Do you know how to write a great Pull Request (PR)?

Last updated by Brady Stroud [SSW] 3 months ago.See history

As a software developer, you are going to create Pull Requests (PRs) that you want to be easy for others to review and approve. The quality of a Pull Request can vary - from cryptic to well-written.

Including a little bit of context helps your reviewer understand changes quickly so they can review your PR faster and give better suggestions.

There are 2 easy things you can do to improve your Pull Request:

1. Write a concise and self-explanatory title

The key to writing a concise Pull Request is to base the PR itself on a PBI / issue.

Good titles cover:

  • What the Pull Request will do
  • How the Pull Request achieved it
  • Emojis! Follow the standard


PBI title: Product Backlog Item 100359: "Desktop App | Exporting occasionally failed"

Pull Request title: Fix exporting

Bad example - Pull Request title does not tell what issues have been fixed and how

Pull Request title: 🐛 BUG - Fix desktop app exporting - prevent database concurrent access while exporting

Good example - Pull Request title briefly describes the fix that it has

Having the "What" information allows the reviewers to quickly understand what this is about while having the "How" can help the reviewer to quickly understand how your PR solved the problem. Sometimes we might want to put the "How" in the PR body if it is too long or hard to explain in one sentence.

2. Write a clear and concise description

The Pull Request description is a medium for the developer to tell the reviewers what the changes are about.

Tip: For straight-forward changes the self-explanatory title might be enough. You should still include context so the reviewer knows what initiated the changes (examples below)

Good descriptions cover:

Linking the source to a PR serves as documentation on which development work that was done. It helps in the future to debug when and which changes were introduced and the original specification of that piece of work.

Tip: If you noticed that a change needed to be made and had no specific task/issue, use 'I noticed...' from above.

  • Pair or mob programming?

As per Do you use Co-Creation Patterns?. E.g. "Worked with @bob, @mary and @jane"

  • What the PR is about and why you raised it
  • How the PR will achieve the feature / fix the bug / other goals
  • Screenshots / Done Videos to help the reviewer to understand the changes. E.g. Styling changes
  • Tell reviewers if there is an area you are uncertain about. E.g. "I'm looking for feedback on this code"

PR title: Update Rule “meaningful-pbi-titles/rule”

PR description:

Figure: Bad example - Cannot tell what was done here

PR title: Update Rule “meaningful-pbi-titles/rule”

PR description: Added missing video caption + removed unnecessary brackets

Figure: OK example - Clear and concise description, however it's not clear what task triggered the change

PR title: Update Rule “meaningful-pbi-titles/rule”

PR description: From email, subject: SSW.Rules - Video caption missing Added missing video caption + removed unnecessary brackets

Figure: Good example - It's clear what changes are being made and where the task came from

There is also well-known Pull Request semantics like Conventional Commits on how to write a PR body, but we can still have a great PR without using such preciseness.

How to approach making a Pull Request

Video: 5 Tips For Better Pull Requests (11 min)


Q: Are you making many small changes?

A: You should summarize by saying: “Improved readability” OR “Fixed typos and grammar”.

Q: Are the changes big and complex?

A: You should include a demonstration of the change.
E.g. A screenshot to show text/UI changes, or a Done video to demo functionality changes.

Q: Are you using a CMS editor (like Netlify or Tina)

A: CMS editors may automatically add a placeholder description. If you're using a CMS to make your changes, you may need to go to the PR afterward and update the description to include the context.

Tip: Ensure devs follow these tips by using a template. Learn more and check out a template example.

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