I grew up programming C++ and Java where everything was safe and beautiful. Compilers made sure to keep me in check if I ever strayed. Of course, everyone did a little Perl in college, but I didn't inhale. Kids these days are all about PHP on the backend and Javascript on the front. In trying to be hip, I do the same (for web development). The problem I keep running into is I accidentally add a dollar sign ($) in front of regular variables in Javascript and of course no one says anything because that's legal syntax often used for jQuery objects.

Are there any debugging tools or dev tricks to catch this dollar sign confusion? Do you often make the same mistake, and how do you deal with it emotionally? Chrome dev tools don't always see this is a Javascript error. I use PhpStorm and Emacs for development, but those don't catch my stupidity, although I suspect Emacs does but chooses to not tell me about it out of spite.

If you think this question is ridiculous, I think you are right. But we live in a world where a variable has a dollar sign in front of it. In such a world, nothing is ridiculous.

  • 2
    Emotionally? Just lash out at your colleagues. Jun 8, 2013 at 23:53
  • @ChrisSchiffhauer Unfortunately I work in academia where complete and utter isolation is the name of the game. I would have to schedule a meeting with a colleague in order to last out, and that would take away the spontaneity of it all. Jun 9, 2013 at 0:35

1 Answer 1


There is nothing wrong in using $ in variables. I wouldn't do it on purpose on every variable, but it's still a valid syntax. jQuery is one of the examples where $ is used as a variable name. That's also why "Chrome dev tools don't always see this is a Javascript error", because there is no error in the first place.

If you are afraid of writing code like:

var demo = function demo() {
    var a = 123;
    $a = 456; // A new variable is created in global scope.

then you have to use a style checker, like jsLint, jsHint or Google Closure Linter. Which one of those? It's up to you to make a choice. To help you with that, here are a few notes:


Google Closure Linter follows Google JavaScript Style Guide, known to be cleverly done. Using a well-known style for JavaScript or any of six other languages is a good idea: when you share your code or hire a new developer, chances are they are already familiar with this style.

Many developers are familiar with Douglas Crockford style as well. This style is explained in detail in JavaScript: The Good Parts, a book worth be bought by anyone who works with JavaScript.

As for jsHint, I can't really find what conventions are used, and the website itself seems to avoid talking about that subject. Maybe I missed something.

Support by IDEs

Both jsLint and jsHint are supported by PhpStorm. This is also the case of Google Closure Linter.


Google Closure Linter is one of a series of tools. If you're already using Google Closure Compiler or Google Closure Library, it would be preferable to chose Closure Linter above other tools.


jsLint is known to be strict. jsHint is more permissive, which is not always a good thing. For example, one of the reasons to fork jsLint for jsHint is explained in an article which shows bad code which will produce a error in jsLint, but not in jsHint:

/*global jQuery */

// Example taken from jQuery 1.4.2 source
    /* ... */

    isEmptyObject: function( obj ) {
        for ( var name in obj ) {
            return false;
        return true;

    /* ... */

The code is bad, because it looks like JavaScript has block scope, while it hasn't. See JavaScript: The Good Parts, p. 102, Appendix A: Awful Parts, Scope. In other words, looking at the code without knowing the language, we expect name to not being visible outside the loop, while it will remain visible.

As for Google Closure Linter, I believe that it's somewhere in the middle between jsLint and jsHint, but I haven't enough information to support that.


I would avoid jsHint: it's too permissive, meaning that it would not find potential bugs the other linters would detect. The style guide which is used is difficult to find.

Among jsLint and Google Closure Linter, the choice isn't obvious. Both are written by experts, both follow strict, well described style guide already followed by thousands of developers. Use both for some time, then pick one which is more practical for you.

  • +1: Beat me to it. I started dropping my semicolons when I switch languages from F# to C#, so can I share your pain ;)
    – scrwtp
    Jun 8, 2013 at 22:01
  • 2
    Just a note, since OP is using PhpStorm: Both JSLint and JSHint are integrated and can be set up to inspect their code on demand or even on the fly. Errors like the one in your example are quite easy to catch.
    – yannis
    Jun 8, 2013 at 22:05

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