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Kalen Delaney

Did You Know? There is no such thing as A SQL Server

I've finished my last chapter of SQL Server 2008 Internals, and now I am doing author reviews. The editors are complaining about the way I use the term "SQL Server". Sometimes I say "Your SQL Server should be configured ...." or refer to SQL Server using this or that resource. The copyeditors keep trying to change my wording and rewrite it as "Your computer running SQL Server..." or they want me say that the SQL Server computer is using this or that resource. I wrote to my main editor that SQL Server and Computer running SQL Server are not synonymous. She said that Microsoft's legal department has very strict requirements. Here is part of a passage she sent me:

SQL Server
SQL Server is the name of the Microsoft software product. At first mention and occasionally thereafter within a document, use Microsoft SQL Server. When referring to a computer running Microsoft SQL Server, use a computer running SQL Server (note the capital S). Never use the SQL Server, a SQL Server, or SQL Servers.

This didn't completely answer my question, so after another round of email, she said I could use "server running SQL Server". But I thought that in addition to being very awkward, most people will still interpret that to mean the computer.   Was I correct?

And on this topic of things my editors insist upon changing... every acronym has to be spelled out. I agree that spelling out can sometimes help, but sometimes it provides no additional benefit, or even adds additional confusion.  Plus, since my books are for advanced users, I expect the readers to have some background. For example, do I need to spell out "Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks" instead of writing RAID? (or maybe it should be "independent disks"?) Will writing "Small Computer System Interface" really help you understand if you don't know what SCSI is? Will writing "Object Linking and Embedding DataBase" help you understand what OLEDB is, or will it just confuse you? I may be fighting a losing battle here.

Oh well... back to my reviewing.


Published Monday, December 15, 2008 5:08 PM by Kalen Delaney
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AllenMWhite said:

It's sad when editors without technical understanding and legal departments (also not known for their technical knowledge) dictate how material we techies rely on for clear explanations.  Their policies will make it harder to get the critical information we need when we need it.

December 15, 2008 7:50 PM

scott herbert said:

On the topic of acronyms, that's what a glossary is for. I take the point that SCSI etc shouldn't need to be spelled out, but it does get my goat when books make the assumption that the reader is at the same techo knowledge as the writer.

December 15, 2008 8:03 PM

Kalen Delaney said:

I thought that's what was for!



December 15, 2008 8:08 PM

a.m. said:

I hate copy editors sometimes--they're a necessary evil, I guess.  Your story reminds me of a magazine I wrote for a year or two back that had a general rule: Absolutely no passive voice.  The copy editor ripped my article to shreds, in the process changing the meaning of 50% of the sentences, and it took me hours to get it more or less back into shape.  Nightmare...

December 15, 2008 8:22 PM

Daniel said:

SQL itself is an acronym, just be happy you're not writing a book on PCMCIA cards...

December 15, 2008 8:27 PM

Linchi Shea said:

I did learn a lot from the copy editor. But being forced to spell out I/O was just a little too much to take.

Now that we are so used to these SQL Server Internals books, someone should write a SQL Server Externals.

December 15, 2008 8:42 PM

KKline said:

The first book I wrote was about Oracle's first WYSIWYG editing tools, the Cooperative Development Environment.  Now that's a mouthful!

December 15, 2008 10:12 PM

Bernd Eckenfels said:

Well, if you have to spell Acronyms (which in most of the cases are names) out at every instance, that will really hurt. But if you can use a glossary and maybe in addition introduce the acronym once "SQL (Structured Query Lauage is ...." it is at least acceptable to read (you still will  look stupid *G* if you write that way)



December 16, 2008 2:49 AM

Graham Toms said:

Surely when you refer to SQL Server you are often referring to the SQL Server <i>process</i>, not the computer nor the marketed product.  For example 'the SQL Server process needs x amount of memory'. In this case I think shortening it to read 'the SQL Server needs x amount of memory' makes perfeect sense however to say 'the computer running SQL Server needs x amount of memory' is not correct. The amount of memory will depend on the number of instances of the SQL Server process installed and whether that server is running any other processes.

I have always found your way of writing to be very easy to understand, so please, for those of us who form your audience, stick to your guns and say what you originally meant.


December 16, 2008 5:20 AM

Hugo Kornelis said:

Hi Kalen,

I don't think it's correct to replace "the SQL Server" with "the computer running SQL Server", as the computer is not the same thing as the SQL Server service.

