Formal methods are a particular kind of mathematically-based techniques for the specification, development and verification of software and hardware systems.

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In order to find subtle bugs in a system design, it is necessary to have a precise description of that design. There are at least two major benefits to writing a precise design: the author is forced to think more clearly, helping eliminate "plausible hand waving," and tools can be applied to check for errors in the design, even while it is being written.