Lua Coding Style Guide


Why Lua?

First of all, Lua is my favourite language, think of it as my PhD language.

Why does one need a coding style guide?

The answer to that inquiry is very simple, it is for sanity. Well, atleast for me that is.

We are all aware, assuming you are a programmer as well dear reader, that whatever the case might be every code we write with whatever perfection in style we do it with, it will all be translated/compiled to a bunch of zeroes and ones. The computer does not appreciate the effort we put into beautifying our codebase, but other fellow human beings will.

But I am the only programmer, no one will see the code.

I hear you, again the purpose is for your sanity. Time will pass and so is your memory in a certain degree. Maybe there will come a need to look back at the code you wrote many years ago to fix update it or to fix issues and bug and so on. You have improved, right? The difference between those times probably have resulted in your learning and growth as a developer. You realized that, “Oh, I could have wrote this like this instead of that”, which is common in our field. You will probably feel disgusted at your past self for writing a bunch of nonsensical code that even you, the original author, fail to understand and comprehend right now.

But coding style does not reflect to the algorithm and data structure of your code

Well, who said that coding style guide will make your code more efficient and perform better? Certainly putting space betweem mathematical operations will not affect it, but you know what gets affected? Your life. To be more specific, your time and mind. The nicer your codebase looks, the easier it will be to navigate around the project and different files, it also helps your mind to quickly recognize and understand a snippet of code you are currently looking at. The psychology behind my point is not to be discussed in this post.

Just trust me on this one.

Alright, I put my trust in you.

Learn from others, evaluate what makes you comfortable, review what pleases your eyes.

So for that, I propose to you, make your own coding style, stick to it, put it into your brain and heart.

Nothing beats a programmer who codes with elegance like how a musician gracefully play the instrument.


If you use spaces for indentation, please, just please, why?!


Alphabetical list:


  • to be honest, I do not comment my code. You are free to do whatever you like with comments.
  • my only use case for comment is when labeling something as TODO
      --TODO do something about your life, why are you not commenting Brandon!

Variables and Filenames Notation

  • Avoid global variables as much as possible, but if you really want/need to, use all uppercase
  • CamelCase notation for module/library/source files you require, this include classes
  • snake_case notation for local variables and filenames
  • All uppercase for constant variables
      GLOBAL_VAR = "hello" --please avoid globals as much as possible
      local Library = require("my_library")
      local MyClass = {}
      local filename = "my_library_file_name"
      local PI = 3.4
      local foo = 1
      local foo_bar = 2


  • localise it for every file
  • use the . operator as path separator instead of /
  • use CamelCase notation
      local Vector2 = require("modules.vector2")
      local State = require("src.state")
      local Foo = {}
      Foo.test = "I'm good and safe"
      local im_only_available_in_foo = true
      im_a_global = 1 --BOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Get out of here!
      return Foo

Module vs. Class Structure

  • use the . operator for modules
  • use the : operator for classes
  • both module and class should be file-scoped and free of dependencies as much as possible, meaning every thing inside the module/class file should be inside a table or local (again, no globals!)
      local MyModule = {
          value = 1
      function MyModule.load()
      return MyModule
      local MyClass = {
          value = 1
      function MyClass:load()
      return MyClass


  • local functions follow the format local function <name>() instead of local <name> = function()
  • class methods - use CamelCase notation for class (see previous discussion) and snake_case notation for method.
  • modules use the . operator for methods, only use : for classes.
      local function sum(a, b) end
      function State:load(id, some_arg) end
      function State:do_something() end
      function end

Anonymous Function

  • anonymous functions should be avoided as much as possible. It is better to write it as a well-defined function.
      local t = {1, 2, 3}
      --instead of
      map(t, function(a) return a * 2 end)
      --prefer this
      local function double(a) return a * 2 end
      map(t, double)
  • passing an anonymouse function (usually as a callback) follows this format:
    • the function syntax should be in the same line as the function caller unless it has too many preceeding parameters in which case in a newline is OK.
    • the end syntax must match the indentation of the caller
        function on_click(id, on_complete)
            if id == 1 then
        on_click(1, function()
  • the following are to be avoided and to be taken with caution and extreme consideration:
    • if somehow you are passing an anonymous function during every frame, note that it will be garbage-y.
        --totally avoid this!
        function love.update(dt)
            foo(3, function() print("this will create a lot of garbage") end)
    • do not use function like lambda
        (function(a) print(a) end)(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)


  • prefer returning a variable (exemption is if returning explicit boolean)
      function test(x, y, w, h)
          --instead of
          return (x < w) and (y < h)
          --prefer this
          local result = (x < w) and (y < h)
          return result
          --this is OK, no need to store in a variable
          return true --or false
  • returning multiple values are separated properly, also use the previous point
      local a = 1
      local b = a + 1 + 2
      local c = a + b + 3
      return a, b, c
  • if returning multiple table or data, prefer returning a table (only if all returned values are needed)
      --this is OK
      function read(string)
          local exists, content = read_file(string)
          return exists, content
      function factory(id, id2, id3, id4, id5)
          local player = create_from_id(id)
          local enemy = create_from_id(id2)
          local wall = create_from_id(id3)
          local ground = create_from_id(id4)
          local bg = create_from_id(id5)
          --instead of this
          return player, enemy, wall, ground, bg
          --prefer this
          return {
              player = player,
              enemy = enemy,
              wall = wall,
              ground = ground,
              bg = bg


