3 Pieces of SPSS Syntax to Keep Handy

I hope you’re getting started using SPSS Syntax by hitting that Paste button when you use the menus.

But there are a few parts of SPSS you can’t do that with. Specifically, there are syntax commands for doing all the variable definitions that you usually fill out in the “Variable View” window. But there are no Paste buttons there, so you have to know how to write the syntax from scratch.

I find the three variable definitions that I use the most are defining Variable Labels, Value Labels and Missing Data codes. The syntax is simple and logical for all three, so I’m going to just give you the basic code, which you can keep on hand and edit as you need.

For a data set with the variables Gender, Smoke, and Exercise, with the following definitions:

Gender: 0=Male, 1=Female
Smoke: 1=Never 2=Sometimes 3=Daily
Exercise: 1=Never 2=Sometimes 3=Daily

For all three variables, 999 = a user-defined missing value

We could use the following code to give descriptive variable labels, encode the value labels, and define the missing data:

GENDER ‘Participant Gender’
SMOKE ‘Does Participant ever Smoke Cigarettes?’
EXERCISE ‘How Often Does Participant Exercise for a30 Minute Period?’.

Notice two things:
1. I could put all three Variable labels in the same Variable Label statement
2. There is a period at the end of the statement. This is required.

GENDER 0 ‘Male’ 1 ‘Female
1 ‘Never’
2 ‘Sometimes’
3 ‘Daily’.


Since all three variables have the same missing data code, I could include them all in the same statement.

There are, of course syntax rules for all of these commands, but you can easily look them up in the Command Syntax Manual.

Want to learn more? If you’re just getting started with data analysis in SPSS, or would like a thorough refresher, please join us in our online workshop Introduction to Data Analysis in SPSS.


Getting Started with SPSS
Karen will introduce you to how SPSS is set up, some hidden features to make it easier to use, and some practical tips.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that, due to the large number of comments submitted, any questions on problems related to a personal study/project will not be answered. We suggest joining Statistically Speaking, where you have access to a private forum and more resources 24/7.