Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

ERROR: Invalid value for width specified – width out of range

8th June 2010

This could be the beginning of a series on error messages from PROC SQL that may appear unclear to a programmer more familiar with Data Step. The cause of my getting the message that heads this posting is that there was a numeric variable with a length less that the default of 8, not the best of situations. Sadly, the message doesn’t pin point the affected variable so it took some commenting out of pieces of code before I found the cause of the problem. That’s never to say that PROC SQL does not have debugging functionality in the form of FEEDBACK, NOEXEC, _METHOD and _TREE options on the PROC SQL line itself or the validation statement but neither of these seemed to help in this instance. Still, they’re worth keeping in mind for the future as is SAS Institute’s own page on SQL query debugging. Of course, now that I know what might be the cause, a simple PROC SQL report using the dictionary tables should help. The following code should do the needful:

proc sql;
select memname, name, type, length
from dictionary.columns
where libname="DATA" and type="num" and length ne 8;


  • Gary Beck says:

    I was getting this error in the log through using a case statement which checked the value of a character column and then applied a different (numeric) format according to the value to another numeric column to output from the case a simple Y or N flag. By adding 8 to the format e.g. myfmt8. the error disappeared.

  • John says:

    Gary, thanks for sharing this

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