Add-Equals operator

Shortcuts & tips from an Impatient DBA

This series of short posts will demonstrate some lesser-known features, keyboard shortcuts, and other tips that make my day as a DBA more productive. None of these are groundbreaking super-secret features–they are the little things that I do as part of my daily work that make me more efficient.


This Walkman is old-school, like the code I've been writing
This Walkman is old school, just like the code I’ve been writing

Concatenating strings

You’ve written code that builds out a string. The most common reason I do it is when I’m writing dynamic SQL for my automation code. In fact, you’re probably already thinking of the code you wrote where you did something like this:

DECLARE @sql varchar(4000);
SET @sql = 'SELECT Col001 FROM [table] ';
SET @sql = @sql + ' WHERE 1=2;';  -- Concatenating @sql manually
SELECT @sql;

I’ve been writing code like that for a decade….which is the problem. Ever since SQL Server 2008, I’ve been wasting precious keystrokes.


There’s a better way

SQL Server 2008 introduced an Add-Equals operator (+=) to T-SQL. Somehow, this hidden gem slipped past me. That whole “@sql = @sql +” nonsense can be made a lot easier to read.

DECLARE @sql varchar(4000);
SET @sql =  'SELECT Col001 FROM [table] ';
SET @sql += ' WHERE 1=2;';  -- Concatenation operator
SELECT @sql;

This is logically equivalent to the first version of the code, but I find it makes for more readable code. It just looks cleaner.

For those of us who are lazy looking to maximize efficiency, this could save a whole lot of key strokes.


But wait, there’s more

If you call now, you can have not one, but TWO ShamWows!

DECLARE @shamwow int = 0;
SET @shamwow += 1;
SET @shamwow += 1;
SELECT @shamwow AS ShamWow;

Yup, the Add-Equals operator works with both strings and numbers.

So the next time you talk yourself into writing a loop or a cursor, and you implement a counter, you can save some keystrokes. That makes it efficient, right?

DECLARE @count int = 3;
PRINT 'Numbers less than 100 that are also multiples of three.'
WHILE @count < 100
 PRINT @Count;
 SET @Count += 3;



  1. Great tip, thanks! It looks like other compact operator expressions are also supported, like -=, /=, *=, |=, &=, and ^=, not that the last three are that practical.

  2. This is great unless you are writing code that needs to go against both 2008+ and 2005 instances and you don’t want to generate two separate scripts.

    • Though if you are still supporting SQL 2005 be aware that it officially reached end-of-life in April 2016 so is is no longer supported my MS even for critical security issues, so you should be planning to migrate to a later version ASAP.

  3. What blew my mind was using this in a select statement like:

    Declare @tables varchar(max) = ”
    Select @tables += quotename(name) + ‘; ‘ from sys.tables
    Print @tables

    Pardon any errors, I’m on my mobile device.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Plus Equals Operator – Curated SQL
  2. T-SQL += started in 2008?! | High Altitude SQL: A 9,000' view of Microsoft SQL Server and Access

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