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Thinking in C++
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Functions that modify outside objects

Reference syntax is nicer to use than pointer syntax, yet it clouds the meaning for the reader. For example, in the iostreams library one overloaded version of the get( ) function takes a char& as an argument, and the whole point of the function is to modify its argument by inserting the result of the get( ). However, when you read code using this function it’s not immediately obvious to you that the outside object is being modified:

char c;

Instead, the function call looks like a pass-by-value, which suggests the outside object is not modified.

Because of this, it’s probably safer from a code maintenance standpoint to use pointers when you’re passing the address of an argument to modify. If you always pass addresses as const references except when you intend to modify the outside object via the address, where you pass by non-const pointer, then your code is far easier for the reader to follow.

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