So I developed some code as part of a larger project. I came upon a problem with how to match paragraphs, and wasn't sure how to proceed, so I asked on Stack Overflow here. You can find an in-depth description of my problem there if you're curious.

Just to be clear, I am not reposting the same question here to get an answer.

I came up with a solution to my own problem, but I'm unsure of limits/pitfalls, and here seems like the perfect place for that.

The short version on the explanation is this: I have two strings, one is the revised version of the other. I want to generate markups and preserve the paragraph spacing, thus, I need to correlate the list of paragraphs in each, match them, and then mark the remaining as either new or deleted.

So I have a function (paraMatcher()) which matches paragraphs and returns a list of tuples as follows:

  • (num1, num2) means that the best match for revised paragraph num1 is original paragraph num2

  • (num, '+') means that there is no match for revised paragraph num, so it must be new (designated by the '+')

  • (num, '-') means that no revised paragraph was matched to original paragraph num so it must have been deleted (designated by the '-')

So without further adiue, here is my function:

def paraMatcher(orParas, revParas):  
    THRESHOLD = 0.75
    matchSet = []
    shifter = 0

    for revPara in revParas:
        print "Checking revPara ", revParas.index(revPara)
        matchTuples = [(difflib.SequenceMatcher(a=orPara,b=revPara).ratio(), orParas.index(orPara)) for orPara in orParas]
        print "MatchTuples: ", matchTuples
        if matchTuples:
            bestMatch = sorted(matchTuples, key = lambda tup: tup[0])[-1]
            print "Best Match: ", bestMatch
            if bestMatch[0] > THRESHOLD:
                print orParas
                matchSet.append((revParas.index(revPara), bestMatch[1] + shifter))
                shifter += 1
                matchSet.append((revParas.index(revPara), "+"))

        print ""
        print "---------------"
        print ""

    if orParas:
        print "++++++++++++++dealing with extra paragraphs++++++++++++++"
        print orParas
        for orPara in orParas:
            matchSet.insert(orParas.index(orPara) + shifter, (orParas.index(orPara) + shifter, "-"))

    return matchSet 

While I definitely want review of general coding style, etc, here are a few issues that I'm really interested in getting feedback on:

  • The function needs to be called with copies of the lists (paraMatcher(lst1[:], lst2[:]))
  • How might this fail?
  • How do I determine an appropriate value for THRESHOLD

Some Extra Notes:

  • I've left the diagnostic printing in there in case any of you want to test it
  • Due to other parts of the code, its more convenient that this function take lists of paragraphs as arguments, rather than the strings
  • I don't think it matters, but this is 32-bit Python 2.7.6 running on 64-bit Windows 7

1 Answer 1


A few tips for leaner code:

  • Use enumerate while iterating when you need the index, to avoid the sequential search and extra verbosity of orParas.index(orPara). For example the last loop becomes

    for orIndex, orPara in enumerate(orParas):
        matchSet.insert(orIndex + shifter, (orIndex + shifter, "-"))
  • max(matchTuples) achieves the same as sorted(matchTuples, key = lambda tup: tup[0])[-1] and avoids sorting. You could even give a key argument to max, but tuples are sorted item by item anyway, and here the second item is an ascending integer, so including it in the sort key does not change the order.

  • Unpacking bestRatio, bestIndex = max(matchTuples) improves readability as you can use bestRatio instead of bestMatch[0] in the code that follows.

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