I have recently finished a course on Python 3 and I really learned a lot, but every time I write a script, it is messy and I often feel like there must be shorter, more efficient ways to write and structure my scripts.

So my question is: How could I rewrite the below script to be shorter and more efficient, and what advice would you guys give me to improve my coding skills in general (maybe a way of thinking about the program that will make it easier to define the structure of what my script should look like...)

I am really enthused about the possibilities that coding bring and I would really like to improve, so don't hesitate to be harsh with your comments ;)

Here below is one of the scripts I wrote. This one is a hangman game: (The word list for the game are being picked from a .txt file that lives in the same directory as my script)

import string
import random

class Main:

    def __init__(self):
        self.place_holder = []
        self.wrong_guesses = 10
        self.guesses = []
        with open('./words.txt', mode='r') as f:
            self.word = random.choice(f.readlines())
            self.word = self.word.strip()
            print(self.word, end='')
            return self.place_holders()

    def place_holders(self):
        # creates the placeholders for the word
        for char in self.word:
            if char != " ":
                self.place_holder.append(' _ ')
            elif char == " ":
                self.place_holder.append('   ')
        print("".join(self.place_holder))  # prints initial placeholder
        return self.is_letter()

    def guess():
        # Prompts the user for a guess
        while True:
            guessed_letter = input(str('Give a guess: ')).lower()
            if guessed_letter not in string.ascii_lowercase or len(guessed_letter) > 1:
                    'You have inputted more than one character or the character entered was not recognized.\nPlease try again.')
        return guessed_letter

    def is_letter(self):
        # finds out if the letter belongs to the word, and if so, places it on the right placeholder
        guessed_letter = self.guess()
        if guessed_letter in self.word and guessed_letter not in self.guesses:
            for i in range(len(self.word)):
                if guessed_letter == self.word[i]:
                    self.place_holder[i] = f' {self.word[i]} '
        elif guessed_letter in self.guesses:
            print('You already said that..\n')
            self.wrong_guesses -= 1
            print(f'Sorry, missed.\nYou have {self.wrong_guesses} guesses left.\n')

        print("".join(self.place_holder))  # prints the updated placeholder
        return self.is_over()

    def is_over(self):
        # Checks if the players has guessed the full word or if the player ran out of guesses
        if ' _ ' in self.place_holder and self.wrong_guesses > 0:
        elif ' _ ' in self.place_holder and self.wrong_guesses == 0:
            print(f'Sorry, Game Over!\nThe word to guess was: {self.word}')

    def play_again():
        # Prompts the player if he wants to play again or not
        if input('Do you want to play again? (y/n): ').lower().startswith('y'):
            print('Fair enough.. Thanks for playing!')

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Why do you print the word immediately after choosing it? That takes all the challenge out of the game. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 23:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ oh yeah sorry about that, that was just for testing purposes, I guess I forgot to take it out lol \$\endgroup\$
    – iAmWaldo
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 0:41

2 Answers 2


Your code structure is one of infinite recursion. Main() calls placeholder(), which calls is_letter() which calls is_over() which calls is_letter() (recursive), or play_again() which calls Main() (recursive)! Eventually, you will end up with a Stack Overflow if you play long enough!

What you want is a loop. Two loops, actually. Your program should be structured to operate something like:

play_again = True
while play_again:
    # initialize game state
    while not solved and guesses_left:
        # get guess
        # update game state
    play_again = ask_play_again()

No recursive calls are necessary.

You read all lines of the file to choose a random puzzle. When you play again, you again read all lines in the file. Perhaps you could read and store all the puzzles, and each time a game is played, you just select one randomly from the list.

Your placeholders are complicated, 3 character entities. They could just be single characters, and spaces could be added during printing.

self.placeholder = [ "_" if ch != " " else " "  for ch in self.word ]

To print:

print("".join(f" {ch} " for ch in self.placeholder))

Or simply:

print("", "  ".join(self.placeholder))

You should allow for punctuation in the puzzles. Like spaces, these should be directly shown, not converted to underscores.

 _  _  _  _  _  ’  _     _  _  _  _
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! that helps a lot! These are things I didn't even think about, very thoughtful! \$\endgroup\$
    – iAmWaldo
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 0:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ The list comprehension for self.placeholder in this answer is an especially valuable Pythonic technique when you are looking to trim your code. Also, be cautious with quit() as this resets the kernel in some IDEs, such as Spyder (reference here). \$\endgroup\$
    – Miller
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 0:57

Don't unconditionally call Main() from global scope - if someone else imports your file, you want to leave it up to them what should be executed. This is why you should use the if __name__ == '__main__' pattern that we see so often elsewhere.

self.guesses shouldn't be a list. Since you need fast lookup, even though it won't make a noticeable difference, you should be using a set.


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