Tuesday 10:30 a.m.–10:55 a.m.

Jane Austen on PEP8: Tips from an English Major on Writing Better Code

Lacey Williams Henschel

Audience level:



Slides on Slideshare. Jane Austen said, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single module in possession of a good function, must be in want of a test.” In this talk, we’ll discover how writing tips from your Comp 101 class can make your code cleaner and clearer. Both programming and English value ruthless editing, clear and concise communication, and continuously researching new ideas to refine work.


I have two English degrees, and I’ve identified some concrete ways this makes me a better developer. This talk will discuss how we can take lessons from literature to write more readable code, make better tests, and create more usable websites.

I’ll compare Two Scoops of Django to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, that familiar freshman comp text, to explore how they are more alike than they are different. We’ll discuss the importance of readability, creating a “story arc” in your tests through good user stories, how variables names have characterization, and the importance of whitespace and good formatting to everyone. I’ll also compare PEP8 to the MLA Handbook; there’s a reason both disciplines have a style guide!