Syntax Rules and the C Character Set

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C - the basics

A programming language is similar to spoken languages in many respects. It has an alphabet (more commonly referred to as a character set) from which everything in the language is constructed. It has rules for forming words (also called tokens), rules for forming statements, and rules for forming programs.

These are called the syntax rules of the language and must be obeyed when writing programs. If you violate a rule, your program will contain a syntax error. When you attempt to compile the program, the compiler will inform you of the error. You must correct it and try again.

The first step in becoming a good programmer is learning the syntax rules of the programming language. This is the easy part and many people mistakenly believe that this makes them a programmer. It is like saying that learning some rules of English grammar and being able to write some correctly formed sentences make one a novelist.

Novel-writing skills require much more than learning some rules of grammar. Among other things, it requires insight, creativity and a knack for using the right words in a given situation.

In the same vein, a good programmer must be able to creatively use the features of the language to solve a wide variety of problems in an elegant and efficient manner. This is the difficult part; it can only be achieved by long, hard study of problem-solving algorithms and developing experience in writing programs to address diverse challenges. But we must start with baby steps.

The C Alphabet

We can think of the C alphabet as consisting of all the characters one could type on a standard English keyboard: the digits; uppercase and lowercase letters; and special characters such as +, =, <, >, & and %.

More formally, C uses the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange, pronounced ass-key) character set . This is a character standard which includes the letters, digits and special characters found on a standard keyboard. It also includes control characters such as backspace, tab, line feed, form feed and carriage return. Each character is assigned a numeric code. The ASCII codes run from 0 to 127.

The programs in this series will be written using the ASCII character set, which can be viewed here.

In the next article, we will take a look at C tokens.

References

References: C Programming – A Beginner’s Course

Related programming references

This post is part of the series: C Programming for Beginners

A straightforward introduction to Programming in C for people with no previous programing experience.

  1. C Programming For Beginners - Part 1
  2. C Programming For Beginners - Part 2
  3. C Programming for Beginners – Part 3
  4. C Programming for Beginners – Part 4
  5. C Programming For Beginners - Part 5
  6. C Programming For Beginners - Part 6
  7. C Programming For Beginners - Data Types
  8. C Programming For Beginners - Part 8
  9. C Programming For Beginners - Part 9
  10. C Programming For Beginners - Part 10
  11. C Programming For Beginners - Part 11
  12. C Programming For Beginners - Part 12
  13. C Programming For Beginners - Part 13
  14. C Programming For Beginners - Part 14
  15. C Programming For Beginners - Integer Data Types
  16. C Programming for Beginners - Part 16
  17. C Programming For Beginners - Integer Expressions, Operators and Precedence
  18. C Programming For Beginners - Part 18
  19. C Programming For Beginners - Printing Double and Float
  20. C Programming For Beginners - Mixing double, float and int