What is "point free" style (in Functional Programming)?

Functional ProgrammingCoding StyleSchemePointfree

Functional Programming Problem Overview

A phrase that I've noticed recently is the concept of "point free" style...

First, there was this question, and also this one.

Then, I discovered here they mention "Another topic that may be worth discussing is the authors' dislike of point free style."

What is "point free" style? Can someone give a concise explanation? Does it have something to do with "automatic" currying?

To get an idea of my level - I've been teaching myself Scheme, and have written a simple Scheme interpreter... I understand what "implicit" currying is, but I don't know any Haskell or ML.

Functional Programming Solutions

Solution 1 - Functional Programming

Just look at the Wikipedia article to get your definition:

> Tacit programming (point-free programming) is a programming paradigm in which a function definition does not include information regarding its arguments, using combinators and function composition [...] instead of variables.

Haskell example:

Conventional (you specify the arguments explicitly):

sum (x:xs) = x + (sum xs)
sum [] = 0

Point-free (sum doesn't have any explicit arguments - it's just a fold with + starting with 0):

 sum = foldr (+) 0

Or even simpler: Instead of g(x) = f(x), you could just write g = f.

So yes: It's closely related to currying (or operations like function composition).

Solution 2 - Functional Programming

Point-free style means that the arguments of the function being defined are not explicitly mentioned, that the function is defined through function composition.

If you have two functions, like

square :: a -> a
square x = x*x

inc :: a -> a
inc x = x+1

and if you want to combine these two functions to one that calculates x*x+1, you can define it "point-full" like this:

f :: a -> a
f x = inc (square x)

The point-free alternative would be not to talk about the argument x:

f :: a -> a
f = inc . square

Solution 3 - Functional Programming

A JavaScript sample:

//not pointfree cause we receive args
var initials = function(name) {
  return name.split(' ').map(compose(toUpperCase, head)).join('. ');

const compose = (...fns) => (...args) => fns.reduceRight((res, fn) => [fn.call(null, ...res)], args)[0];
const join = m => m.join();

var initials = compose(join('. '), map(compose(toUpperCase, head)), split(' '));

initials("hunter stockton thompson");
// 'H. S. T'


Solution 4 - Functional Programming

Point free style means that the code doesn't explicitly mention it's arguments, even though they exist and are being used.

This works in Haskell because of the way functions work.

For instance:

myTake = take

returns a function that takes one argument, therefore there is no reason to explicit type the argument unless you just want too.

Solution 5 - Functional Programming

I can't make the javascript sample provided Brunno work, although the code illustrate pointfree idea (i.e. no arguments) clearly. So I use ramda.js to provide another example.

Say I need to find out the longest word in a sentence, given a string "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit" I need output something like { word: 'consectetur', length: 11 }

If I use plain JS style code I will code like this, using a map and a reduce function

let str = 'Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit'
let strArray = str.split(' ').map((item) => ({ word: item, length: item.length }))
let longest = strArray.reduce(
    (max, cur) => (cur.length > max.length ? cur : max), 

With ramda I still use a map & a reduce but I will code like this

const R = require('ramda')
let longest = R.pipe(
  R.split(' '),
  R.map((item) => ({ word: item, length: item.length })),
  R.reduce((max, cur) => (max.length > cur.length ? max : cur), { length: 0 })
let tmp = longest(str)

I will argue that the gist of my ramda code is the pipe that chains my functions together and it makes my purpose more clearly. No need to create a temporary variable strArray is a bonus (if I have more than 3 steps in the pipe then it will become a real bonus).

Solution 6 - Functional Programming

Here is one example in TypeScript without any other library:

interface Transaction {
  amount: number;

class Test {
  public getPositiveNumbers(transactions: Transaction[]) {
    return transactions.filter(this.isPositive);

    //return transactions.filter((transaction: {amount: number} => transaction.amount > 0));

  public getBigNumbers(transactions: Transaction[]) {
    // point-free
    return transactions.filter(this.moreThan(10));

    // not point-free
    // return transactions.filter((transaction: any) => transaction.amount > 10);

  private isPositive(transaction: Transaction) {
    return transactions.amount > 0;

  private moreThan(amount: number) {
    return (transaction: Transaction) => {
      return transactions.amount > amount;

You can see point-free style is more "fluent" and easier to read.


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Content TypeOriginal AuthorOriginal Content on Stackoverflow
QuestionPaul HollingsworthView Question on Stackoverflow
Solution 1 - Functional ProgrammingDarioView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 2 - Functional ProgrammingsthView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 3 - Functional ProgrammingBrunnoView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 4 - Functional ProgrammingRayneView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 5 - Functional ProgrammingQiulangView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 6 - Functional ProgrammingAZ.View Answer on Stackoverflow