What is Pseudocode? How to write Pseudocode?

Pseudocode

Pseudocode is gaining popularity in the world of information technology. The system of Pseudocode has helped a lot of non-programmers to understand the coding work required for their project and many budding programmers to learn programming languages quickly. It has also helped programmers and non-programmers to review scientific research papers where coding is involved. But what precisely a Pseudocode is? What are the benefits of pseudocode? How to write a Pseudocode? Let’s try to find answers to these questions in this article!

What is Pseudocode?

Just by the name, we can deduce that it is not the actual programming code. In the word ‘Pseudocode’, the first half of the word suggests that the code is ‘fake’. Hence in simple terms, ‘Pseudocode’ basically means a ‘fake code’. If we go by the definition, “Pseudocode is an informal high-level description of the operating principle of a computer program or an algorithm.” The structure and content used in a Pseudocode are of a standard programming language (which can be understood by computer). But the way Pseudocode is written, it is understandable to a layperson, even with no programming language. While writing a Pseudocode, one can omit the crucial details needed to write a proper computer code. These details can be a declaration of variables, subroutines or even system specific codes. The language used is easy for anyone to understand.

What Is Pseudocode

So with the above paragraph, we can conclude that Pseudocodeis NOT a programming language. It is merely a way to describe the set of programming instructions, in a way which looks similar to a programming language. These Pseudocodes have their own syntax (and depends upon person-person, institute-institute or company-company). But most of these syntaxes are identical to the programming languages.

It is worth noting that since Pseudocode is NOT a programming language, it cannot run any program by itself. Although, it is indeed very easy to convert a Pseudocode into any specific programming languages by adding essential details like the declaration of variables, system-specific codes, etc.

Why Pseudocode?

Pseudocode is essential because the programmers and developers have to deal with non-technical employees or people too. These people generally do not have knowledge of coding so you will have to write your codes in a way to make them understand better.

And let us say, you are a programmer and you have to write a program for a particular ‘Arts’ college. If the application is short or natural, you can code and get it verified. You can also easily make changes required. But in case of sophisticated software, which may include the number of lines up to more than a thousand, you HAVE to draft a Pseudocode first and get it verified by the authorities. Because writing a programming code of thousands of lines and then making changes is a challenging task.

The pseudocode also helps the instructors of a coding class to help the students understand coding better.

Why is pseudocode popular?

The main reason why pseudocode is gaining popularity is that it is easier for even a layperson to understand the programming language which is being used in a particular project.

Pseudocode can come handy in places where there is no computer or system to test the codes. In such cases, reading and understanding a real programming language can be really difficult, even for a programmer. In such scenarios, pseudocode is the best possible way out.

An author or researcher avoids writing real programming codes in his textbook or scientific papers. This is because it will then become difficult for the readers to understand what the writer/researcher wants to convey. Hence he uses Pseudocodes in textbooks and scientific papers.

Pseudocode is also preferred by a computer program developed to draw a rough sketch of the program and to understand his ideas and thoughts with better quality. This way, he can easily make changes in the code before actually going to start coding.

Advantages of Pseudocode

A less experienced programmer or even non-programmers, like someone from the management team of a company, can easily understand the pseudocode. He can deduce what the actual program will look like by merely following the pseudocode.

The programmers write pseudocode to draw a rough sketch of the program which he is planning to develop. He can then easily convert this pseudocode into the actual code because the structure of pseudocode is similar to the original programming language.

Advantages Of Pseudocode

If there is any error while writing real code, the programmer will not be able to execute the program correctly. This is not the case with Pseudocode because Pseudocodes merely means to take reference.

While evaluating the pseudocode, the programmer can easily make changes in the design or the program. This isn’t easy while writing a real programming code.

Disadvantages of Pseudocode

It can be time-consuming to write a Pseudocode.

The pseudocode fails to provide a visual representation of the program.

There is no accepted standard of the syntax of pseudocode. This is the most significant disadvantage of Pseudocodes. Programmers generally use their own style of writing the code.

Disadvantages Of Pseudocode

The pseudocode cannot be compiled or executed. The programmers will need to convert the pseudocode to an understandable computer language first.

Since pseudocode is very basic in nature, non-technical people fail to realize and appreciate the complexity of writing and executing a real code.

Specifications of a good Pseudocode

Writing a Pseudocode is so easy that any logical person can write it even without the knowledge of coding. But, it is not always easy to write a ‘good’ Pseudocode. Here we have listed some specifications to keep in mind while writing a Pseudocode:

  1. The Pseudocode writer needs to have a detailed thought process regarding the program he wants to develop.
  2. The coder should have a complete understanding of the task or program which he wants to develop.
  3. A Pseudocode must include every single detail and instruction for the computer to understand. Let us take an example of writing code for a robot, instructing him to ride a motorcycle. You cannot start with only by giving these instructions:
      1. Get on the motorcycle.
      2. Drive to college
      3. Stop

These instructions are insufficient, even for a Pseudocode. So a proper Pseudocode should have the following guidelines:

      1. Describe how to get into the garage
      2. Which motorcycle to choose
      3. How to get on the motorcycle
      4. How to start a motorcycle
      5. Specific instructions on how to turn, how to go back and forth and how to use ‘embedded GPS.’
      6. Where to park
      7. Instructions on how to park

The standard syntax of a Pseudocode

It is true that there is no standard set of instructions or syntax on how to write a Pseudocode. But, being a professional, you have to use some standard Pseudocode structure which will be easier for your colleagues (both technical or non-technical) to understand. You should keep the following things in mind.

