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sp_help And Column Lengths

Jon Morisi looks at an oddity with the way that sp_help shows column length:

I was working with a contractor today who was having difficulty providing me back details on a table definition.  I was specifically interested in a particular column’s data type and size.  (This was related to an ETL process I was working on, and my desire to avoid any implicit conversions).

The reply I got back was, “the column you’re interested in is an nvarchar(100)”.  After continued digging and troubleshooting, I was eventually able to sort out that it was actually an nvarchar(50).

I put together this TEST table to illustrate where the confusion came from.  Can you spot what’s going on?

There’s an interesting explanation which makes me dislike sp_help just a little bit more.