Shared Statistical Concepts


Colon, Dash, and Double Dash Operators

You can simplify the specification of a large model when some of your variables have a common prefix by using the colon (:) operator and the dash (-) operator. The dash operator enables you to list variables that are numbered sequentially, and the colon operator selects all variables with a given prefix. For example, if your data set contains the variables X1 through X9, the following MODEL statements are equivalent:


model Y = X1 X2 X3 X4 X5 X6 X7 X8 X9;

model Y = X1-X9;

model Y = X:;

If your data set contains only the three covariates X1, X2, and X9, then the colon operator selects all three variables:


model Y = X:;

However, the following specification returns an error because X3 through X8 are not in the data set:


model Y = X1-X9;

The double dash (-‚ÄČ-) operator enables you to select variables that are stored sequentially in the SAS data set, whether or not they have a common prefix. You can use the CONTENTS procedure (see Base SAS Procedures Guide) to determine your variable ordering. For example, if you replace the dash in the preceding MODEL statement with a double dash, as follows, then all three variables are selected:


model Y = X1--X9;

If your data set contains the variables A, B, and C, then you can use the double dash operator to select these variables by specifying the following:


model Y = A--C;