Specifications are necessarily informal or: some more myths of formal methods
We reconsider the concept of specification in order to bring new insights into the debate of formal versus non-formal methods in computer science. In our view, the correctness of a useful program corresponds to an objective fact, which must have a simple, precise, and understandable formulation. As a consequence, a specification can (and must) only make precise the link existing between the program (formality) and its purpose (informality). Moreover, program correctness can be argued only by means of non-formal reasonings, which should be as explicit as possible. This allows us to explain why specifications cannot be written in a strictly formal language. Our view of specifications does not imply a rejection of all ideas put forward in the literature on formal methods. On the contrary, we agree with the proponents of formal methods on most of their arguments, except on those following from the assumption that specifications could (or should) be formal. Finally, we examine why the role and nature of specifications are so often misunderstood. © 1998 Elsevier Science Inc.