The Standard Syntax Of A Pseudocode

  1. If you are coding for yourself for a project or something, the most critical job of a Pseudocode is to provide complete clarity and idea to you for your project.
  2. If you are working with your peers or colleagues or non-technical people like stakeholders or customers, your pseudocode should follow specific standards. These standards should help them understand pseudocode better.
  3. If you have enrolled yourself for a programming course in an institute or a company, the authorities will judge your pseudocode on the set standards. So it is imperative to follow the rules or syntax set by the institute. The language and standards of a Pseudocode vary from institute to institute or teacher to teacher.

The primary goal of your pseudocode should be to provide clarity about your ideas for your program.

Tips for writing a Pseudocode

Tip 1: Use a plain text editor

I know it is very tempting to use advanced text editors like ‘Microsoft Office Word’ or applications similar to that. But while writing a  Pseudocode, we need as little formatting as possible. Hence it is advisable to use normal text editors like ‘Notepad’ (Windows) or ‘TextEditor’ (Mac).

Tip 2: Start by writing the objective of the program

This will help you to keep your head clear while drafting a Pseudocode. Additionally, it will save you time and energy to explain to the readers of your Pseudocode about what the program is all about. The objective should not be of more than 2-3 lines as it may seem too wordy to the readers.

Tip 3: Use plain language

While writing a Pseudocode, always remember, you are doing so for the reader, who can also be a non-programmer with no knowledge of coding. At the same time, the primary purpose of Pseudocode is to have clarity. YOU SHOULD AVOID SUMMARIZING THE PSEUDOCODE. Avoid using code languages like ‘output/input’. Instead of plain text like ‘if the user enters.’

Wrong example:

Correct Example:

Tip 4: Avoid writing more than one statements per line

It is better to structure your Pseudocode as similar to the main programming code. So try to write only one statement per line. This will also be easier to deduce for both the writer (you) and the code reader. You can start by first writing the task list in separate lines, and then translate these tasks list into Pseudocode. Once approved or you are sure you want to make it a programming language, you can convert your Pseudocode into your desired programming language.

e.g.-

Tip 5: If necessary, try to capitalize the main commands of your code

I won’t say you have to capitalize on all the commands. It is better if you go by the standards set by your employers or the institution. It also depends on your Pseudocode requirement.

e.g.-

Tip 6: Elaborate on your Pseudocode well.

It’s better if you leave nothing in your Pseudocode for imagination. The last thing you want is your reader (or yourself) deduce the wrong thing! Use simple using, and avoid using variables and high-level vocabulary (which is even difficult for ordinary human beings to understand). You should explain what the program should do in a specific situation. Use plain language for your Pseudocode.

Wrong, e.g.-

Correct, e.g.-

Tip 7: Maintain a proper order while writing your Pseudocode

Even though you are not writing your Pseudocode for programming, use all the methods used in programming. One of these methods is to write everything in proper order. This will also be easier for the reader to evaluate properly.

Let’s take another look at one of our first examples:

e.g.-

We can see that all the steps are in proper order. This is the right way to write code.

Tip 8: Use the standard programming structures

Indeed, there is no standard set for Pseudocode. But following specific standards, (which you would follow while writing a programming language) would make things easier for the programmers. And even these standards will make it easier for you to convert your Pseudocode into a programming language.

Use terms like “if”, “then”, “while”, “else”, and “loop” the similar way that you would in your any programming language. Keep the following structures in mind:

if CONDITION then INSTRUCTION: This means that the program will follow the given instruction only if the input or the given condition is valid. In this case, “INSTRUCTION” is the step which the application is supposed to perform, whereas “CONDITION” is the criteria which the program has to verify.

while CONDITION do INSTRUCTION: Here, the program will keep on repeating the instruction until the given condition is no longer correct or valid.

do INSTRUCTION while CONDITION: This is similar to the previous condition. The only difference is that in the previous one, the condition will be checked before following the instruction set by the coder. Whereas, in the case of this one, the program will follow the instruction first before verifying the condition. Here, the instruction will be executed at least one time.

Tip 9: Organize your Pseudocode

Generally, computer codes are large, ranging from a few hundred lines to thousands! A programming code for an aircraft is sometimes as high as 700,000 lines! So it is always better to organize these exceptionally large set of instructions. While writing a Pseudocode, there will obviously be some moments when you have to define more than one thing in the piece within the same block. In such cases, you can use brackets or different identifiers, comment section to help you keep everything organized.

Brackets- They can be both standard (e.g. [code] ) or curly (e.g. {code})- you can use these brackets to manage the long sections of your Pseudocode. This is similar to what you would do while writing actual code.

While writing your Pseudocode, you can add comments in between the code by typing “//”. This is similar to the programming a real code. You can also use this symbol to leave notes for your future references or for your reader.

e.g.-

I hope you found this guide useful. If so, do share it with others who are willing to learn about the different topics that we publish here on our blog. If you have any questions related to this article, feel free to ask us in the comments section.

And do not forget to subscribe to WTMatter!

Subscribe To WTMatter!

Receive updates of our latest articles via email. Enter your email address below to get started.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *