Changing my Mind on When to Include Table Names in SQL Queries

I haven’t made too many changes to how I write SQL recently, but I did adopt a new convention recently that I really like so wanted to share.

In the past, I would have written the following query like so:

  sum(amount) as total_revenue
from users
inner join charges on = charges.user_id

Note that this does not prefix email or amount with the table name where they came from.

Claire Caroll of dbt fame recently pinged me to suggest a change: whenever there’s a join involved, you should include the table name to make it clear where the column originated. The query above would look like this:

  sum(charges.amount) as total_revenue
from users
inner join charges on = charges.user_id

When there’s no join involved, it’s fine to leave it out because there’s no room for confusion:

from companies

I’ve been following this convention for a few weeks and really like it because there’s zero ambiguity when seeing this around where each column originated. It’s more verbose obviously, but I think the extra clarity outweighs that downside.

I’ve updated the style guide to reflect this guide.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – do you always include the name name, only when necessary, or follow a convention like this and only include it when joins are involved?