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The sqlfmt style

The only thing you can configure with sqlfmt is the desired line length of the formatted file. You can do this with the --line-length or -l options. The default is 88.

Given the desired line length, sqlfmt has three objectives:

  1. Break and indent lines to make the syntactical structure of the code apparent.
  2. Combine lines to use the least possible vertical space, without violating the line-length constraint or the structure in #1.
  3. Standardize capitalization (to lowercase) and in-line whitespace.

sqlfmt borrows elements from well-accepted styles from other programming languages. It places opening brackets on the same line as preceding function names (like Black for python and 1TBS for C). It indents closing brackets to the same depth as the opening bracket (this is extended to statements that must be closed, like case and end).

The sqlfmt style is as simple as possible, with little-to-no special-casing of formatting concerns. While at first blush, this may not create a format that is as "nice" or "expressive" as hand-crafted indentation, over time, as you grow accustomed to the style, formatting becomes transparent and the consistency will allow you to jump between files, projects, and even companies much faster.

Why lowercase?

There are several reasons that sqlfmt insists on lowercase SQL keywords:

  1. We believe that SQL is code (this is a surprisingly controversial statement!). Shouting-case keywords perpetuate the myth that SQL isn't "real code", or isn't "modern" and somehow is trapped in the era of low-level imperative languages: BASIC, COBOL, and FORTRAN. The reality is that SQL is an incredibly powerful, declarative, and modern language. It should look like one.
  2. Syntax highlighting for SQL makes shouting-case keywords redundant; the syntax highlighter in any text editor is going to be more consistent than any manual shout-casing. If you have a SQL query as a string inside of a block of code in another language, you may want to capitalize your keywords; sqlfmt only operates on dedicated SQL (and templated sql) files, so this is not relevant. However, even without syntax highlighting, the hierarchical and consistent indentation provided by sqlfmt provides sufficient visual structure without shout-casing keywords.
  3. Even among people who like shout-cased keywords, there are disagreements between what gets shout-cased. SELECT, sure, but SUM? AS? OVER? AND? All-lowercase keywords eliminates this potential source of irregularity and disagreement.
  4. Research shows that generally, lowercase words are more readable.

Why trailing commas?

  1. Using trailing commas follows the convention of every other written language and programming language.
  2. Leading commas require placing the first field name on the same line as select, which can obscure that field (especially with select distinct top 25 ...).
  3. SQL query compilation is extremely fast; the "cost" of "last field" errors is very low. Some dialects (e.g., BigQuery, DuckDB) even allow a trailing comma in the final field of a select statement.
  4. Trailing commas generalize better within select statements (e.g. group by and partition by clauses) and in other kinds of SQL statements (e.g. insert statements).


sqlfmt will put very short queries on a single line:

FROM my_table


select a, b, c from my_table

If a query doesn't fit on a single line, sqlfmt will format the query to make its hierarchy apparent. The main keywords in a select statement are the top nodes in hierarchy. Individual fields are indented a single level; unless all fields fit on the same line as select, they must all be individually split onto their own lines. This is properly formatted code:

with t as (select * from my_schema."my_QUOTED_ table!")
(one_field + another_field) as c,
from t
where one_field < another_field

Note that the main keywords, with, select, from, and where, are indented to the same depth. If their arguments fit on a single line (as in with, from, and where), they stay on that line, with the keyword. However, unless all arguments for a keyword fit on one line, they are all wrapped to their own line, and indented:

a_long_cte_name as (
select my_field, sum(another_field) from my_schema."my_QUOTED_ table!"
(one_field + another_field) as c,
from a_long_cte_name
one_field < another_field
and two_field > another_field
and three_field = another_field

Any expressions wrapped in parentheses are similarly one-lined if possible, and split if they are too long.

This hierarchical indentation scales to arbitrarily complex and nested expressions. Another example of properly formatted code (at line length of 88):

sum(a) over () as b,
row_number() over () as c,
count(case when a is null then 1 end) over (
partition by user_id, date_trunc('year', performed_at)
) as d,
coalesce(one_field, another_field, yet_another_field) ignore nulls
) over (
partition by user_id
order by performed_at desc
rows between unbounded preceding and unbounded following
) as e
from my_table

More Examples

We have forked some popular open-source SQL projects and formatted them: