Press "Enter" to skip to content

Fun with NULL

Itzik Ben-Gan takes us through some of the complexities of NULL:

NULL handling is one of the trickier aspects of data modeling and data manipulation with SQL. Let’s start with the fact that an attempt to explain¬†exactly what a NULL is¬†is not trivial in and of itself. Even among people who do have a good grasp of relational theory and SQL, you will hear very strong opinions both in favor and against using NULLs in your database. Like them or not, as a database practitioner you often have to deal with them, and given that NULLs do add complexity to your SQL code writing, it’s a good idea to make it a priority to understand them well. This way you can avoid unnecessary bugs and pitfalls.

This article is the first in a series about NULL complexities. I start with coverage of what NULLs are and how they behave in comparisons. I then cover NULL treatment inconsistencies in different language elements. Finally, I cover missing standard features related to NULL handling in T-SQL and suggest alternatives that are available in T-SQL.

This is definitely worth the read.