When I read "the SQL Server", I ususlly take it to refer to the service. Not the computer or the server (since (a) that's just a bunch of hardware, and (b) that computer might be running multiple instances, or other processes as well).

So maybe you can please your editor by changing this the "The SQL Server service"?

Best, Hugo

December 16, 2008 5:26 AM

a.m. said:

Maybe "instance" rather than "service" or "process"?  But either way, imagine how many times that will have to be used in a 600-page SQL Server book.  One could save a LOT of ink--and keystrokes--by simply saying "SQL Server".

December 16, 2008 7:59 AM

mhouse said:

Maybe you could include a copy of the book with the acronyms in place on the accompanying compact disc read-only memory.

December 16, 2008 11:06 AM

Buck Woody said:

Technically, it's "SQL Server Instance". Like this:

"On your SQL Server Instance, ensure that the databases are backed up on a regular schedule or event."

While that is splitting hairs, and most people know what you're saying when you use "SQL Server", it is more accurate to say "Instance". And many users out here are in multi-Instance environments, so it can make a difference based on whether you're talking about the system or the Instance.

- Buckster

December 16, 2008 11:15 AM

a.m. said:

Not to split already-split hairs, Buck, but you shouldn't capitalize the "I" in "instance" in that example sentence...

December 16, 2008 11:39 AM

Kalen Delaney said:

Thanks Buck and Adam ...

Yes, I was just about to reply to Hugo's comment about SQL Server Process, that I think we had almost agreed that I could use SQL Server instance instead. My editor wasn't happy about it, but she agreed she wouldn't change it.

However, there are still times that instance doesn't quite work, as when I am talking about general requirements of SQL Server. Just saying instance usually makes it sound like I am referring to one specific instance, and that isn't right. So it's taking a bit more wordsmithing than just inserting 'instance' every time. And it is taking a lot of time to find the right way to rephrase every single time!

Linchi --- are you volunteering?

mhouse -- There will be no Compact Disk - Read Only Memory with this book and there will be no electronic copy either. :-(

But, a glossary on my website with the books companion content (scripts, etc) is a good idea


December 16, 2008 11:44 AM

Ryan Anthony said:

I believe when you're talking about hardware requirements you can speak of SQL Server as an application or installation.  "Your SQL Server application (or installation) requires..."  But this all does seem a bit silly when we're now complicating the unimportant parts and taking time away from all the useful information you provide us.

December 16, 2008 12:05 PM

Dfrye said:

As suggested before, how about using the words "SQL Server instance"? Or just "the instance" when referring to "the SQL Server". Seems to me it saves keystrokes, is more specific, and is legally correct.

December 16, 2008 12:05 PM

Dfrye said:

Maybe "the installation", "the server", and "the instance(s)" can cover 99%? Frustrating.

December 16, 2008 12:09 PM

Andy from Workshopshed said:

When someone refers to the "the amount of memory required by SQL Server", I would assume that this was all of the components including the Agent Service, SQL Service, browser Service, CLR and other stuff I've forgotten. If it was just for the instance of the SQL Server service then we would end up with underspecified servers.

You should also never use "a SQL Server" as it would of course be "an SQL Server".

p.s. don't forget to rename the title of the book to be "A computer running SQL Server 2008 Internals", although you might need a bigger cover.

December 16, 2008 12:31 PM

Kalen Delaney said:

Andy ..

We only use 'an' for the SQL language... that's why I always try to use TSQL, so I don't have to worry about 'an'. But the product from Microsoft is not ess-que-ell server, it is sequel server.

Here is more from the email my editor sent:

When referring to the product or the server running the product, SQL is pronounced "sequel".

Note  When referring to the language SQL (SQL stands for Structured Query Language), SQL is pronounced "es-cue-el" and takes the article an  for example, "an SQL database."

But of course in speaking, I never say 'ess que ell', or even 'es-cue-el'...



December 16, 2008 12:42 PM

Linchi Shea said:

No, I know better not to volunteer :-) Just pondering out-of-the-box what SQL Server Externals may mean.

December 16, 2008 12:56 PM

Tim said:

I agree that acronyms such as RAID and SCSI don't need to be spelled out but I think that acronyms specific to the SQL Server product should be spelled out. Examples: SSMS, SSDS, etc.

