Composition with currying

Mar 23, 2021 · Functional programming, JavaScript, Currying · 5 minute read


In my previous blog post about currying I mainly wrote about what currying is and to a lesser extent where it's useful for.

I mentioned how you can compose new functions by specifying some of the arguments up front, which are always the same. That way, when calling the function, you only have to supply the arguments that you only know at the moment you are calling it. This is called partial application and makes your code easier to reason about because you use nice abstractions.

In this blog post I'll write some more about composition, but this time not composing a function from one other function, but composing a function from multiple other, different functions. This is also achieved by using currying.

Logging continued

In this blog post we'll continue on the logging functionality we started with in Part 1. I changed the code a bit, now the log function is split into a function that formats the log message and one that writes a message to the console. I also added a function that writes a message to a file:

function formatLog(datetime, severity, message) {
  return `${datetime} [${severity}] - ${message}`;

function writeToConsole(message) {
  return message;

function writeToFile(filePath, message) {
  fs.appendFile(filePath, message + "\n", (err) => {
    if (err) throw err;
  return message;

These functions are the building blocks of the logging solution we are going to work with in this blog post.

What we can do now is call and combine different functions to achieve what we want by nesting them:

// Write a log message to the console:
writeToConsole(formatLog(new Date().toISOString(), "INFO", "Hello World"));

// Write a log message to a file:
  formatLog(new Date().toISOString(), "INFO", "Hello World")

// Write a log message to both the console and a file:
  writeToConsole(formatLog(new Date().toISOString(), "INFO", "Hello World"))

What I am doing here is combining function calls by nesting them. This is not composition.

Composition by piping

What I would like to do instead is compose a new function that does the nesting for me, so I only need to mention which functions I want to be called in sequence, making my code look nicer. This is a form of composition that is called piping:

// Compose a new function by piping (or chaining) some functions into a new function that does logging for us:
const logInfoToFile = pipe(formatLog, writeToConsole, writeToFile);

// Call the function we just composed to do some logging:
logInfoToFile("Hello World");

Notice how we are using the same three functions we also used when nesting, but this time we don't call them but pass them to a pipe function which creates a new function for us: composition.

However, the code above does not work, because we haven't defined the pipe function yet. But because we are doing functional programming, this code is already quite easy to reason about.

This is the pipe function:

const pipe = (...fns) => (x) => fns.reduce((y, f) => f(y), x);

Just like the curry function I showed you in Part 1, the pipe function is probably not something you'd build yourself, but use from libraries like Lodash, Ramda, etc.

What the pipe function does is composing a function that calls the provided functions nested, just like we did by hand earlier. The only thing we did is abstracted that away for convenience and readability.

However, when we pass the three functions to pipe and then call the logInfoToFile function we only pass a message. But what about all the other arguments, like the datetime and severity for formatLog and the filepath for the writeToFile function?

To be able to do piping we need a predictable interface for each function, so they always fit together. And the only way to achieve that is by requiring that every function not only always returns a value, but it also always expects exactly one parameter.

That way, the return value from the first function is the argument for the next, which also returns one value, that is passed to the next function, etc., and so you can combine any number of functions you want.

However, the formatLog and writeToFile need multiple arguments, so they are not suitable for this way of composition yet.

Currying to the rescue

In my previous blog post about currying I showed you how we can transform any function to a curried function so that it can only receive one argument at a time. So that's what we are going to do now to solve our composition problem.

Here is the curry function from that blog post and we'll use it to curry both the log and writeToFile functions, so we can partially apply them with the logInfo and writeToLogFile functions, respectively:

function curry(fn) {
  return function curried(...args) {
    if (args.length >= fn.length) return fn(...args);
    return function (a) {
      return curried(...[...args, a]);

const curriedFormatLog = curry(formatLog);
const datetime = { toString: () => newDate().toISOString() };
const formatLogInfo = curriedFormatLog(datetime)("INFO");

const curriedWriteToFile = curry(writeToFile);
const writeToLogFile = curriedWriteToFile("/path/to/file");

The formatLogInfo function already passes two of the three arguments that formatLog expects, so there is only one (message) left. The same for writeToLogFile, which already passes file path, so also there only the message is left.

Now we can pipe the logging functions like this so the return value of each function is passed as an argument to the next function:

// Pipe (or chain) some functions into a new function that does logging for us:
const logInfoToFile = pipe(formatLogInfo, writeToConsole, writeToLogFile);

// Let's do some logging:
logInfoToFile("Hello World");

Look how clean this code is! If I don't want to log to the console anymore, just remove that function from the pipe arguments. And I can compose many other functions, each with their own applicable combination of functions.


What we did in this post is making declarative code by combining several building blocks together, which was made possible because of currying.

The logging solution is not meant to be used in a production situation, it is merely illustrative for how a real world situation could look like, but I hope you see the characteristics, and even benefits, of currying by now.

By writing this blog posts, which involved quite some experimenting with JavaScript, I learned yet another way of thinking and approaching code, and I start seeing more and more possibilities for using currying. The more I do it, functional programming really starts growing on me.

Checkout the code on this gist:

More on currying and composition:

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