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How we style our SQL


  • ☁️ Use SQLFluff to maintain these style rules automatically.

    • Customize .sqlfluff configuration files to your needs.

    • Refer to our SQLFluff config file for the rules we use in our own projects.

    • Exclude files and directories by using a standard .sqlfluffignore file. Learn more about the syntax in the .sqlfluffignore syntax docs.

  • 👻 Use Jinja comments ({# #}) for comments that should not be included in the compiled SQL.

  • ⏭️ Use trailing commas.

  • 4️⃣ Indents should be four spaces.

  • 📏 Lines of SQL should be no longer than 80 characters.

  • ⬇️ Field names, keywords, and function names should all be lowercase.

  • 🫧 The as keyword should be used explicitly when aliasing a field or table.


☁️ dbt Cloud users can use the built-in SQLFluff Cloud IDE integration to automatically lint and format their SQL. The default style sheet is based on dbt Labs style as outlined in this guide, but you can customize this to fit your needs. No need to setup any external tools, just hit Lint! Also, the more opinionated sqlfmt formatter is also available if you prefer that style.

Fields, aggregations, and grouping

  • 🔙 Fields should be stated before aggregates and window functions.
  • 🤏🏻 Aggregations should be executed as early as possible (on the smallest data set possible) before joining to another table to improve performance.
  • 🔢 Ordering and grouping by a number (eg. group by 1, 2) is preferred over listing the column names (see this classic rant for why). Note that if you are grouping by more than a few columns, it may be worth revisiting your model design.


  • 👭🏻 Prefer union all to union unless you explicitly want to remove duplicates.
  • 👭🏻 If joining two or more tables, always prefix your column names with the table name. If only selecting from one table, prefixes are not needed.
  • 👭🏻 Be explicit about your join type (i.e. write inner join instead of join).
  • 🥸 Avoid table aliases in join conditions (especially initialisms) — it's harder to understand what the table called "c" is as compared to "customers".
  • ➡️ Always move left to right to make joins easy to reason about - right joins often indicate that you should change which table you select from and which one you join to.

'Import' CTEs

  • 🔝 All {{ ref('...') }} statements should be placed in CTEs at the top of the file.
  • 📦 'Import' CTEs should be named after the table they are referencing.
  • 🤏🏻 Limit the data scanned by CTEs as much as possible. Where possible, only select the columns you're actually using and use where clauses to filter out unneeded data.
  • For example:

orders as (


from {{ ref('orders') }}

where order_date >= '2020-01-01'


'Functional' CTEs

  • ☝🏻 Where performance permits, CTEs should perform a single, logical unit of work.
  • 📖 CTE names should be as verbose as needed to convey what they do e.g. events_joined_to_users instead of user_events (this could be a good model name, but does not describe a specific function or transformation).
  • 🌉 CTEs that are duplicated across models should be pulled out into their own intermediate models. Look out for chunks of repeated logic that should be refactored into their own model.
  • 🔚 The last line of a model should be a select * from your final output CTE. This makes it easy to materialize and audit the output from different steps in the model as you're developing it. You just change the CTE referenced in the select statement to see the output from that step.

Model configuration

  • 📝 Model-specific attributes (like sort/dist keys) should be specified in the model.
  • 📂 If a particular configuration applies to all models in a directory, it should be specified in the dbt_project.yml file.
  • 👓 In-model configurations should be specified like this for maximum readability:
materialized = 'table',
sort = 'id',
dist = 'id'

Example SQL


events as (



{# CTE comments go here #}
filtered_events as (



select * from filtered_events

Example SQL


my_data as (


from {{ ref('my_data') }}


some_cte as (


from {{ ref('some_cte') }}


some_cte_agg as (

sum(field_4) as total_field_4,
max(field_5) as max_field_5

from some_cte

group by 1


joined as (


-- use line breaks to visually separate calculations into blocks
when my_data.cancellation_date is null
and my_data.expiration_date is not null
then expiration_date
when my_data.cancellation_date is null
then my_data.start_date + 7
else my_data.cancellation_date
end as cancellation_date,


from my_data

left join some_cte_agg
on =

where my_data.field_1 = 'abc' and
my_data.field_2 = 'def' or
my_data.field_2 = 'ghi'

having count(*) > 1


select * from joined