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Variable names are important in data analysis and administration in SAS (Statistical Analysis System). The following are the main principles for naming SAS variables:

  1. Characters that are acceptable:

Variable names must start with a letter (A-Z) or an underscore (_).

You can use letters, numerals (0-9), or underscores after the first character.

Variable names cannot contain special characters such as @, #, $, %, and so on.

  • Length:

Variable names can contain up to 32 characters.

  • Sensitivity to Cases:

The names of SAS variables are not case sensitive. “Age,” “age,” and “AGE” all refer to the same variable.

  • Reserved Phrases:

Avoid utilising SAS reserved terms as variable names (e.g., if, then, else, do, end, retain, etc.).

  • Names with only numbers:

While it is possible to have variable names that are only integers, it is typically not advised because it might cause confusion.

  • Considerations for Numerical Variables:

If you want to utilise numeric variables with leading zeros (for example, 00123), you must use a format or informat to retain the leading zeros.

  • Characters of Interest:

The periods (.) and hyphens (-) are permitted in variable names, although they have different meanings in SAS:

The period (.) character is used to express a range of variables (for example, var1-var5).

The hyphen (-) is used for subtraction and must be surrounded in square brackets in variable names (e.g., [var-name]).

  • Conventions for Naming:

It’s a good idea to give variables meaningful and descriptive names that reflect the facts they represent. For example, “Age” rather than “Var1.” Leading Spaces:

  • Variable names should not begin with a space.
  • Trailing Areas:

Variable names should not contain any spaces.

  1. Case Persistence:

While SAS does not care about case in variable names, it is recommended to use consistent casing for variable names inside your dataset (e.g., always use lowercase or uppercase).

  1. Special Characters Should Be Avoided:

While some special characters are permitted, it is best to avoid them in variable names to guarantee compatibility and readability.