously crafted, with the intent to convey emotions accurately. Good code shares these characteristics. It's personal, as it mirrors the logic and approach of the coder. Good code is sincere and unadorned with unnecessary complexity. It's considerate, mindful of the next developer who will decipher it. And above all, it's meticulously crafted to solve a problem with utmost efficiency.

Patterns and Principles

Just like we have grammar rules and linguistic structures to frame our words and feelings into comprehensible sentences, we have design patterns and principles to shape our code. Patterns don't just make code scalable, maintainable, and efficient, but also readable and understandable. They provide a shared vocabulary for developers, enabling them to express intricate software designs with universally recognized structures.

Good code, therefore, leverages these patterns strategically, just like a seasoned poet would use poetic devices to create resonance. It does not apply patterns just for the sake of it, but because they add value to the solution, they make the code more comprehensible, and they ensure the longevity of the codebase.

SOLID, DRY, KISS, and YAGNI are not merely principles but are cornerstones of crafting good code. They guide a developer to make wise decisions, balance between under and over-engineering, and ultimately, write a 'love letter' that the receiver cherishes.

Best Practices

Good code also adheres to established best practices, much like a love letter would follow certain social etiquettes. Proper naming conventions, modularization, and thorough commenting are all part of this. They are not just rules to be followed, but they are the norms that define how considerate the code (or coder) is towards the next developer. They are there to make sure the intent of the coder is not lost in translation.

Embracing Tests

Just as a writer proofreads their letter, so should a developer with their code. Rigorous testing and the practice of Test-Driven Development (TDD) are indicators of a carefully crafted 'love letter'. Tests validate the performance of code under various scenarios, uncovering potential flaws and blind spots. The presence of a robust testing framework is often a testament to the quality of the code.

Empathy and Respect

Above all, the core of a love letter is empathy and respect for the reader, and so it is with good code. Writing code that others can read, understand, and maintain, is a form of professional respect. It signals the coder's understanding that their work is part of a larger, ongoing effort, that software is a living entity that evolves, and that many hands will shape its destiny over time.


In the end, coding is an act of creation, not unlike writing a poem or painting a picture. The beauty of our creations, however, is not judged solely by the elegance of our algorithms or the efficiency of our code, but by the joy and ease with which others can build upon our work. As developers, our task is not just to solve today's problems but also to ensure we do not become tomorrow's problem.

Good code, therefore, is not just a love letter, but it is our lasting legacy to those who follow us.