A community-driven Ruby coding style guide
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Style is what separates the good from the great.
--Bozhidar Batsov

One thing has always bothered me as Ruby developer - Python devs have a great programming style reference (PEP-8) and we never got an official guide documenting Ruby coding style and best practices. And I do believe that style matters.

This document was originally created when I, as the Technical Lead of the company which I work for, was asked by our CTO to create some internal documents describing good style and best practices for Ruby programming. I started off by building upon this existing style guide, since I concurred with many of the points in it. At some point I decided that the work I was doing might be interesting to members of the Ruby community in general and that the world had little need of another internal company guideline. But the world could certainly benefit from a community-driven and community-sanctioned set of practices, idioms and style prescriptions for Ruby programming.

Since the inception of the guide I've received a lot of feedback from members of the exceptional Ruby community around the world. Thanks for all the suggestions and the support! Together we can make a resource beneficial to each and every Ruby developer out there.

The Ruby Style Guide

The guide is separated into several sections of related rules. I've tried to add the rationale behind the rules (if it's omitted I've assumed that is pretty obvious).

I didn't come up with all the rules out of nowhere - they are mostly based on my extensive career as a professional software engineer, feedback and suggestions from members of the Ruby community and various highly regarded Ruby programming resources, such as "Programming Ruby 1.9" and "The Ruby Programming Language".

The guide is still a work in progress - some rules are lacking examples, some rules don't have examples that illustrate them clearly enough. In due time these issues will be addressed - just keep them in mind for now.

You can generate a PDF or an HTML copy of this guide using rake

To generate an HTML version

$ rake generate:html

You should have a README.html file generated

To generate an PDF version

$ rake generate:pdf

You should have a README.pdf file generated

To use these tasks you must have installed pygments and wkhtmltopdf

pygments can be installed using Python's easy_install command

sudo easy_install pygments

wkhtmltopdf can be installed in one of two methods

  1. Install by hand (recommended):


  2. Try using the wkhtmltopdf-binary gem (mac + linux i386)

    gem install wkhtmltopdf-binary


... nearly everybody is convinced that every style but their own is
ugly and unreadable. Leave out the "but their own" and they're
probably right...
--Jerry Coffin (on indentation)
  • Use UTF-8 as the source file encoding.

  • Use two-space indent, no tabs. Tabs are represented by a different number of spaces on various operating systems (and their presentation can be manually configured as well) which usually results in code that looks different than intended in some (many) people's editors.

  • Use Unix-style line endings. (Linux/OSX users are covered by default, Windows users have to be extra careful.)

    • If you're using Git you might want to add the following configuration setting to protect your project from Windows line endings creeping in:

      $ git config --global core.autocrlf true

  • Use spaces around operators, after commas, colons and semicolons, around { and before }. Whitespace might be (mostly) irrelevant to the Ruby interpreter, but its proper use is the key to writing easily readable code.

    sum = 1 + 2
    a, b = 1, 2
    1 > 2 ? true : false; puts 'Hi'
    [1, 2, 3].each { |e| puts e }

    The only exception is when using the exponent operator:

    # bad
    e = M * c ** 2
    # good
    e = M * c**2
  • No spaces after (, [ or before ], ).

    [1, 2, 3].length
  • Indent when as deep as case. I know that many would disagree with this one, but it's the style established in both the "The Ruby Programming Language" and "Programming Ruby".

    when song.name == 'Misty'
      puts 'Not again!'
    when song.duration > 120
      puts 'Too long!'
    when Time.now.hour > 21
      puts "It's too late"
    kind = case year
           when 1850..1889 then 'Blues'
           when 1890..1909 then 'Ragtime'
           when 1910..1929 then 'New Orleans Jazz'
           when 1930..1939 then 'Swing'
           when 1940..1950 then 'Bebop'
           else 'Jazz'
  • Use an empty line before the return value of a method (unless it only has one line), and an empty line between defs.

    def some_method
    def some_method
  • Use RDoc and its conventions for API documentation. Don't put an empty line between the comment block and the def.

  • Use empty lines to break up a method into logical paragraphs.

  • Keep lines fewer than 80 characters.

    • Emacs users might want to put this in their config (e.g. ~/.emacs.d/init.el):

      (setq whitespace-line-count 80
            whitespace-style '(lines))
    • Vim users might want to put this in their config (e.g. ~/.vimrc):

      set textwidth=80
    • Textmate

  • Avoid trailing whitespace.

