Understanding "help" command description syntax - explanation needed

William Ray Wing wrw at mac.com
Fri Nov 7 16:03:49 CET 2014


On Nov 7, 2014, at 7:42 AM, Dave Angel <davea at davea.name> wrote:
> 
> Bob Martin <bob.martin at excite.com> Wrote in message:
>> in 730867 20141107 093651 cl at isbd.net wrote:
>>> Darren Chen <ccylily1314 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> 在 2014年11月5日星期三UTC+8下午8时17分11秒,Larry.... at gmail.com写道:
>>>>> On Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 7:13 AM, Ivan Evstegneev <webmailgroups at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>>> Firtst of all thanks for reply.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> brackets [] means that the argument is optional.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> That's what I'm talking about (asking actually), where do you know it from?
>>>>> 
>>>>> I know it because I've been a programmer for 39 years.
>>>> 

But, to get back to the OP’s original question.  The earliest manuals that I remember looking at (from DEC, remember them) all had sections in the front that listed the typological conventions used throughout the manual.  Those included the use of square brackets to indicate optional arguments.  Eventually some of those conventions, including [ ] and the use of a fixed width font to indicate screen output, became so wide spread as to be simply part of the cultural context.  

A fair number of “Introduction to . . .” programming books still have such a section.

Bill

>>>> that's awesome!!
>>> 
>>> Well I started in 1971 or thereabouts.
>> 
>> 1959 for me ;-)
>> 
> 
> Approximately 1968 for me. I wrote programs in 1967, but didn't
> get to run them till 1968.
> -- 
> DaveA
> 
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