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raadee avatar image
raadee asked

Null Value?

Help me out here. I a lot of posts I see people using the term "NULL values". I my mind NULL is not a value, it's a mark for a missing value. So the correct term is NULL(s) or NULL mark. Now I see people write NULL values so often and even BOL uses that term. On the other hand if read a book about foundations of querying (by Microsoft) it clearly states that NULL should not be refered to as a value. Is it ever correct to refer to NULL as a value?
t-sqlnulllanguageterminology
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KenJ avatar image
KenJ answered
It's correct to refer to them as "NULL values" when that's the term by which your audience knows them. When I'm explaining to a company executive why his dashboard report isn't displaying properly, I'm not going to worry about how hardcore the term is, I'm going to describe it in a way the communicates the message, then help get his report fixed.
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So if you know your audience you adapt to that, the 1/3 rule applies hehe. The reason for me asking is that I am making a conscious effort to use correct terminology since I talk a lot about SQL Server with customers and sometimes answer questions in forums. Just to eliminate any possible confusion. For instance sometimes I say SQL but I mean T-SQL. Field/record instead of column/row. And the famous NULL "value". These examples might not cause so much confusion but the use of incorrect terminology could reflect negatively on my knowledge. So regarding NULL I am just trying to get a feel for what people think of it since the term is "misused" without causing so much problems. I got a story today from one of the SQL greats (seminar) where he deliberately misused terminology to piss off people who are really sensitive about it.
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And if your audience is sqlservercentral dbas/devs that look up to you? Do you use correct term then?
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I might. Most likely I'll use the term that was used to frame the discussion. A quick search of this site with google shows that, of about 3,300 hits for 'NULL', almost 1,000 of those are specifically 'NULL value' so I'd probably use 'NULL value' about 1/3 of the time. Unfortunately, for all visual intents and purposes, NULL really is a value. We can see it right there in SSMS when we run a query that has NULL in the results. Just run the following query, you'll see a string value of NULL right in the results: `SELECT NULL`
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Nash9991 avatar image
Nash9991 answered
Hi Rade, To me Null is not a valid value. Its just a replacement value for unknown or missing data. Hence why they use the term "Null Values"
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raadee answered
Yea I get it. This maybe only matters if you are on the SQL board, since most people understand the concept of NULL. But personally I wont call it a value since it isn't hardcore enough haha ;)
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