    • Emacs users might want to put this in their config (ideally combine this with the previous example):

      (setq whitespace-style '(trailing space-before-tab
                               indentation space-after-tab))
    • Vim users might want to put this in their ~/.vimrc:

      autocmd BufWritePre * :%s/\s\+$//e

      Or if you don't want vim to touch possibly vital space based files, use:

      set listchars+=trail:░

      Feel free to use some other character if you don't like the suggested one.

    • Textmate users might want to take a look at the Uber Glory bundle.


  • Use def with parentheses when there are arguments. Omit the parentheses when the method doesn't accept any arguments.

    def some_method
      # body omitted
    def some_method_with_arguments(arg1, arg2)
      # body omitted
  • Never use for, unless you know exactly why. Most of the time iterators should be used instead.

    arr = [1, 2, 3]
    # bad
    for elem in arr do
      puts elem
    # good
    arr.each { |elem| puts elem }
  • Never use then for multi-line if/unless.

    # bad
    if some_condition then
      # body omitted
    # good
    if some_condition
      # body omitted
  • Favor the ternary operator over if/then/else/end constructs. It's more common and obviously more concise.

    # bad
    result = if some_condition then something else something_else end
    # good
    result = some_condition ? something : something_else
  • Use one expression per branch in a ternary operator. This also means that ternary operators must not be nested. Prefer if/else constructs in these cases.

    # bad
    some_condition ? (nested_condition ? nested_something : nested_something_else) : something_else
    # good
    if some_condition
      nested_condition ? nested_something : nested_something_else
  • Never use if x: ... - it is removed in Ruby 1.9. Use the ternary operator instead.

    # bad
    result = if some_condition: something else something_else end
    # good
    result = some_condition ? something : something_else
  • Never use if x; .... Use the ternary operator instead.

  • Use when x then ... for one-line cases. The alternative syntax when x: ... is removed in Ruby 1.9.

  • Never use when x; .... See the previous rule.

  • Use &&/|| for boolean expressions, and/or for control flow. (Rule of thumb: If you have to use outer parentheses, you are using the wrong operators.)

    # boolean expression
    if some_condition && some_other_condition
    # control flow
    document.saved? or document.save!
  • Avoid multi-line ?: (the ternary operator), use if/unless instead.

  • Favor modifier if/unless usage when you have a single-line body. Another good alternative is the usage of control flow and/or.

    # bad
    if some_condition
    # good
    do_something if some_condition
    # another good option
    some_condition and do_something
  • Favor unless over if for negative conditions (or control flow or).

    # bad
    do_something if !some_condition
    # good
    do_something unless some_condition
    # another good option
    some_condition or do_something
  • Never use unless with else. Rewrite these with the positive case first.

    unless success?
      puts 'failure'
      puts 'success'
    if success?
      puts 'success'
      puts 'failure'
  • Omit parentheses around parameters for methods that are part of an internal DSL (e.g. Rake, Rails, RSpec), methods that are with "keyword" status in Ruby (e.g. attr_reader, puts) and attribute access methods. Use parentheses around the arguments of all other method invocations.

    class Person
      attr_reader name, age
      # omitted
    temperance = Person.new('Temperance', 30)
    puts temperance.age
    x = Math.sin(y)
  • Prefer {...} over do...end for single-line blocks. Avoid using {...} for multi-line blocks. Always use do...end for "control flow" and "method definitions" (e.g. in Rakefiles and certain DSLs.) Avoid do...end when chaining.

  • Avoid return where not required.

    # bad
    def some_method(some_arr)
      return some_arr.size
    # good
    def some_method(some_arr)
  • Avoid line continuation (\) where not required. In practice, avoid using line continuations at all.

    # bad
    result = 1 - \
    # good (but still ugly as hell)
    result = 1 \
             - 2
  • Using the return value of = (an assignment) is ok.

    if v = array.grep(/foo/) ...
  • Use ||= freely.

    # set name to Bozhidar, only if it's nil or false
    name ||= 'Bozhidar'
  • Avoid using Perl-style special variables (like $0-9, $`, etc. ). They are quite cryptic and their use in anything but one-liner scripts is discouraged.

  • Never put a space between a method name and the opening parenthesis.

