I'm a bit of an SQL novice.

I've been trying to create an auto generated column called TAG from 5 other columns, some of which can retain NULL marks.

The syntax used to create the auto generated column is:

[Tag]  AS ([Tag Type]+[Parent Tag Type]+[Tag Area No]+[Tag seq No]+[Tag Suffix])

This autogenerates OK if none of the five columns retains a NULL, but if I try to create a row with any one of the columns containing a NULL, the auto generate does not work, and leaves the TAG column blank, even though it creates the row OK with the all the individual column data.

Is there a way I can get the auto generate to work with NULLs?

2 Answers 2


You could use the CONCAT function in SQL Server 2012 or later, which automatically ignores NULL, and implicitly converts the inputs to string types if necessary.


    [Tag Type] char(1) NOT NULL,
    [Parent Tag Type] char(1) NULL,
    [Tag Area No] integer NOT NULL,
    [Tag seq No] integer NOT NULL,
    [Tag Suffix] char(1) NULL,

    [Tag] AS 
        CONCAT([Tag Type], [Parent Tag Type], [Tag Area No], [Tag seq No], [Tag Suffix])

    ([Tag Type], [Parent Tag Type], [Tag Area No], [Tag seq No], [Tag Suffix])
    ('T', NULL, 1234, 1, NULL),
    ('T', 'P', 5678, 1, 'S');



Tag Type | Parent Tag Type | Tag Area No | Tag seq No | Tag Suffix | Tag     
:------- | :-------------- | ----------: | ---------: | :--------- | :-------
T        | null            |        1234 |          1 | null       | T12341  
T        | P               |        5678 |          1 | S          | TP56781S

... and just in case the example was simplified and a separator is to go between the elements, check out CONCAT_WS() introduced in SQL Server 2017.


Yes, you'll need to use ISNULL to do it though:

ISNULL([Tag Type], '') +
ISNULL([Parent Tag Type], '') +
ISNULL([Tag Area No], '') +
ISNULL([Tag seq No], '') +
ISNULL([Tag Suffix], '')

But fair warning, if any row has NULL across the whole thing, you'll end up with an empty string. You may want to wrap the entire thing in ISNULL with a canary value to avoid that if necessary.

Depending on data types, you may also need to CONVERT your columns to a string type inside ISNULL to avoid errors.

  • Fully agree. Pro-tip: doing it this way (or the OP way) has a problem: the tag for Area=Null, Seq=1 is the same as Area=1, Seq=Null. This will never happen to you of course -- until it does. Anyway, it is easy enough to fix: just add in a separator (ISNULL(…, '') + '~' + ISNULL...), OR a value for NULL that will never occur with real data. like ISNULL(…, '~') + ISNULL...
    – Stu
    Jun 15, 2018 at 9:22

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