Avoid positional function arguments

tl;dr: When you have a function with multiple arguments prefer to use an object instead of positional arguments.

Are you able to tell what each of the following function arguments is?

const user = createUser("John", "Doe", 30);

You can guess with relatively high confidence that the first two arguments are the first and last name of the user, but what about the third argument? Is it the age of the user? Or is it something else?

What about this one?

const distance = calculateDistance(10, 20, 5, 25);

What do the numbers 10, 20, 5, and 25 represent? Are they coordinates? If so, what coordinate system, which one is the x and which one is the y? Or are they latitude and longitude? Is the order latitude1, latitude2, longitude1, longitude2 or is it longitude1, latitude1, longitude2, latitude2?

In both of these examples, it's not immediately clear what each of the arguments represents.

This is a common problem with functions that take multiple arguments.

You might be able to guess what the arguments are by looking at the function name or by looking at the function implementation, but that's not ideal.

Your IDE might show you inline type hints or show the names of the arguments on hover, but that doesn't work for example when you are reviewing code outside of your IDE. In order to efficiently do a code review you want to be able to understand what a function does by looking at its usage, without having to look at its implementation.

So how can we make it easier to understand what a function does?

Objects to the rescue

Instead of using positional arguments, you can use an object with named properties.

For example, instead of this:

function createUser(firstName: string, lastName: string, age: number) {
  // ...

You can do this:

type User = {
  firstName: string;
  lastName: string;
  age: number;

function createUser({ firstName, lastName, age }: User) {
  // ...

There is a bit more repetition in the second example, but it's much clearer what each of the arguments represents.

So what do we exactly gain by using an object instead of positional arguments?


The first and most obvious benefit is that it's much easier to understand what each of the arguments represents without having to rely on your IDE for hints.

When you see a function call like this:

createUser({ firstName: "John", lastName: "Doe", age: 30 });

There is no ambiguity about what each of the arguments represents.


When you are using a function that is new to you or that you haven't used in a while, you can import the function and then just press Ctrl + Space to see what the function expects.

With positional arguments, you would have to hover over the function or look at the function implementation or the documentation to understand what each of the arguments represents. This will slow you down and make you less productive.

Optional arguments

When you have a function with a lot of arguments, it's common to have some of the arguments be optional with or without default values.

With positional arguments you have to place all the optional arguments at the end of the argument list or otherwise you will get a TS error like this:

"A required parameter cannot follow an optional parameter."

Additionally when calling a function with optional arguments you have pass undefined for the arguments you want to skip.

For example:

function doSomething(a: string, b?: number, c?: boolean) {
  // ...

doSomething("a", undefined, true);

This can muddy up the function call and make it less readable.

With an object you can just omit the properties you don't want to pass:

doSomething({ a: "a", c: true });

Are there any downsides?

There are a few minor downsides to using an object instead of positional arguments.

The first one is that there is a bit more repetition to define the type of the object and to destructure the object in the function signature.

The second one is perfomance. Passing an object means that a new object has to be created every time the function is called. However, in 99% of the cases this is not a problem and the benefits of using an object instead of positional arguments outweigh the downsides. Modern JavaScript engines are extremely fast and optimized so creating a new object is not a problem in the vast majority of cases. If your software is performance sensitive, you can always use positional arguments in those few cases where it matters.


Based on my experience as a software developer, I would highly recommend using an object instead of positional arguments in functions with multiple arguments.