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Python Language Reference Manual
by Guido van Rossum and Fred L. Drake, Jr.
Paperback (6"x9"), 120 pages
ISBN 0954161785
RRP £12.95 ($19.95)

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2.4.1 String literals

String literals are described by the following lexical definitions:

stringliteral [ stringprefix ]( shortstring
| longstring )
stringprefix "r" | "u" | "ur"
| "R" | "U" | "UR" | "Ur" | "uR"
shortstring "'" shortstringitem* "'"
| '"' shortstringitem* '"'
longstring ""'" longstringitem* ""'"
| '"""' longstringitem* '"""'
shortstringitem shortstringchar | escapeseq
longstringitem longstringchar | escapeseq
shortstringchar <any source character except "\"
or newline or the quote>
longstringchar <any source character except "\">
escapeseq "\" <any ASCII character>

One syntactic restriction not indicated by these productions is that whitespace is not allowed between the stringprefix and the rest of the string literal. The source character set is defined by the encoding declaration; it is ASCII if no encoding declaration is given in the source file; see section 2.1.4.

In plain English: String literals can be enclosed in matching single quotes (') or double quotes ("). They can also be enclosed in matching groups of three single or double quotes (these are generally referred to as triple-quoted strings). The backslash (\) character is used to escape characters that otherwise have a special meaning, such as newline, backslash itself, or the quote character. String literals may optionally be prefixed with a letter ‘r’ or ‘R’; such strings are called raw strings and use different rules for interpreting backslash escape sequences. A prefix of ‘u’ or ‘U’ makes the string a Unicode string. Unicode strings use the Unicode character set as defined by the Unicode Consortium and ISO~10646. Some additional escape sequences, described below, are available in Unicode strings. The two prefix characters may be combined; in this case, ‘u’ must appear before ‘r’.

In triple-quoted strings, unescaped newlines and quotes are allowed (and are retained), except that three unescaped quotes in a row terminate the string. (A "quote" is the character used to open the string, i.e. either ' or ".)

Unless an ‘r’ or ‘R’ prefix is present, escape sequences in strings are interpreted according to rules similar to those used by Standard C. The recognized escape sequences are:

Escape Sequence Meaning Notes
------- ------ ------
\newline Ignored
\\ Backslash (\)
\' Single quote (')
\" Double quote (")
\a ASCII Bell (BEL)
\b ASCII Backspace (BS)
\f ASCII Formfeed (FF)
\n ASCII Linefeed (LF)
\N{name} Character named name in the Unicode database (Unicode only)
\r ASCII Carriage Return (CR)
\t ASCII Horizontal Tab (TAB)
\uxxxx Character with 16-bit hex value xxxx (Unicode only) (1)
\Uxxxxxxxx Character with 32-bit hex value xxxxxxxx (Unicode only) (2)
\v ASCII Vertical Tab (VT)
\ooo Character with octal value ooo (3,5)
\xhh Character with hex value hh (4,5)
Notes: Unlike Standard C, all unrecognized escape sequences are left in the string unchanged, i.e., the backslash is left in the string. (This behavior is useful when debugging: if an escape sequence is mistyped, the resulting output is more easily recognized as broken.) It is also important to note that the escape sequences marked as "(Unicode only)" in the table above fall into the category of unrecognized escapes for non-Unicode string literals. When an ‘r’ or ‘R’ prefix is present, a character following a backslash is included in the string without change, and all backslashes are left in the string. For example, the string literal r"\n" consists of two characters: a backslash and a lowercase ‘n’. String quotes can be escaped with a backslash, but the backslash remains in the string; for example, r"\"" is a valid string literal consisting of two characters: a backslash and a double quote; r"\" is not a valid string literal (even a raw string cannot end in an odd number of backslashes). Specifically, a raw string cannot end in a single backslash (since the backslash would escape the following quote character). Note also that a single backslash followed by a newline is interpreted as those two characters as part of the string, not as a line continuation. When an ‘r’ or ‘R’ prefix is used in conjunction with a ‘u’ or ‘U’ prefix, then the \uXXXX and \UXXXXXXXX escape sequences are processed while all other backslashes are left in the string. For example, the string literal ur"\u0062\n" consists of three Unicode characters: {\sc `latin small letter b'}, {\sc `reverse solidus'}, and {\sc `latin small letter n'}. Backslashes can be escaped with a preceding backslash; however, both remain in the string. As a result, \uXXXX escape sequences are only recognized when there are an odd number of backslashes.
ISBN 0954161785Python Language Reference ManualSee the print edition