Writing computer code for a new program is a complex process. It’s easy to leave important details and information out. Pseudocode is perhaps the best way to ensure all the necessary information is there. It consists of writing out the computer code in simple, easy-to-understand English before creating it in a specific programming language. Here’s exactly how to write pseudocode to make creating your new program easier.
What is Pseudocode?Pseudocode is a method of writing out computer code in the English language. Instead of jumping straight into a programming language, computer programmers use pseudocode to clearly and concisely list out what they hope to accomplish with their new program. Not only is pseudocode a great way to show others what the coding behind a program will look like, but it also helps ensure all the important pieces to the puzzle are there. The natural language of pseudocode makes it easy for programmers to see that all of the essential details are included. Beyond this, pseudocode acts as a template or outline for the process of actual writing the computer code in the programming language of choice. One important benefit of writing pseudocode before programming is catching potential mistakes from the get-go. It’s far cheaper to fix mistakes before the development process begins. Pseudocode combines normal written language with the programming language for an easy-to-understand outline.
Examples of PseudocodeIf you’re still confused about pseudocode, reviewing a handful of examples will help you see exactly what it looks like. Here are three examples:
- University of Northern Florida Pseudocode Example
- Pseudocode Video Example
- Cal Poly Pseudocode Example
How to Write PseudocodeNow that you know what an example of pseudocode looks like, it’s time to learn how to write it yourself. We’re going to break down the process of writing pseudocode step by step so that you know exactly how to write it and how to use it effectively.
1. Understand the UsesIt's difficult to use pseudocode if you don't actually understand its many uses. For starters, pseudocode simply makes the task of creating a new computer program more simple and straightforward. Writing out the code in English enables you to create a verbal outline to follow during the programming stages of the project. Pseudocode gives you the tools needed to ensure that everything you need will be included during programming. It lets you catch mistakes before they become mistakes. It’s also highly beneficial to use pseudocode for group projects. It breaks the program down in a simple manner so that all programmers are on the same page.
2. Pseudocode is SubjectiveThe trickiest thing about pseudocode is that it is subjective. There is no standard way to write pseudocode. The goal is simply to properly outline everything in your mind. That said, there are certain structures and standard procedures you should use if you’re working with others. Follow these rules to ensure that everyone else on the team is on the same page. Perhaps the most important rule is to place clarity first. Make your pseudocode as clear and concise as possible, so there is no question as to what you mean.
3. Algorithms and Basic ConstructsTwo of the most important things you must understand when it comes to writing pseudocode are algorithms and basic algorithm constructs.
- Understand Algorithms – An algorithm is the steps you must take to achieve a specific goal.
- Know Algorithm Flow – The most basic algorithm construct, or flow, is “sequence,” “selection,” and “iteration.” These lay out the proper way to write the code.
- Combine the Pieces – Take the information you want to relay and use algorithm flow to create a straightforward outline.
4. Standard ProcedureAs mentioned above, there is no standard procedure for writing pseudocode. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain rules you should follow. Follow these basic rules to ensure that everyone you're collaborating with understands your pseudocode.
- One Statement Per Line – Express each statement or action on its own line.
- Capitalize Directions – Capitalize directions to highlight their importance (for example, “READ”).
- Focus on Meaning – Write what the program will do. Don’t write how to program it.
- Standard Programming Structures – Follow the algorithm flow discussed above to create easy-to-follow structures.
- Utilize Blocks – Group similar actions together into blocks to separate the pseudocode into separate steps.
5. Important TipsOnce again, while pseudocode doesn’t have any hard and fast rules, there are certainly some things you should do to make understanding the pseudocode easier for all involved.
- Keep It Simple – Simplicity and clarity are key. Write down what the actions will be, not how to program them.
- Explain Everything – Don’t include information without explaining it. Add comments to explain your steps and reasoning if needed.
- Practice Makes Perfect – Just like learning a new programming language, learning how to write pseudocode takes time. Practice writing and reviewing it now.
- Review the Pseudocode – The biggest reason to write pseudocode is to catch any mistakes before programming. So, review the finished product thoroughly to nip errors in the bud.
- Translate into Programming Language – Implement the pseudocode by tracing it with your computer language. Compare the finished product to the pseudocode.
Pseudocode Cheat SheetMake sure that your pseudocode includes all of the essential information with our pseudocode cheat sheet.
- Understand Purpose of Pseudocode
- Understand Definition of Algorithm
- Understand Algorithm Flow and Structure
- Write Practice Pseudocode
- Review Practice Pseudocode
- Identify Problems and Fix Them
- Use Standard Procedure
- Use Standard Programming Structures
- Express One Statement Per Line
- Capitalize Directions
- Group Like Actions into Blocks
- Understand Goal of Pseudocode
- Review for Mistakes
- Translate into Programming Language
- Know Pseudocode is Subjective
- Follow the Rules Set by Your Team
- Simplicity is Key