    # bad
    f (3 + 2) + 1
    # good
    f(3 + 2) + 1
  • If the first argument to a method begins with an open parenthesis, always use parentheses in the method invocation. For example, write f((3 + 2) + 1).

  • Always run the Ruby interpreter with the -w option so it will warn you if you forget either of the rules above!


  • Use snake_case for methods and variables.

  • Use CamelCase for classes and modules. (Keep acronyms like HTTP, RFC, XML uppercase.)

  • Use SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASE for other constants.

  • The names of predicate methods (methods that return a boolean value) should end in a question mark. (i.e. Array#empty?).

  • The names of potentially "dangerous" methods (i.e. methods that modify self or the arguments, exit!, etc.) should end with an exclamation mark.

  • The length of an identifier determines its scope. Use one-letter variables for short block/method parameters, according to this scheme:

      a,b,c: any object
      d: directory names
      e: elements of an Enumerable
      ex: rescued exceptions
      f: files and file names
      i,j: indexes
      k: the key part of a hash entry
      m: methods
      o: any object
      r: return values of short methods
      s: strings
      v: any value
      v: the value part of a hash entry
      x,y,z: numbers

    And in general, the first letter of the class name if all objects are of that type.

  • When using inject with short blocks, name the arguments |a, e| (accumulator, element).

  • When defining binary operators, name the argument other.

    def +(other)
      # body omitted
  • Prefer map over collect, find over detect, select over find_all, size over length. This is not a hard requirement; if the use of the alias enhances readability, it's ok to use it.


Good code is its own best documentation. As you're about to add a
comment, ask yourself, ‘How can I improve the code so that this
comment isn't needed?’ Improve the code and then document it to make
it even clearer.
--Steve McConnell
  • Write self-documenting code and ignore the rest of this section. Seriously!

  • Comments longer than a word are capitalized and use punctuation. Use one space after periods.

  • Avoid superfluous comments.

    # bad
    counter += 1 # increments counter by one
  • Keep existing comments up-to-date. No comment is better than an outdated comment.

  • Avoid writing comments to explain bad code. Refactor the code to make it self-explanatory. (Do or do not - there is no try.)


  • Annotations should usually be written on the line immediately above the relevant code.

  • The annotation keyword is followed by a colon and a space, then a note describing the problem.

  • If multiple lines are required to describe the problem, subsequent lines should be indented two spaces after the #.

    def bar
      # FIXME: This has crashed occasionally since v3.2.1. It may
      #   be related to the BarBazUtil upgrade.
  • In cases where the problem is so obvious that any documentation would be redundant, annotations may be left at the end of the offending line with no note. This usage should be the exception and not the rule.

    def bar
      sleep 100 # OPTIMIZE
  • Use TODO to note missing features or functionality that should be added at a later date.

  • Use FIXME to note broken code that needs to be fixed.

  • Use OPTIMIZE to note slow or inefficient code that may cause performance problems.

  • Use HACK to note code smells where questionable coding practices were used and should be refactored away.

  • Use REVIEW to note anything that should be looked at to confirm it is working as intended. For example: REVIEW: Are we sure this is how the client does X currently?

  • Use other custom annotation keywords if it feels appropriate, but be sure to document them in your project's README or similar.


  • Always supply a proper to_s method.

    class Person
      attr_reader :first_name, :last_name
      def initialize(first_name, last_name)
        @first_name = first_name
        @last_name = last_name
      def to_s
        "#@first_name #@last_name"
  • Use the attr family of functions to define trivial accessors or mutators.

  • Consider adding factory methods to provide additional sensible ways to create instances of a particular class.

  • Prefer duck-typing over inheritance.

  • Avoid the usage of class (@@) variables due to their "nasty" behavior in inheritance.

  • Assign proper visibility levels to methods (private, protected) in accordance with their intended usage. Don't go off leaving everything public (which is the default). After all we're coding in Ruby now, not in Python.

  • Indent the public, protected, and private methods as much the method definitions they apply to. Leave one blank line above them.

    class SomeClass
      def public_method
        # ...
      def private_method
        # ...
  • Use def self.method to define singleton methods. This makes the methods more resistant to refactoring changes.

    class TestClass
      # bad
      def TestClass.some_method
        # body omitted
      # good
      def self.some_other_method
        # body omitted
      # Also possible and convenient when you
      # have to define many singleton methods.
      class << self
        def first_method
          # body omitted
        def second_method_etc
          # body omitted


  • Don't suppress exceptions.
  • Don't use exceptions for flow of control.
  • Avoid rescuing the Exception class.


