I defined these variables/functions:

(defvar FirstVar-p nil

(defun toggle-first-var ()
  (setq FirstVar-p (not FirstVar-p)))

(defvar SecondVar-p nil

(defun toggle-second-var ()
  (setq SecondVar-p (not SecondVar-p)))

(defvar ThirdVar-p nil

(defun toggle-third-var ()
  (setq ThirdVar-p (not ThirdVar-p)))

Now I want to add a new feature to the functions. I want them to display a message like:

The value of VAR is setted to VALUE

I tried with:

(defun message-variable-t-nil-value (VAR) 
  (let* ((VAR_NAME (symbol-name VAR))
         (MESSAGE (concat "The value of " 
              " is setted to " 
              ;; ??? VALUE as a string ??? 
         (if 'VAR (message (propertize MESSAGE
                                       'face '(:foreground "GreenYellow")))

           ;; *ELSE*
           (message (propertize MESSAGE
                                'face '(:foreground "OrangeRed"))))

The idea is to use it like:

(message-variable-t-nil-value FirstVar-p)

in the funcions. Eg.:

(defun toggle-first-var ()
  (setq FirstVar-p (not FirstVar-p))
  (message-variable-t-nil-value FirstVar))

Is there a built-in function to do it. How can I fix my function?

2 Answers 2


Yes, the function you're looking for is format:

(defun message-variable-t-nil-value (var) 
  (let* ((val  (and (boundp var)  (symbol-value var)))
         (msg  (format "The value of `%S' is now %S" var val)))
    (message (propertize msg 'face `(:foreground ,(if val

The other functions you were looking for are boundp and symbol-value.

It does no good to test 'val for non-nil: it's only nil if val is nil. (Was that what you wanted? I'm assuming instead that you wanted to check whether the symbol is bound as a variable.)


Use format. It's the Lisp equivalent of C's printf. Unlike Common Lisp, Emacs Lisp's format specifications are similar to C's, with % as the special character.

(defun show-value-of-variable (symbol)
  (message (format "The value of %s is %S" symbol (symbol-value symbol))))

%s prints a somewhat human-friendly string, for example without quotes around a string. %S prints a string that can be read back to the same value (except for types that don't have a read syntax).

  • Your functions works but the Drew's one includes the color stuff. Thanks.
    – Gabriele
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 16:42

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