Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

SAS Macro and Dataline/Cards Statements in Data Step

28th October 2008

Recently, I tried code like this in a SAS macro:

data sections;
infile datalines dlm=",";
input graph_table_number $15. text_line @1 @;
"11.1           ,Section 11.1",
"11.2           ,Section 11.2",
"11.3           ,Section 11.3"

While it works in its own right, including it as part of a macro yielded this type of result:

ERROR: The macro X generated CARDS (data lines) for the DATA step, which could cause incorrect results.  The DATA step and the macro will stop executing.

A bit of googling landed me on SAS-L where I spotted a solution like this one that didn’t involving throwing everything out:

filename temp temp;

data _null_;
file temp;

data sections;
length graph_table_number $15 text_line $100;
infile temp dlm=",";
input @;
do _infile_=
"11.1           ,Section 11.1",
"11.2           ,Section 11.2",
"11.3           ,Section 11.3"
input graph_table_number $15. text_line @1 @;

filename temp clear;

The filename statement and ensuing data step creates a dummy file in the SAS work area that gets cleared at the end of every session. That seems to fool the macro engine into thinking that input is from a file and not the CARDS/DATALINES method to which it takes grave exception. The trailing @’s hold an input record for the execution of the next INPUT statement within the same iteration of the DATA step so that the automatic variable _infile_ can be fed as part of the input process in a do block with the output statement ensure that new records from the input buffer reach the data set being created.

This method does work but I would like to know the underlying reason as to why SAS Macro won’t play well with included data entry using DATALINES or CARDS statements in a data step, particularly when it allows other methods that using either SQL insert statements or standard variable assignment in data step. I find it such a curious behaviour that I remain on the lookout for the explanation why it is like this.


  • ljo says:


    As matter of fact, the SAS documentation presents a warning relevant to your issue but I have to admit that it doesn’t say why it is like that and I don’t have the answer.

    “A macro definition must precede the invocation of that macro in your code. The %MACRO statement can appear anywhere in a SAS program, except within data lines. A macro definition cannot contain a CARDS statement, a DATALINES statement, a PARMCARDS statement, or data lines. Use an INFILE statement instead.” in Help / Macro Language Dictionary / %MACRO Statement, SAS V9.1

    But does it really matter? As you wrote it, there is always an alternative solution with SAS. And sometimes, I have to say it’s not always pertinent to put everything in a macro. A review of the way you are building your application/program can be the solution because it helps to get things done in a most understandable way.

  • John says:

    That warning in the SAS Documentation is certainly consistent with all that I have seen on the subject. It makes me wonder whether DATALINES, etc. would throw out the SAS Macro processor for some reason but I have yet to see that confirmed anywhere. Your comments on program design are certainly pertinent since I have been planning to get what I was creating to read in from a text file but that’s on hold pending the resolution of other things first.

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