What is a "Nit" in a code review?

By Josip Miskovicโ€ขUpdated on
A thumbnail showing Code Review Nit.

What is a "nit" in the code review world?

A nit is a small, insignificant issue spotted during a code review process that doesn't have a major impact on the overall quality of the code.

Developers use the "nit:" prefix as a shorthand for nitpicking in code review comments.

A nit can still be corrected to improve the code's clarity, readability, or maintainability.

Code Review Nit Example
Code Review Nit

Good practice

You may ask: If it's a minor thing, why even bother?

Well, minor things add up. Especially in a large codebase. If you let it slide too many times, you end up with code spaghetti ๐Ÿ.

I think every developer should use "nits".

They are a great way to follow the best practices of code reviews. They let you be nice and share knowledge with your fellow developers.

Tweet from Cory House: A little code review habit I appreciate:

When my teammates make a minor suggestion, they often prefix it with 'Nit:'

It's a short, polite way to say 'I know this is minor, but I suggest changing this.'

Useful for misspellings, typos, naming suggestions, etc

Code Review "Nit" Examples

Some examples of nits in code reviews include:

  • Minor typos in comments or variable names
  • Spelling errors
  • Inconsistent use of whitespace or indentation
  • Use of shorthand notation that is difficult for others to understand
  • Redundant code comments
  • Use of long lines of code that could be broken up for improved readability
  • Use of a function or method that has a slightly more efficient alternative

Issue vs Nit

Serious issues are those that could impact the code's functionality, reliability, security, or performance. Nits, on the other hand, are minor issues that may not affect the code's overall quality or functionality.

Is this an issue or a nit? Am I being nitpicky?

I've been there so many times.

I usually take a step back and think about the potential impact it could have on the code.

  • How frequently do we change that code area?
    • It might seem like a nit today, but it could snowball.
  • Is the code still easy to understand?
    • Ensuring that code is understandable is top 3 reasons for a code review.

No matter how big or small the issue is, it's always a good idea to address it.

By taking care of nits early on, you can prevent them from becoming problems down the road.

Josip Miskovic
About Josip

Josip Miskovic is a software developer at Americaneagle.com. Josip has 10+ years in experience in developing web applications, mobile apps, and games.

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