Synaptic Sugar

When I misspelled "syntactic sugar" the other day, the helpful spell checker suggested "synaptic sugar" as a replacement, a replacement that fits surprisingly well! The goal of the best syntactic sugar, like the enhanced for loop in JDK 5, is to be sweeter for your brain by removing the need to see repetitive details, like the standard induction variable patterns.

Syntactic sugar makes tradeoffs between two general effects:

  • A more explicit program is easier to understand.
  • A shorter program is easier to understand.
These two effects are antagonistic; when the extra explicitness comes with a large increase in relative size, the greater verbosity outweighs the clarity of seeing everything written out. The trend to a more declarative programming style based on annotations favors the latter factor and the much briefer resulting programs.
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