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Thinking in C++
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Placeholder arguments

Arguments in a function declaration can be declared without identifiers. When these are used with default arguments, it can look a bit funny. You can end up with

void f(int x, int = 0, float = 1.1);

In C++ you don’t need identifiers in the function definition, either:

void f(int x, int, float flt) { /* ... */ }

In the function body, x and flt can be referenced, but not the middle argument, because it has no name. Function calls must still provide a value for the placeholder, though: f(1) or f(1,2,3.0). This syntax allows you to put the argument in as a placeholder without using it. The idea is that you might want to change the function definition to use the placeholder later, without changing all the code where the function is called. Of course, you can accomplish the same thing by using a named argument, but if you define the argument for the function body without using it, most compilers will give you a warning message, assuming you’ve made a logical error. By intentionally leaving the argument name out, you suppress this warning.

More important, if you start out using a function argument and later decide that you don’t need it, you can effectively remove it without generating warnings, and yet not disturb any client code that was calling the previous version of the function.

Thinking in C++
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire