The Power of Backticks: Naming Functions in Kotlin

Abhinay Gupta
3 min readJun 11, 2023

In Kotlin, the use of backticks (``) to name functions provides a unique and flexible way to handle various scenarios that would otherwise conflict with the language’s syntax or naming conventions. This article delves into the intricacies and benefits of using backticks to name functions in Kotlin.

Backticks in Function Names:
In Kotlin, backticks can be used to enclose function names that do not adhere to the standard naming rules. Normally, function names in Kotlin follow the camelCase convention, starting with a lowercase letter. However, certain situations require naming functions with reserved keywords, special characters, or spaces. Backticks enable developers to overcome these limitations and create more expressive and readable code.

1. Reserved Keywords:
Kotlin has a set of reserved keywords that cannot be used as regular function names. However, by enclosing a reserved keyword within backticks, it can be used as a function name. For example, a function named `fun` can be defined as ``fun``().

2. Special Characters:
Sometimes, there may be a need to include special characters, such as hyphens (-), periods (.), or exclamation marks (!), in function names. Since these characters are not allowed in regular function names, backticks come to the rescue. For instance, a function named `do-something` can be defined as ``do-something`()`. This improves code readability and allows developers to create more descriptive function names.

3. Spaces:
In certain cases, it may be desirable to use function names with spaces for better readability. However, space characters are not allowed in regular function names. By wrapping the function name within backticks, spaces can be included. For example, a function named `perform operation` can be defined as ``perform operation`()`. This approach makes the function name more self-explanatory and enhances code comprehension.

Examples

Example 1: Using reserved keywords

fun `fun`() {
println("This is a function with a reserved keyword as its name.")
}

fun main() {
`fun`() // Calling the function with backticks
}

Example 2: Including special characters

fun `do-something`() {
println("This is a function with a special character (-) in its name.")
}

fun main() {
`do-something`() // Calling the function with backticks
}

Example 3: Using spaces

fun `perform operation`() {
println("This is a function with a space in its name.")
}

fun main() {
`perform operation`() // Calling the function with backticks
}

These examples demonstrate how backticks can be used to define function names that deviate from the usual naming conventions. Remember to use backticks judiciously and maintain consistency within your codebase to ensure readability and maintainability.

Benefits and Considerations:

Using backticks to name functions in Kotlin offers several benefits:

1. Expressive and Readable Code:
Backticks allow developers to use more natural and descriptive function names, leading to code that is easier to understand and maintain. It enables the creation of function names that closely resemble the problem domain or requirements, enhancing code readability for both developers and team members.

2. Avoiding Naming Conflicts:
Backticks enable the use of reserved keywords or special characters in function names, preventing naming conflicts or collisions. Developers can create unique and meaningful function names without sacrificing clarity or resorting to awkward workarounds.

3. Improved Interoperability:
Kotlin supports interoperability with existing Java code. In Java, certain method names contain reserved keywords or special characters. By using backticks in Kotlin, developers can directly call those Java methods without having to modify the existing codebase or risk introducing bugs.

However, it’s important to use backticks judiciously and consider the following points:

1. Maintain Consistency:
While backticks provide flexibility, it’s crucial to maintain consistency within the codebase. Overusing backticks or adopting inconsistent naming conventions can lead to confusion and reduce code readability. Reserve their usage for scenarios where it adds value or resolves naming conflicts.

2. Avoid Overcomplicating Function Names:
While expressive function names are beneficial, be mindful of not overcomplicating them. Strive for a balance between descriptive names and keeping them concise and understandable. Choose meaningful names that accurately convey the function’s purpose without excessive verbosity.

The use of backticks in Kotlin to name functions offers significant advantages in terms of code expressiveness, readability, and avoidance of naming conflicts. It provides a powerful mechanism to handle reserved keywords, special characters, and spaces in function names, enabling developers to create more descriptive and natural function names. However, it’s crucial to use backticks judicious

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