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I'm not sure if I don't fully understand the basics of functions in php or maybe it is WP convention that I am not sure of. My question is why use an argument in a function when it is not going to be used?

take the following code for example.

add_shortcode( 'tf', 'ch2ts_twitter_feed_shortcode' );

function ch2ts_twitter_feed_shortcode( $atts ) {$output = '<a href="http://twitter.com/ylefebvre">Twitter Feed</a>';
    return $output; }

$attr is not even used but still passed as an argument? Please explain.

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In general, if arguments is not used or the defaults values are to used of an argument/parameter, you don't have to write it out, they can simply be omitted. The only time when you have to pass any value to an argument is when a function expect a valid value to be passed to it in order to properly execute, something like get_terms() which expects the first argument to have a valid taxonomy value

In your example, using shortcodes, it is not necessary to pass $atts as you are not expecting any values from attributes and you have not set up any attributes inside your shortcode function. Your shortcode simply returns a static value. In a case like this, you can simply just omit $atts

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