These are the two options that are most widely used nowadays for specifying algorithms.

**Methods of Specifying an
Algorithm**

Once you have designed an algorithm, you need
to specify it in some fashion. In Section 1.1, to give you an example, Euclid’s
algorithm is described in words (in a free and also a step-by-step form) and in
pseudocode. These are the two options that are most widely used nowadays for
specifying algorithms.

Using a natural language has an obvious appeal;
however, the inherent ambi-guity of any natural language makes a succinct and
clear description of algorithms surprisingly difficult. Nevertheless, being
able to do this is an important skill that you should strive to develop in the
process of learning algorithms.

** Pseudocode **is a mixture of a natural language and
programming language-like constructs. Pseudocode is usually more precise than
natural language, and its usage often yields more succinct algorithm
descriptions. Surprisingly, computer scientists have never agreed on a single
form of pseudocode, leaving textbook authors with a need to design their own
“dialects.” Fortunately, these dialects are so close to each other that anyone
familiar with a modern programming language should be able to understand them
all.

This book’s dialect was selected to cause
minimal difficulty for a reader. For the sake of simplicity, we omit
declarations of variables and use indentation to show the scope of such
statements as **for**, **if**, and **while**. As you saw in the previous section, we use an arrow “←” for the assignment operation and two slashes “** //**” for comments.

In the earlier days of computing, the dominant
vehicle for specifying algo-rithms was a ** flowchart**, a method of expressing an
algorithm by a collection of connected geometric shapes containing descriptions
of the algorithm’s steps. This representation technique has proved to be
inconvenient for all but very simple algorithms; nowadays, it can be found only
in old algorithm books.

The state of the art of computing has not yet
reached a point where an algorithm’s description—be it in a natural language or
pseudocode—can be fed into an electronic computer directly. Instead, it needs
to be converted into a computer program written in a particular computer
language. We can look at such a program as yet another way of specifying the
algorithm, although it is preferable to consider it as the algorithm’s
implementation.

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Introduction to the Design and Analysis of Algorithms : Methods of Specifying an Algorithm |

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