Style Guide

This document describes our code style. It tells you what to look for when making changes to Flycheck, or when reviewing pull requests.


Flycheck’s scope and focus is providing the infrastructure and foundations for on-the-fly syntax checking. Flycheck provides the basics but deep integration with particular programming languages is best left to separate packages.

Whether a feature is within the scope of Flycheck is the maintainer’s judgement call. Generally we reserve the right to reject any pull request for being out of scope.

  • Avoid a disproportionate amount of code for a single syntax checker or language. Look at the built-in checkers for judgement. A syntax checker that requires a lot more code than any built-in checker is likely to be rejected.
  • Avoid deep integration with a particular UI or completion framework. Emacs’ standard is our standard: We will reject code that is tied to Helm or Counsel.
  • Likewise do not deviate from Emacs’ default behaviour too much. Stick to Emacs’ standard for key bindings, interactive functions, etc.



make check compile must pass on Emacs 25 or newer. This command checks for some formatting issues and compilation errors.

Run make format with Emacs 25 to automatically reformat the Emacs Lisp source files.

  • Generally try to fit into the style of the code you see.
  • Indent with the default indentation rules.
  • Follow the Programming Tips(elisp) for Emacs Lisp.
  • Whitespace:
    • 80 characters per line.
    • Avoid tabs and trailing spaces.
  • Naming:
    • Prefix all variables and functions with the name of the containing library, i.e. flycheck- for everything that is in flycheck.el.
    • End boolean predicates with -p, i.e. flycheck-valid-checker-p.
  • Avoid macros, and use them for syntax only.
  • Adhere to the Key Binding Conventions(elisp). Particularly do not define keys in Emacs’ reserved keymaps or in the C-c LETTER space for user bindings.


  • Do not advise built-in or 3rd party functions and commands.
  • Do not redefine built-in or 3rd party functions, unless for compatibility, but then copy the newer definition verbatim.
  • Do not use with-eval-after-load and similar functions.
  • Dependencies:
    • Use built-in Emacs libraries freely.
    • Introduce external dependencies with care. Prefer built-in libraries. dash.el is fine, though.
    • Avoid dependencies on language-specific libraries.
  • Avoid cl-lib:
    • Prefer seq over dash over cl-lib. Use list functions from cl-lib only as the very last resort.
    • Prefer let-alist and pcase over cl-destructuring-bind.


  • Add comprehensive buttercup specs for new functions and commands to test/specs/. Check whether the specs fit into an existing spec file, or add a new file instead. In doubt, use a new file.
  • For new syntax checkers add at least one syntax checker integration test to test/flycheck-test.el. Make sure that the test passes with make LANGUAGE=language integ.



  • Make each commit self-contained.
  • Squash trivial fixes into previous commits so that no commit in and by itself violates this style guide.
  • Write commit messages that adhere to the style illustrated below.
  • In doubt prefer long messages over short messages. Take the time to write a good message that explains the intention of the change and illustrates noteworthy aspects of the implementation.
  • If the commit fixes a bug try to reproduce a brief description of the bug in the message and make sure to mention the corresponding GitHub issue (e.g. Fixes GH-42).

Commit message style

This model commit message illustrates our style:

Fix a foo bug

The first line is the summary, 50 characters or less.  Write in the
imperative and in present tense: “Fix bug”, not “fixed bug” or “fixes
bug”.  Explain the intend of the change not the actual contents which the
diff already provides

After the summary more paragraphs with detailed explanations may follow,
wrapped at 72 characters.  Separate multiple paragraphs by blank lines.

You may use simple formatting like *emphasis* or _underline_, but keep
it to a minimum.  Commit messages are not in Markdown :)

Commit messages may reference issues by number, like this: See GH-42.
Please use `GH-` to prefix issue numbers.  You may also close issues
like this: Fixes GH-42 and closes GH-42.

Git Commit and Magit provide Emacs mode for Git commit messages, which helps you to comply to these guidelines.

See also

A Note About Git Commit Messages
Further information about good commit messages, including some motivation for our rules for commit messages.