Pathagoras does not require that you follow any particular naming convention for your variables. However, over the years, certain soft 'rules' have come into play as 'best practice' naming conventions.

Length of name:

The shorter the better, but it should communicate clearly what information is being sought. [Name], [Address] and [Date] don't communicate what is being sought. [Testator Name], [Address of Client] and [Date of Contract] are much better.

Order of words:

Tough one here, but we recommend the substantive name first. [Testator Name] vs. [Name of Testator]. Think about the order the variable might appear if you alphabetize the list. All the 'Testator' stuff ([Testator Name], [Testator Address], [Testator City, ST Zip]) will be grouped.


If you think you might be pulling data from named cells in external sources (e.g., Excel, Acrobat), keep in mind that some of these programs do not allow spaces in their cell or field names. (By cell and field names, we mean the special tools provided in those programs that allow you to assign actual names to cells or fields -- this had nothing to do with values you may insert into a cell or field.) 'Testator Name' is not a proper cell name in Excel because of the space. TestatorName and Testator_Name are both okay. It just may be easier to establish an office rule.

Variables as 'hints' as to style

Make the variable as helpful as possible. [Address Line 2] does not inform the user as to what you really want as does [Client City, ST  ZIP].

Case and Capitalization

Use the style '[Client Name]' where you want the variable to be replaced with upper and lower case. Use '[CLIENT NAME]' where you want it replaced in all caps. [Client Address], not [client address] (we presume you would never want the address to appear in all lower case). When providing a value for a variable via the Instant Database screen, use the 'normal' case -- typically upper/lower. See this page for more information on this important topic.

Dashes and Apostrophes

Do you see the difference between [Client First-Name] and [Client First–Name] (It's a tough one. The first variable uses a hyphen (en dash or minus sign) and the second an 'em' dash).

How about [Client's First Name] and [Client’s First Name]. Check out the 'angle' of the apostrophe. One is 'straight' and the other is 'curly' (Microsoft's description, not mine). Quotation marks are just as bad.

There are (at least) 4 different kinds of dashes, and 3 different types of quotes and apostrophes that Word recognizes. When Pathagoras searching for a match, it is looking for only one of those -- the one you typed in your variable. If you are not consistent from document to document as to the type of character you used in each, or worse -- Word automatically converts your choice to something else and you don't know it -- you will may not be successful in properly replacing your variables. (Now, to be fair to Pathagoras, it does try to adjust for these known character differences, but there may be others lurking out there that we have yet to discover.)

Further, does the dash or apostrophe really add anything to the understandability of the variable? Probably not.

Our suggestion: Don't use dashes or apostrophes or quotation marks, and similar special characters, in your variables. You (and your staff) likely will be just as happy using [Client First Name] in lieu of [Client's First-Name]. The same message is communicated, with fewer characters to type and to remember.


Pathagoras uses the underscore character at the beginning or end of a variable name as potential setup and formatting characters. You should, therefore, not use underscores as a 'boundary' character. Mid-term is fine.


Since is it the number sign, it is a desirable 'shorthand' character and not forbidden. But the hashtag in the middle of a variable is also used to set a default value. So they are ok at the extremes [# of children] and [Shareholder #], but not in the middle..

Percent and Equals signs: Don't use the % or the = at the beginning of a variable name.

Numbers  and Math operands: Numbers are okay, but can be confusing when presented. Don't use any of the math operand characters (+-=/*) unless you are actually writing an an in-line equation. ('X' is okay.)

       (Note the wavering -- these characters are not illegal. You just should not use them because they may interfere with other settings you are now or in the future may wish to use.