I need to produce mailing labels from my SQL Server database so I am using the + sign for concatenation the first, middle, and last names together. The issue I see is I get NULL for a lot of rows. This makes me unable to produce the full names.
What are some options to address this problem? Check out this tip to learn
more about concatenating data in SQL Server.
Prior to SQL Server 2012 concatenation was accomplished by using the plus (+) sign to concatenate fields together. The limitation of this method is if any of the fields you are concatenating are NULL, the entire result is NULL. With the introduction of SQL Server 2012 there is a new CONCAT() function that replaces NULL with an empty string. Take a look at this tip to see how this new function works and how it can be beneficial in your code.
For this demo I am going to use the Person.Person table from the AdventureWorks2012 database to demo having to generate a full name for creating mailing labels. First, the code below is the old technique to perform concatenation using the + sign:
SELECT Title, FirstName, MiddleName, LastName, Title+ ' ' + FirstName + ' ' + MiddleName + ' ' + LastName as MailingName FROM Person.Person
As you can see in the screen shot below the MailingName is NULL for any row that has NULL for any one of the
name columns. The only rows that have MailingName filled in have a value for all the title, firstname, middlename, and lastname columns. This could be corrected by wrapping
ISNULL(column,'') around all the columns in the concatenated field to account for any values having nulls, but that code gets long, messy, and hard to read.
Below is an example is using
ISNULL along with the plus sign for concatenation. The
ISNULL function will replace null values with the value noted in the second parameter, which in this example is an empty string.
SELECT Title, FirstName, MiddleName, LastName, ISNULL(Title,'') + ' ' + ISNULL(FirstName,'') + ' ' + ISNULL(MiddleName,'') + ' ' + ISNULL(LastName,'') as MailingName FROM Person.Person
As you can see in the example below, the MailingName is no longer NULL as it replaced the NULL values with an empty string. This achieves the same as using the CONCAT() function, but requires a lot more code and readability.
The next set of code is using the new CONCAT() function, new to SQL Server 2012. It replaces NULL values with an empty string of type VARCHAR(1). This code is much easier to read and write when you need to have NULL code handling in place.
SELECT Title, FirstName, MiddleName, LastName, CONCAT(Title,' ',FirstName,' ',MiddleName,' ',LastName) as MailingName FROM Person.Person
If you see the results of this, all MailingName values are present, even if they have some of the columns set to NULL.
As you can see this new function is very handy and behaves much different that the old form of concatenation. Instead of evaluating to NULL if any if the columns contain NULL values, the CONCAT() function replaces it with an empty string. This is very useful for coding around NULL values.
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Last Update: 2013-07-22
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