SQL Server Text Data Manipulation

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Sometimes there is a need to manipulate string values using T-SQL code. With other languages such as Visual Basic, C++, C#, VBScript, etc... there are a lot of commands at your finger tips to manipulate string values. With SQL Server you don't have all the same options, but there are enough commands that if correctly used together can result in the same functionality you get with other programming languages.


The following is a list of SQL Server T-SQL commands that exist to allow you to manipulate text data either from stored procedures, triggers, functions or embedded SQL code.

Command Description
CHARINDEX( findTextData, textData, [startingPosition] ) Returns the starting position of the specified expression in a character string. The starting position is optional.
LEFT( character_expression , integer_expression ) Returns the left part of a character string with the specified number of characters.
LEN( textData ) Returns integer value of the length of the string, excluding trailing blanks
LOWER ( character_expression ) Returns a character expression after converting uppercase character data to lowercase
LTRIM( textData) Removes leading blanks
PATINDEX( findTextData, textData ) Returns integer value of the starting position of text found in the string
REPLACE( textData, findTextData, replaceWithTextData ) Replaces occurrences of text found in the string with a new value
REPLICATE( character_expression , integer_expression ) Repeats a character expression for a specified number of times.
REVERSE( character_expression ) Returns the reverse of a character expression.
RTRIM( textData) Removes trailing blanks
SPACE( numberOfSpaces ) Repeats space value specified number of times
STUFF( textData, start , length , insertTextData ) Deletes a specified length of characters and inserts another set of characters at a specified starting point
SUBSTRING( textData, startPosition, length ) Returns portion of the string
UPPER( character_expression ) Returns a character expression with lowercase character data converted to uppercase.


The examples below are just simple SELECT statements using hard coded values. You can use these functions when querying your tables, so you can manipulate the string values as you query your data and return the modified result.

Query Value
SELECT CHARINDEX('SQL', 'Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server') 11 (SQL is found in the 11 position)
SELECT CHARINDEX('SQL', 'Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server', 20) 24 (SQL is found in the 24 position, since we started looking in position 20)
SELECT LEFT('Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server' , 20 ) Microsoft SQL Server (left 20 characters of the string)
SELECT LEN('Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server') 33 (total length of the string)
SELECT LOWER('Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server') microsoft sql server - sql server (string in lower case)
SELECT LTRIM( ' Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server ') Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server (trimmed string removing leading spaces)
SELECT PATINDEX( '%SQL%', 'Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server' ) 11 (SQL is found in the 11 position)
SELECT REPLACE( 'Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server', 'Server', 'Server 2005' ) Microsoft SQL Server 2005 - SQL Server 2005 (string after we replace 'Server' with 'Server 2005')
SELECT REPLICATE( 'x' , 10 ) xxxxxxxxxx (x replicated 10 times)
SELECT REVERSE( 'Microsoft SQL Server' ) revreS LQS tfosorciM (string in reverse)
SELECT RTRIM( ' Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server ') Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server (string after removing trailing spaces)
SELECT 'Microsoft' + SPACE(10) + 'SQL Server' Microsoft SQL Server (string after inserting 10 spaces)
SELECT STUFF( 'Microsoft SQL Server', 11 , 3 , '2005' ) Microsoft 2005 Server (string after replacing positions 11, 12, 13 with '2005')
SELECT SUBSTRING( 'Microsoft SQL Server', 1, 9 ) Microsoft (substring of statement starting at position 1 for 9 characters)
SELECT UPPER('Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server') MICROSOFT SQL SERVER - SQL SERVER (string in upper case)

In addition to using the commands by themselves you can use multiple commands at the same time to provide more meaningful results.

Query Value
SELECT LEFT('Microsoft SQL Server', CHARINDEX(' ', 'Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server',13) - 1) Microsoft SQL (find portion of string where a space is found but starting at position 13)
SELECT LEFT('Microsoft SQL Server', CHARINDEX(' ', 'Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server') - 1) Microsoft (find portion of string where a space is found)
SELECT LTRIM(RTRIM(' Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server ')) Microsoft SQL Server - SQL Server (trim leading and trailing spaces)

Next Steps
  • Get familiar with these commands and how they can be used to manipulate text data
  • Look for ways of using multiple commands together to reach the desired results

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Greg Robidoux Greg Robidoux is the President and founder of Edgewood Solutions, a technology services company delivering services and solutions for Microsoft SQL Server. He is also one of the co-founders of MSSQLTips.com. Greg has been working with SQL Server since 1999, has authored numerous database-related articles, and delivered several presentations related to SQL Server. Before SQL Server, he worked on many data platforms such as DB2, Oracle, Sybase, and Informix.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Comments For This Article

Monday, July 13, 2015 - 9:02:11 AM - Kris Maly Back To Top (38188)


Saturday, August 24, 2013 - 6:18:59 AM - Oluyemi Back To Top (26469)


I've been to use the LOWER() and UPPER() functions in SQL.  The challenge I have is to convert string data in a field submitted as e.g. "john loius" or "dennis anthony wood" to "John Loius" or "Dennis Anthony Wood", i.e. capitalising the the first letter in each name.

In MS Excel, there is a function PROPER() that does this kind of conversion.

Is there a way out in SQL to achieve this?

Thank you

Monday, February 18, 2013 - 11:51:01 PM - midhu Back To Top (22254)

where to write this command in ms SQL server2005,

am fresher in database, am using vb2005,vb2008,vb2010

i need to write this type command in button click, is it possible?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 9:18:46 AM - Greg Robidoux Back To Top (16112)

Use the REVERSE function 

SELECT REVERSE( 'Microsoft SQL Server' )

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 1:14:38 AM - Pabitra Day Back To Top (16104)



example Given Below:

" SELECT 'My Name Is Pabitra Day'


SELECT 'Day Pabitra Is Name My' "

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