EAFP gone wrong

Malte Helmert helmert at informatik.uni-freiburg.de
Wed Feb 10 00:22:50 CET 2010

Arnaud Delobelle wrote:

> This means that EAFP made me hide a typo which would have been obviously
> detected had I LBYLed, i.e. instead of
>     try:
>         return val.latex()
>     except AttributeError:
>         ...
> do
>     if hasattr(val, 'latex'):
>         return val.latex()
>     else:
>         ...
> So was it wrong to say it's EAFP in this case?

I would say that it's not really the EAFP concept that is problematic
here, but rather that the try block encompasses more code than it
should. Generally try blocks should be as narrow as possible, i.e., they
should contain only the part where you really want to catch a potential

"return val.latex()" does two separate things that might fail: the
lookup of val.latex, and the actual method call. If I understood you
correctly, you only want to catch the AttributeError in the "val.latex"
lookup here, and hence I'd say the "correct" application of EAFP here
would be something like:

    foo = val.latex
except AttributeError:
    return foo()

Whether that's any better than LBYL in this particular case is of course
debatable -- one nice thing compared to your LBYL version is that it
doesn't look up val.latex twice upon success. But you could also get
that via the LBYLish:

latex_method = getattr(val, "latex")
if latex_method:
    return latex_method()


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