Readability vs. Consistency: Choosing the Right Naming Convention for Your SQL Tables


Arguments for Plural Names:

  • Readability: It feels more natural because a table typically stores many records, like a drawer full of "Socks".
  • SQL Statements: Queries like "SELECT * FROM Customers" can feel clearer than "SELECT * FROM Customer".
  • Entity Definition: A table defines the structure for a single record, like a blueprint for a "House", not the collection of houses.
  • Consistency: Singular names avoid issues with irregular plurals in English (e.g., "Mouse" becomes "Mice").
  • Object-Relational Mapping (ORMs): Some tools that translate between databases and programming languages work better with singular names.

Common Ground:

  • Consistency is Key: Whichever approach you choose, stick to it throughout your database for clarity.
  • Consider Documentation: If using singular names, document that the table holds multiple records.

Additional Points:

  • SQL Server Naming Conventions: While some resources suggest singular names as a standard, it's not universally enforced.
  • Modern Trends: Some argue that with the rise of web development frameworks, readability gains from plural names are less important, making singular names more common.

Scenario: We have a database table to store information about customers.

Plural Table Name (Customers):

CREATE TABLE Customers (
  CustomerID int PRIMARY KEY,
  CustomerName varchar(255) NOT NULL,
  Email varchar(255),
  Phone varchar(20)

SELECT * FROM Customers;  -- Selects all records from the Customers table
  CustomerID int PRIMARY KEY,
  Name varchar(255) NOT NULL,  -- Notice "Name" instead of "CustomerName"
  Email varchar(255),
  Phone varchar(20)

SELECT * FROM Customer;  -- Selects all records from the Customer table

  1. Descriptive Names: Instead of focusing on singular vs. plural, prioritize clear and descriptive names that reflect the table's content.

    • Example: OrderHistory instead of just Orders.
  2. Prefixed Names: Use a prefix to categorize tables, especially in large databases.

    • Example: prod_Customers for production data and dev_Customers for development data.
  3. Abbreviations: For very common entities, consider using short, well-understood abbreviations.

    • Example: Cust for Customers (use cautiously for less common terms).
  4. Language-Specific Conventions: If your database interacts with a specific programming language, consider its naming conventions for consistency.

    • Example: Some frameworks might favor singular names with PascalCase (e.g., Customer).

sql sql-server naming-conventions

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