  • assignment operator = must have spaces around it
  • +, -, and * must have spaces around them
  • For other operators like the concat operator which in Lua is .., we also put spaces around it
      local sum = 1 + 1 --2
      local difference = 10 - 4 --6
      local product = 2 * 10 --20
      local quotient = 100/5 --20
      local hello_world = "hello " .. "world"

Variable Declaration

  • when a local variable is declared without value, no need to assign it with nil
  • when a variable inside a table or class, it should have the nil value
  • multiple variables with nil as initial value is OK to be on the same line
  • when declaring variable(s), always separate it from usage
  • when setting a value inside a table as nil, that will be deleted. The purpose of writing it even though it will be deleted is for users to see clearly that such a variable or property of a table will exist (will be set later in runtime).
      local my_table = {
          a = 1,
     		--note that `b` will be deleted in the table, but atleast
     		--we know as readers that a property will exist during runtime
          b = nil,
          c = 2
      local no_value
      local i_am_nil, me_too, i_too
      local a = 1
      local b = 2
      local c = 3
      print(a + b + c)
      print(a - b - c)
      print(a * b * c)

Table Declaration

  • tables with few elements (especially for index-table) can be written in a single line
  • tables that behaves as a dictionary (called key-pair table) must always be separated with newline.
      local i_table = {1, 2, 3, 4, "hello", "world"}
      local kv_table = {
          a = 1,
          b = 2,
          str = "hello",
          hey = "world",


  • using ipairs(), if index is not needed, use _ variable name.
  • using pairs(), make the k, v variables with sensical names (especially if deep within a function or if it is nested)
      --using the tables we have in the previous point
      for i, v in ipairs(i_table) do
          --here we need the i
          print(i .. " = " .. v)
      for _, v in ipairs(i_table) do
          --here we do not need the i
      for k, v in pairs(kv_table) do
          --here we need both k and v
          --also this is a single loop
          print(k .. " = " .. v)
      local logs = {
          byron = {"what's up", "hello", "hi"},
          brandon = {"okay", "yes", "no"},
          angel = {"apple", "orange", "grapes"},
          ralyn = {"neo", "kezia"},
      --here we need the user_id, also it makes sense and is easier to see what
      --the variables are and their purpose especially in nested loops
      for name, messages in ipairs(logs) do
          for _, message in ipairs(messages) do
              print(name .. ": " .. message)

Table Access or Reference

  • if a table value/property is going to be accessed multiple times within a code block, it is better to localised it within that code block
      local my_table = {
          position = {x = 1, y = 2, z = 3}
      --instead of this
      function foo()
      --do this
      function bar()
          local pos = my_table.position


  • prefer not (variable == value) than variable ~= value.
      local a = 0
      if a ~= 0 then end --not this
      if not (a == 0) then end --prefer this
      if not a then end --be careful of this, this is very different case
  • if checking if a variable is boolean value
      --instead of these:
      if correct == true then end
      if correct == false then end
      --prefer these:
      if correct then end
      if not correct then end
  • use () to group expressions for compound conditions
  • prefer using of variable rather than putting long expressions in conditionals
      local a = 1
      local result = (type(a) == "number") and (a > 0) and (a < 10)
      if result then

Code Blocks

  • function definitions should always have a newline before and after it.
      local nothing
      function foo()
      function bar()
  • single line block of conditionals is encouraged to be in single line.
      function foo() return 1 end
      function bar(id)
          if not id then return end
  • returning a value from a function is encouraged to be separated as it is the last (usually) line
      --this is a stupid function I know, just for showcasing an example.
      function foo(a, b)
          if a == 1 then
              if b == 1 then
                  local c = a + b
                  return c
              --still a newline after a conditional block
              return 0
  • conditionals statements should always have a newline before and after it.
      local a = 10
      if a > 0 then
          print("a is positive")
      elseif a < 0 then
          print("a is negative")
          print("a is zero")
      print("value of a is: " .. a)
  • for nested conditionals like a double for-loop we can skip the newline before
      local a = {1, 2, 3}
      local b = {4, 5, 6}
      for i = 1, #a do
          for j = 1, #b do
              local sum = a[i] + b[j]

File Structure

  • in order of priority:
    • globals (if you really want to)
    • modules
    • source files
    • localisation of standard libraries
    • local variables
    • callbacks/functions/methods
IS_DEV_MODE = true

local Class = require("modules.class.class")
local Timer = require("modules.timer.timer")
local Vec2 = require("modules.vec2.vec2")

--source files
local Color = require("src.color")
local Utils = require("src.utils")

--local standard librarie
local insert = table.insert
local floor = math.floor
local format = string.format

--local variables
local id = "game"
local version = "0.0.1"

--callbacks etc etc
function love.load() end

function love.update(dt) end

function love.draw() end

Project Structure

  • for game development using the love framework
  • for projects that uses preprocessing like luapreprocessor
  • res or resources contains assets like images, sounds, spritesheets
  • modules for third-party modules
  • src or sources contains files more-specific to your project/game
  • libs containing libraries (.dll, .so)
  • release containing releases for different platforms (I recommend using makelove)
  • output where preprocessed files will be outputted
  • example script you will use to automate building and running your project


I do hope that you learned from my preference and style. But ofcourse, you are free to make your own coding style guide, perhaps read other people’s coding style guide as well and then combine the bits that you like.

Stay tuned via RSS or follow me on Twitter as this will get updated more over time!

For discussions, head over at the post at Lua subreddit