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re: Politeness or Bluntness in Code Review? Settling the Matter Once and for All VIEW POST


While I agree that a mismatch between subtle vs direct communication styles can cause a multitude of problems*, I think you may be mixing in an orthogonal behavior axis: cooperative vs combative.

For example, let's assume a review for a bit of code that needs work. I tend towards blunt/cooperative, so unsurprisingly I'm not really good at picking up when someone's being subtle/combative, so these examples will probably be a bit exaggerated. Hopefully, they'll be close enough to get the idea across.


This is really ugly, what made you think using null was a good idea? Get rid of of nulls and learn to code language_name, or go back to other_language.

Characterized by abusive language, this is the one we generally think of when talking about abusive behavior in reviews. Linus Torvalds is an infamous example of this communication style.


consider rereading our style guide

The best description I came up with for this one is "passive-aggressive sniping".


Please remove these nulls, there are better ways of solving this. Option is a common tool for dealing with missing values, and would look something like this:...

This one is the one I tend towards by default, so I'm most familiar with it's strengths and weaknesses. Basically: direct, polite, and very clear about what is expected.

Often this involves including code snippets, on the grounds that, if it's worth bringing up, it's worth taking the time to suggest something concrete.

If you tend towards this style, be careful to use open-ended phrasing and acknowledge the limits of your certainty frequently, or you'll run the risk of sounding like a pushy know-it-all to folks who prefer subtle communication.


We tend to avoid nulls, as they have been the cause of several hard to trace bugs. Option may be a good alternative.

Polite and (if you prefer direct communication) a bit on the vague side, but still providing enough information for the reviewee to fix the issue.

* This can cause trouble even when everyone on the team comes from the same area. For example, in the USA men tend to be socialized to favor direct communication, and women tend to be socialized to favor subtle communication. This causes about as much trouble as you might expect, if people don't actively work to mitigate the mismatch.

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