I also agree with the editors regarding the term SQL Server. Would you say: "Your Oracle should be configured...", "an Oracle", or "Oracles"?

Also for newbies, they might mistake SQL Server as the actual server and not a software or service running on a machine.

December 16, 2008 2:51 PM

Kalen Delaney said:

Hi Tim

I was thinking about other products, both MS and not. ONe of the problems is the name has the word "Server" in it. So although for Oracle or Exchange we could say your Oracle Server or your Exchange Server, we can't say SQL Server Server... instead we remove the duplicated word.



December 16, 2008 3:39 PM

Kalen Delaney said:


Actually, I think Kim Tripp was thinking about writing SQL Server Externals at one time... it would include all the related functionalities (even though some are really internal) like replication, SSIS, mirroring, clustering, etc.



December 16, 2008 3:40 PM

a.m. said:

Internals of the Externals?  I think readers' brains will ache after going through that one...

December 16, 2008 3:51 PM

Bernd Eckenfels said:

Well, the discussion around "instance", "machine" and "installation" clearly shows it is good to spell it out what you mean :)

December 16, 2008 4:46 PM

Merrill Aldrich said:

Also a good thing you're not writing about C. C++ was once apparently "C with Classes," but C itself remains tough to spell out ... I guess you could call it The Language After B with Classes (C++). Or "The Language After Basic Combined Programming Language was Simplified by Thompson and Objects Were Added (C++)" (Wikipedia :-)

December 17, 2008 12:51 PM

Anon said:

I normally use SQL INSTANCE, to refer to an implementation of Microsoft SQL Server.  And DATABASE SERVER, to refer to the host machine, as opposed to an application server.   And MICROSOFT SQL SERVER, to the product created by Microsoft.

December 19, 2008 12:22 PM

Michael K. Campbell said:


Your editors are out of control - and risk doing a huge disservice to your book. I assume you were specifically writing to DBAs/SQL Server and other IT Professionals - not pointy-haired bosses, or receptionists with no technical backing.

A copy editor's job is to make sure that your ideas are being clearly communicated, and that the flow is natural and enables content absorption. Making readers suffer through pedantic hand-holding either because copy-editors lack any technical prowess, or (worse)  because they're afraid that kindergartners might not know what RAID means is completely unacceptable.

And trust me, when YOU say "SQL Server" or "the SQL Server" or "a SQL Server" I'll _know_ what you're talking about because you know how to bandy that 'term' around (whatever it's form) in a way that's COMPLETELY indicative of what's going on.

And if you say "the IBM-PC Compatible micro-processor server running an instance of Microsoft's(R) SQL Server 2008(R) Enterprise Standard or WorkGroup Edition SP1", then I'll know that nazi copy-editors did their best to sabotage the book. Especially if I have to read that more than ONCE.

As such, the only job of a copy editor would be to point out that SOMEONE WITH A BRAIN might not be able to read your mind in a few places where you got too excited or focused on a particular topic - at which point you can clarify things a bit.

At any rate, thanks for pushing back - can't wait for publication.

December 21, 2008 3:22 AM

Dirk said:

I'm not a native English speaker, but I think you have two ways out of it:

1. you are not talking about a computer (try explaining Azure to them)

2. use "your SQL server" (your *** running a TSQL service) whether that be a hardware server, a software instance or even a cloud-based service instead of "your SQL Server" (your *** running the MS product SQL Server) -that might confuse them enough to get it through :-)-

December 21, 2008 6:28 AM

Michael Dragone said:

I usually only spell out acronyms the first time I use them, but only if they might be unfamiliar to the reader. I wouldn't exapand RAID, for example, but might expand HP ETY SATA.

As for the correct SQL Server terminology, what do the editors over at SQL Mag say?

December 22, 2008 1:56 PM

Alexander said:

At these hard times of rising unemployment you should be proud to keep few not so smart people busy and on payroll. Let them do their hard work. Most of your readers do the same (keeping few completely irrelevant managers busy and on payroll) so they will understand you.

January 8, 2009 8:13 PM

Notomys said:

Surely you'd be safe.  I doubt anybody would be running Sybase SQL Server 3.0 these days. Usually when people refer to SQL Server it's the Microsoft variety.

April 28, 2009 1:01 AM

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