  • Prefer string interpolation instead of string concatenation:

    # bad
    email_with_name = user.name + ' <' + user.email + '>'
    # good
    email_with_name = "#{user.name} <#{user.email}>"
  • Prefer single-quoted strings when you don't need string interpolation or special symbols such as \t, \n, ', etc.

    # bad
    name = "Bozhidar"
    # good
    name = 'Bozhidar'
  • Don't use {} around instance variables being interpolated into a string.

    class Person
      attr_reader :first_name, :last_name
      def initialize(first_name, last_name)
        @first_name = first_name
        @last_name = last_name
      # bad
      def to_s
        "#{@first_name} #{@last_name}"
      # good
      def to_s
        "#@first_name #@last_name"
  • Avoid using String#+ when you need to construct large data chunks. Instead, use String#<<. Concatenation mutates the string instance in-place and is always faster than String#+, which creates a bunch of new string objects.

      # good and also fast
      html = ''
      html << '<h1>Page title</h1>'
      paragraphs.each do |paragraph|
        html << "<p>#{paragraph}</p>"

Percent Literals

  • Use %w freely.

    STATES = %w(draft open closed)
  • Use %() for single-line strings which require both interpolation and embedded double-quotes. For multi-line strings, prefer heredocs.

    # bad (no interpolation needed)
    %(<div class="text">Some text</div>)
    # should be '<div class="text">Some text</div>'
    # bad (no double-quotes)
    %(This is #{quality} style)
    # should be "This is #{quality} style"
    # bad (multiple lines)
    %(<div>\n<span class="big">#{exclamation}</span>\n</div>)
    # should be a heredoc.
    # good (requires interpolation, has quotes, single line)
    %(<tr><td class="name">#{name}</td>)
  • Use %r only for regular expressions matching more than one '/' character.

    # bad
    # still bad
    # should be /^\/(.*)$/
    # good
  • Avoid %q, %Q, %x, %s, and %W.

  • Prefer () as delimiters for all % literals.


  • Write ruby -w safe code.

  • Avoid hashes as optional parameters. Does the method do too much?

  • Avoid methods longer than 10 LOC (lines of code). Ideally, most methods will be shorter than 5 LOC. Empty lines do not contribute to the relevant LOC.

  • Avoid parameter lists longer than three or four parameters.

  • If you really have to, add "global" methods to Kernel and make them private.

  • Use class instance variables instead of global variables.

    $foo_bar = 1
    class Foo
      class << self
        attr_accessor :bar
    Foo.bar = 1
  • Avoid alias when alias_method will do.

  • Use OptionParser for parsing complex command line options and ruby -s for trivial command line options.

  • Write for Ruby 1.9. Don't use legacy Ruby 1.8 constructs.

    • Use the new JavaScript literal hash syntax.

    • Use the new lambda syntax.

    • Methods like inject now accept method names as arguments.

      [1, 2, 3].inject(:+)
  • Avoid needless metaprogramming.


  • Code in a functional way, avoiding mutation when that makes sense.
  • Do not mutate arguments unless that is the purpose of the method.
  • Do not mess around in core classes when writing libraries. (Do not monkey patch them.)
  • Do not program defensively.
  • Keep the code simple and subjective. Each method should have a single, well-defined responsibility.
  • Avoid more than three levels of block nesting.
  • Don't overdesign. Overly complex solutions tend to be brittle and hard to maintain.
  • Don't underdesign. A solution to a problem should be as simple as possible, but no simpler than that. Poor initial design can lead to a lot of problems in the future.
  • Be consistent. In an ideal world, be consistent with these guidelines.
  • Use common sense.


Nothing written in this guide is set in stone. It's my desire to work together with everyone interested in Ruby coding style, so that we could ultimately create a resource that will be beneficial to the entire Ruby community.

Feel free to open tickets or send pull requests with improvements. Thanks in advance for your help!

Spread the Word

A community-driven style guide is of little use to a community that doesn't know about its existence. Tweet about the guide, share it with your friends and colleagues. Every comment, suggestion or opinion we get makes the guide just a little bit better. And we want to have the best possible guide, don't we?