Character literal

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A character literal is a type of literal in programming for the representation of a single character's value within the source code of a computer program.

Languages that have a dedicated character data type generally include character literals; these include C, C++, Java,[1] and Visual Basic.[2] Languages without character data types (like Python[3] or PHP[4]) will typically use strings of length 1 to serve the same purpose a character data type would fulfil. This simplifies the implementation and basic usage of a language but also introduces new scope for programming errors.

A common convention for expressing a character literal is to use a single quote (') for character literals, as contrasted by the use of a double quote (") for string literals. For example, 'a' indicates the single character a while "a" indicates the string a of length 1.

The representation of a character within the computer memory, in storage, and in data transmission, is dependent on a particular character encoding scheme. For example, an ASCII (or extended ASCII) scheme will use a single byte of computer memory, while a UTF-8 scheme will use one or more bytes, depending on the particular character being encoded.

Alternative ways to encode character values include specifying an integer value for a code point, such as an ASCII code value or a Unicode code point. This may be done directly via converting an integer literal to a character, or via an escape sequence.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Primitive Data Types (The Java™ Tutorials > Learning the Java Language > Language Basics)". Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  2. ^ "Data Type Summary (Visual Basic)". Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  3. ^ "5. Built-in Types — Python 2.7.12 documentation". Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  4. ^ "PHP: Types - Manual". Retrieved 2016-09-24.