Giulio Canti

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Six reasons to define constructors with only one argument

Written by Giulio Canti on 25 Sep 2014


After all the comments here and on Reddit (thanks to all), I’ve updated this article to better explain my POV.

This is how to define a “class” in vanilla JavaScript (further referred to as vanilla):

function VanillaPerson(name, surname) { // multiple arguments = name;
  this.surname = surname;

var person = new VanillaPerson('Giulio', 'Canti');; // => 'Giulio'

And this is the same class defined with a constructor with only one argument (further referred to as 1-arity):

function Person(obj) { // only one argument =;
  this.surname = obj.surname;

var person = new Person({name: 'Giulio', surname: 'Canti'});; // => 'Giulio'

I’ll list the reasons why I think the latter is a better choice when extreme performance is not required.

1. Easy maintenance and optional new

With vanilla there are 4 points of maintenance if you add an argument:

 * @param {String} email // change
function VanillaPerson(name, surname, email) { // change

  // make `new` optional
  if (!(this instanceof VanillaPerson)) {
    return new VanillaPerson(name, surname, email); // change
  } = name;
  this.surname = surname; = email; // change

With 1-arity there is a single point of maintenance if you add an argument:

function Person(obj) {

  if (!(this instanceof Person)) {
    return new Person(obj);
  } =;
  this.surname = obj.surname; =; // change

Many people consider the optional new an anti-pattern. I don’t, but I’m fine with that. Personally I use new when I’m instantiating a class because it makes clear the intent, but I’ll continue to write $('.myclass').show() instead of new $('.myclass').show() despite the anti-pattern thing.

2. Named parameters

JavaScript hasn’t named parameters:

// first argument is name or surname? I don't remember
var person = new VanillaPerson('Canti', 'Giulio'); // wrong!

1-arity is more verbose, but code is read more than written:

// order doesn't matter and it's more readable
var person = new Person({surname: 'Canti', name: 'Giulio'});

3. Better management of optional parameters

With vanilla, handling optional arguments can be ugly and error prone:

function VanillaPerson(name, surname, email, vat, address) { = name;
  this.surname = surname; = email;
  this.vat = vat;
  this.address = address;

// I must count the arguments to know where to put 'myaddress'
var person = new VanillaPerson('Giulio', 'Canti', null, 'myaddress'); // wrong!

With 1-arity it’s easy:

var person = new Person({surname: 'Canti', name: 'Giulio', address: 'myaddress'});

4. JSON deserialization for free

Say you have a JSON of a person served by a JSON API:

  "name": "Giulio",
  "surname": "Canti"

With vanilla you must implement (and maintain) a custom deserializer:

function deserialize(x) {
  return new VanillaPerson(, x.surname);

var person = deserialize(json);

Since in 1-arity arguments and instances have the same shape, you get deserialization for free.

var person = new Person(json);

For a deeper discussion about deserialization see JSON Deserialization Into An Object Model.

5. Idempotency

In math a function f is idempotent if f(f(x)) = f(x).

vanilla is not idempotent, but it’s easy to make 1-arity idempotent:

function Person(obj) {

  if (obj instanceof Person) {
    return obj;


var person = new Person({name: 'Giulio', surname: 'Canti'});
new Person(person) === person; // => true

6. Avoid boilerplate

If you are a Domain Driven Design guy, you struggle with the verbosity of defining all your classes, but with the 1-arity pattern you can avoid the boilerplate with a simple function like this:

function struct(props) {

  function Struct(obj) {

    // make Struct idempotent
    if (obj instanceof Struct) return obj;

    // make `new` optional, decomment if you agree
    // if (!(this instanceof Struct)) return new Struct(obj);

    // add props
    for (var name in props) {
      if (props.hasOwnProperty(name)) {
        // here you could implement type checking exploiting props[name]
        this[name] = obj[name];

    // make the instance immutable, decomment if you agree
    // Object.freeze(this);


  // keep a reference to meta infos for further processing,
  // documentation tools and IDEs support
  Struct.meta = {
    props: props

  return Struct;


// defines a 1-arity Person class
var Person = struct({
  name: String,
  surname: String

var person = new Person({surname: 'Canti', name: 'Giulio'});

Further reading

This is an article explaining the rationale behind these reasons: JavaScript, Types and Sets - Part I


I used this pattern to implement tcomb.

tcomb is a library for Node.js and the browser which allows you to check the types of JavaScript values at runtime with a simple syntax. It’s great for Domain Driven Design, for testing and for adding safety to your internal code.

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