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Understanding Ruby Syntax

Introduction to Ruby Syntax

Just as when learning any new language, stepping into the world of Ruby syntax can seem daunting.

However, once you begin to grasp the grammar, structures, and idioms, things will begin to look much clearer.

This article aims to help you navigate through the Ruby syntax, shedding light on some of its quirks and making your learning curve smoother.

The Fundamental Building Blocks

Whitespace in Ruby

Whitespace, including spaces and tabs, are often disregarded in Ruby code unless they appear within strings.

They can occasionally play a role in resolving ambiguous statements, but for the most part, they’re aesthetic and help organize your code for readability.

Semicolons and Newline Characters

Ruby interprets semicolons and newline characters as the conclusion of a statement.

Operators like +, −, or the backslash at the end of a line suggest the statement carries on to the next line.


It is essential to remember that Ruby identifiers are case-sensitive; a variable named ‘total‘ is different from ‘Total‘.

Similarly, there should be no space between the ‘<<‘ operator and the end (terminator) of a line-oriented string literal.


A comment hides a line, a portion of a line, or multiple lines from the Ruby interpreter.

Comments can exist on the same line after a method or expression to provide extra context or explain complex code bits. You can create a multiple-line comment with a hash character (#) as shown below:

# This is a comment
# It goes over multiple lines.

Classes, Methods, and Variables

Class and Method Definitions

The syntax of the Ruby programming language shares similarities with Perl in terms of class and method definitions.

These definitions begin with keywords, and indentation is insignificant. Unlike languages like Python, where indentation plays a crucial role.

Instance Variables

Ruby’s design makes all instance variables private by default but provides a simple way to declare getter and setter methods.

The following example illustrates this:

class Car
  def initialize(make, model)
    @make = make
    @model = model

Block Argument

A code block can be passed to a method as an optional block argument. This is similar to the concept of callbacks or ‘lambda expressions’ in other languages.

The following example shows how to use a block argument:

array = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
array.each { |num| puts num * 2 }

Flow Control Keywords

Ruby provides various flow control keywords such as ‘if‘, ‘else‘, ‘elsif‘, ‘unless‘, and more.

These keywords help in structuring the program control flow based on specified conditions. For example, a basic ‘if‘ statement in Ruby might look like this:

number = 7
if number.even?
  puts "The number is even."
  puts "The number is odd."


Understanding Ruby syntax is vital to fully utilize its power and adaptability, whether you’re writing web applications or managing databases.

This guide has provided an overview of Ruby’s fundamental building blocks, from basic constructs such as whitespace, new lines, and case sensitivity to the more nuanced features like instance variables and block arguments.

Always remember, the key to learning to code is experimentation and practice, so don’t hesitate to try out these features on your own.

If you’re looking to refine your knowledge of Ruby even more, you may refer to the previous article “Ruby Basics for Beginners” and keep yourself posted for the succeeding discussions.


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