Multiple Left-hand assignment in JavaScript, is really bad. Think before you do it.

3 Feb 2014
About 2 min read

“JavaScript allows multiple left-hand assignments”

You may ask, what does that mean ? Well, if you’re not familiar, in JavaScript you can write the variable assignment expressions like this.

var a = b = c = d = 10;

The assignment expressions are always evaluated from right-to-left. So what the above expression actually does is, assign the value 10 to the variable d, then assign the value of d to c and so on. Finally all the variables will get the value 10. This kind of "short-hand" code will allows you to get rid of the repetitive code; especially when you want to initialise multiple variables with an initial value.

And what’s the catch here ?

Well, in simple words: “the scope“ . To understand that, let’s move the same expression inside a function. Like this:

function foo (){
var a = b = c = d = 10;

If you expect all of these variables are having a scope local to the function foo, then you’re wrong. What happens here is, the var statement is only applicable to the variable a. And all the other variables are considered with out the var statement, hence will be the global. Try executing foo method, you would see:


window.a // undefined
window.b // will be 10
window.c // will be 10
window.d // will be 10

Yes, that’s the catch ! So avoid multiple left-hand assignments inside any functions. If you’re writing this in global level ( you’re assuming all of your variables to go in global scope ), then this is not at all an issue. So better watch out next time before you do this.

Final note

If you're not convinced and still want to do left-hand assignments, then the right way of doing it is like this:

function foo() {
var a,b,c,d;
a = b = c = d = 10;

Declaring all the variables in the first line is one of the good coding style. This will make sure that you’re not the victim of scope issues and hoisting problems. So always read about the JavaScript best practices, and adhere to good coding style.


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