Style Guide


This style guide will be enforced for all incoming PRs. However, certain legacy areas within the repo do not yet fully adhere to the style guide. We welcome PRs to bring these areas up to code.

General conventions

  • The project name “Great Expectations” is always spaced and capitalized. Good: “Great Expectations”. Bad: “great_expectations”, “great expectations”, “GE.”

  • We refer to ourselves in the first person plural. Good: “we”, “our”. Bad: “I”. This helps us avoid awkward passive sentences. Occasionally, we refer to ourselves as “the Great Expectations team” (or community) for clarity.

  • We refer to developers and users as “you”. Good: “you can,” “you might want to.”

  • We reserve the word “should” for strong directives, not just helpful guidance.

  • Dickens allusions, puns, and references are strongly encouraged. When referencing the works of Dickens, strict accuracy is required. “A Muppet Christmas Carol” is considered canon.


  • Methods are almost always named using snake_case.

  • Methods that behave as operators (e.g. comparison or equality) are named using camelCase. These methods are rare and should be changed with great caution. Please reach out to us if you see the need for a change of this kind.

  • Experimental methods should log an experimental warning when called: “Warning: some_method is experimental. Methods, APIs, and core behavior may change in the future.”

  • Experimental classes should log an experimental warning when initialized: “Warning: great_expectations.some_module.SomeClass is experimental. Methods, APIs, and core behavior may change in the future.”

  • Docstrings are highly recommended. We use the Sphinx’s Napoleon extension to build documentation from Google-style docstrings.

  • Lint your code. Our CI system will check using black, isort, flake8 and pyupgrade. - Linting with isort MUST occur from a virtual environment that has all required packages installed, and pre-commit uses the virtual environment from which it was installed, whether or not that environment is active when making the commit. So, before running ``pre-commit install`` ensure you have activated a virtual environment that has all development requirements installed.

    pre-commit uninstall
    # ACTIVATE ENV, e.g.: conda activate pre_commit_env OR source pre_commit_env/bin/activate
    pip install -r requirements-dev.txt
    pre-commit install --install-hooks
    • If you have already committed files but are seeing errors during the continuous integration tests, you can run tests manually:

      black .
      isort . --check-only --skip docs
      flake8 great_expectations/core
      pyupgrade --py3-plus


  • Use unambiguous Expectation names, even if they’re a bit longer, e.g. expect_columns_to_match_ordered_list instead of expect_columns_to_be.

  • Avoid abbreviations, e.g. column_index instead of column_idx.

  • Expectation names should reflect their decorators:

    • expect_table_... for methods decorated directly with @expectation

    • expect_column_values_... for @column_map_expectation

    • expect_column_... for @column_aggregate_expectation

    • expect_column_pair_values... for @column_pair_map_expectation


The CLI has some conventions of its own.

  • The CLI never writes to disk without asking first.

  • When adding, modifying or removing files or configuration, the CLI always shows the user exactly what is being changed before doing so.

  • Questions are always phrased as conversational sentences.

  • Sections are divided by headers: “========== Profiling ==========”

  • We use punctuation: Please finish sentences with periods, questions marks, or an occasional exclamation point.

  • Keep indentation and line spacing consistent! (We’re pythonistas, natch.)

  • Include exactly one blank line after every question.

  • Within those constraints, shorter is better. When in doubt, shorten.

  • Clickable links (usually to documentation) are blue.

  • Copyable bash commands are green.

  • All top-level bash commands must be nouns: “docs build”, not “build docs”

  • Options should be presented as boolean only when there are exactly two values. For example, –interactive, –manual, and –profile; –non-interactive would be invalid because there are three options.

.rst files


Within the table of contents, each section has specific role to play. Broadly speaking, we follow Divio’s excellent Documentation System, with the caveat that our “Reference” section is their “Explanation” section, and our “Module docs” section is their “Reference section”.

  • Introduction explains the Why of Great Expectations, so that potential users can quickly decide whether or not the library can help them.

  • Tutorials help users and contributors get started quickly. Along the way they orient new users to concepts that will be important to know later.

  • How-to guides help users accomplish specific goals that go beyond the generic tutorials. Article titles within this section always start with “How to”: “How to create custom Expectations”. They often reference specific tools or infrastructure: “How to validate Expectations from within a notebook”, “How to build data docs in S3.”

  • Reference articles explain the architecture of Great Expectations. These articles explain core concepts, discuss alternatives and options, and provide context, history, and direction for the project. Reference articles avoid giving specific technical advice. They also avoid implementation details that can be captured in docstrings instead.

  • Community helps expand the Great Expectations community by explaining how to get in touch to ask questions, make contributions, etc.

  • Module docs link through to module docstrings themselves.


  • Headers are capitalized like sentences. Yep: “Installing within a project.” Nope: “Installing Within a Project.”

  • For sections within “how to”-type guides, titles should be short, imperative sentences. Avoid extra words. Good: “Configure data documentation”. Nope: “Configuring data documentation”. Avoid: “Configure documentation for your data”

  • Please follow the Sphinx guide for sections to determine which of the many, confusing .rst underlining conventions to use: Sphinx guide for sections

Core concepts and classes

  • Core concepts are always capitalized, and always are linked on first reference within each page. Pretend the docs are a fantasy novel, and core concepts are magic.

    • Wrong: “You can create expectation suites as follows…”

    • Better: “You can create Expectation Suites as follows…”

    • Avoid: “You can create suites of Expectations as follows…”

  • Class names are written in upper camel case, and always linked on first reference. Good: “ValidationOperator.” Bad: “validationOperator”, “validation operator”. If a word is both a core concept and a class name, prefer the core concept unless the text refers specifically to the class.

File names, RST refs, and links

Code formatting

  • For inline code in RST, make sure to use double backticks. This isn’t markdown, folks:

    • Yep: The init command will walk you through setting up a new project and connecting to your data.

    • Nope: The init command will walk you through setting up a new project and connecting to your data.

  • For inline bash blocks, do not include a leading $. It makes it hard for users to copy-paste code blocks.