AND & OR, a cautionary tale

The inspiration for this post is a situation where having the string “OR” or “AND” as an input to a piece of SAS Macro code breaking a program that I had written. Here is a simplified example of what I was doing:

%macro test;
%let doms=GE GT NE LT LE AND OR;
%let lv_count=1;
%do %while (%scan(&doms,&lv_count,’ ‘) ne );
%put &lv_count;
%let lv_count=%eval(&lv_count+1);
%end
%mend test;

%test;

The loop proceeds well until the string “AND” is met and “OR” has the same effect. The result is the following message appears in the log:

ERROR: A character operand was found in the %EVAL function or %IF condition where a numeric operand is required. The condition was:  %scan(&doms,&lv_count,’ ‘) ne
ERROR: The condition in the %DO %WHILE loop, , yielded an invalid or missing value, .  The macro will stop executing.
ERROR: The macro TEST will stop executing.

Both AND & OR (case doesn’t matter but I am sticking with upper case for sake of clarity) seem to be reserved words in a macro DO WHILE loop while equality mnemonics like GE cause no problem. Perhaps, the fact that and equality operator is already in the expression helps. Regardless, the fix is a simple one:

%macro test;
%let doms=GE GT NE LT LE AND OR;
%let lv_count=1;
%do %while (“%scan(&doms,&lv_count,’ ‘)” ne “”);
%put &lv_count;
%let lv_count=%eval(&lv_count+1);
%end
%mend test;

%test;

Now none of the strings extracted from the macro variable &DOMS will appear as bare words and confuse the SAS Macro processor but you do have to make sure that you are testing for the null string (“” or ”) or you’ll send your program into an infinite loop, always a potential problem with DO WHILE loops so they need to be used with care. All in all, an odd looking message gets an easy solution without recourse to macro quoting functions like %NRSTR or %SUPERQ.