Here’s a simple tip! I can’t begin to count how many potential code bugs this has eliminated. It takes some getting used to but once you make it automatic it’s a real help in keeping code and your thinking correct. The tip is this: when you write relational expressions, always use *less-than*, never use *greater-than*.

**Tip:** Always write (B < A), not (A > B).

### Make Less Not More

Always write your relational expressions to use *less-than* and so that a true evaluation puts the lesser quantities *on the left* of the greater quantities. In rare cases a language doesn’t allow the appropriate syntax, but in most cases you can write the *less-than* version of any expression. This is especially important when testing a value range (for example, between ‘A’ and ‘Z’).

By the way, I admit to assuming the Euro-American left-to-right bias here. In cultures with strong right-to-left orientation, I hope my logic works in mirror reverse. The point is to use instinctive mathematical less-to-greater orientation in relational expressions to help avoid logic errors.

The intent is to apply the left-to-right orientation of the number line to relational expressions. On the (Euro-American) number line, values run from lesser on the left to greater on the right. If you pick a number, L, from the line and pick another number, R, to the right of it, the relation (L < R) is always true and (L > R) is always false.

If the expression logic follows number-line logic, the expression logic makes more sense. For example, if we want to test that * x* is in the [A–Z] range, one way to write the expression is:

(‘A’ <= **x**) AND (**x** <= ‘Z’)

The test value, * x*, visually falls between the ‘A’ and the ‘Z’. In this form, the expression resembles a common mathematical form:

(‘A’ <= **x** <= ‘Z’).

Most computer languages do not allow the above syntax, but nearly all allow the first one, which comes very close. Compare this to a common alternative, that places the variable first:

(**x** >= ‘A’) AND (**x** <= ‘Z’)

In a complex expression, following mathematical number-line logic can make an expression more clear and help highlight logical errors. For example, consider this (which is not at all untypical code):

**x**) AND (

**x**<= ‘Z’)) OR ((‘a’ <=

**x**) AND (

**x**<= ‘z’)) OR

**x**) AND (

**x**<= ‘9’))

And compare it to this:

**x**>= ‘A’) AND (

**x**<= ‘Z’)) OR ((

**x**<= ‘a’) AND (

**x**<= ‘z’)) OR

**x**>= ‘0’) AND (

**x**<= ‘9’))

I think it’s much easier to use the first one! In fact, *did you spot the error* in the second version? The first version is much easier to debug, because you know all the arrows point to the left.

Note that this follows the standard looping conventions:

It takes a while to train yourself to use *less-than* strictly, but once you do, your coding skills will be stronger. You may even find yourself going back and “correcting” old code. It will start to look “wrong” to you!