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When writing computer programs, it is usually possible to discern between a normal course of events and something that’s exceptional (out of the ordinary). Such exceptional events might be errors (such as trying to divide a number by zero) or simply something you might not expect to happen very often. To handle such exceptional events, you might use conditionals everywhere the events might occur (for example, have your program check whether the denominator is zero for every division). However, this would not only be inefficient and inflexible but would also make the programs illegible. You might be tempted to ignore these exceptional events and just hope they won’t occur, but Python offers an exception-handling mechanism as a powerful alternative.
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The preference for try/except in Python is often explained through Rear Admiral Grace Hopper’s words of wisdom, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” This strategy of simply trying to do something and dealing with any errors, rather than doing a lot of checking up front, is called the Leap Before You Look idiom.
Magnus Lie Hetland
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- Chapter 8