An Idea Exchange for SAS software and services

by SAS Employee SueKocher
on ‎08-02-2016 05:07 PM

Hi there, ChrisNZ, 
Does "NZ" mean you're a Kiwi?  Smiley Happy You might not fly, but you have good eyes!


As the terminologist at SAS in Cary, I am pleased to see users bringing such "word issues" to our attention. We want to be clear and grammatical in our log and error messages. We also want to avoid causing even momentary feelings of puzzlement or annoyance as our customers use our software products. It matters to you, and it matters to us at SAS.


If you can tell me where you are seeing these messages, Chris, I will endeavor to revise them.


For word nerds who might be interested in knowing why such messages occur, read on:

They are someone's attempt to make one message work for most situations, if not all. When error and confirmation messages are coded, they have positional "placeholders" for generated data, and look something like this:

              NOTE: The data set {0} has {1} observations and {2} variables.


We can't put /s or (s) at the end of singular nouns to indicate that they might be plural, because that won't work for translation into other languages. So this person assumed that the plural form would usually be correct.


I would advocate that such strings be rewritten as follows:

              NOTE: The data set "{0}" has been created. Observations: {1}. Variables: {2}


If you have further feedback, reply to this message and I'll get back to you!



by PROC Star
on ‎08-02-2016 05:40 PM

Hi Sue, Yes, writing from beautiful GodZone.

The second version is not much better, and not worth spending any time on, imho.

I was involved in translating SAS in an earlier life, and the only way I can see this fly is that the sentence is further split.
NOTE: The data set {0} has {1} {2} and {3} {4}. 

where there are two possible values for {2} and {4} and these values depend on {1} and {3} respectively.


by Community Manager
on ‎08-03-2016 10:17 AM

@SueKocher, the grammar nerd in me loves your detailed reply.

by Community Manager
on ‎08-03-2016 12:37 PM

 Hi @ChrisNZ,


I invited @SueKocher to reply because:

  • She's very interested in wording, grammar, and software globalization issues.  She's definitely a Word Nerd.
  • She's on staff as a "Terminologist", and I thought it would be interesting for people to learn that we value these concerns so much that we have staff devoted to grammar and terminology in our software.

Your specific concern (plural mismatch) is something that we definitely look out for in all new software products and messages that we create.  However, there are big implications for changing legacy messages, especially in Base SAS, that would cause more problems than relief in this case.  Many SAS customers, especially those in regulated industries, retain benchmarks of SAS output (including logs) that are used to validate repeated SAS job runs over time.  Any adjustment to message wording would break those benchmarks.  


I know that here at SAS whenever we make a change in a message, it has the potential to break our own benchmarks that we use to validate everything is working properly.  Usually we take such a change only if the message has not shipped yet (no customer impact) and we provide lots of internal "heads up" warnings to the developers and testers affected.  Then everyone knows they need to rebench their tests so they pass as valid.


While it's not my decision to make (ultimately), I'm pretty confident in saying this specific idea (for these long-lived messages) won't get implemented...but any software/messages created over the past few years do take these grammar concerns into account.

by PROC Star
on ‎08-03-2016 06:06 PM

I love the title "Terminologist". A title to be proud of! Smiley Happy

And good on SAS for having a terminologist on staff!

One error message changed with 9.4 and I remember it broke things here, so I can see your point.

And I acknowledge the foolishness of my using the adverb "easily" in my suggestion.

Thank you all for your kind comments.

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