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The language in which programs are written can have a substantial effect on their reliability. This paper discusses the design of programming languages to enhance reliability. It presents several general design principles, and then applies them to particular languages constructs. Since the validity of such design principles cannot be logically proved, empirical evidence is needed to support or discredit them. A major experiment to measure the effect of nine specific language-design decisions in one context has been performed. Analysis of the frequency and persistence of errors shows that several decisions had a significant impact on reliability.