3.4 Stringification

Sometimes you may want to convert a macro argument into a string constant. Parameters are not replaced inside string constants, but you can use the ‘ # ’ preprocessing operator instead. When a macro parameter is used with a leading ‘ # ’, the preprocessor replaces it with the literal text of the actual argument, converted to a string constant. Unlike normal parameter replacement, the argument is not macro-expanded first. This is called stringification .

There is no way to combine an argument with surrounding text and stringify it all together. Instead, you can write a series of adjacent string constants and stringified arguments. The preprocessor will replace the stringified arguments with string constants. The C compiler will then combine all the adjacent string constants into one long string.

Here is an example of a macro definition that uses stringification:

     #define WARN_IF(EXP) \
     do { if (EXP) \
             fprintf (stderr, "Warning: " #EXP "\n"); } \
     while (0)
     WARN_IF (x == 0);
          ==> do { if (x == 0)
                fprintf (stderr, "Warning: " "x == 0" "\n"); } while (0);

The argument for EXP is substituted once, as-is, into the if statement, and once, stringified, into the argument to fprintf . If x were a macro, it would be expanded in the if statement, but not in the string.

The do and while (0) are a kludge to make it possible to write WARN_IF ( arg ); , which the resemblance of WARN_IF to a function would make C programmers want to do; see Swallowing the Semicolon .

Stringification in C involves more than putting double-quote characters around the fragment. The preprocessor backslash-escapes the quotes surrounding embedded string constants, and all backslashes within string and character constants, in order to get a valid C string constant with the proper contents. Thus, stringifying p = "foo\n"; results in "p = \"foo\\n\";" . However, backslashes that are not inside string or character constants are not duplicated: ‘ \n ’ by itself stringifies to "\n" .

All leading and trailing whitespace in text being stringified is ignored. Any sequence of whitespace in the middle of the text is converted to a single space in the stringified result. Comments are replaced by whitespace long before stringification happens, so they never appear in stringified text.

There is no way to convert a macro argument into a character constant.

If you want to stringify the result of expansion of a macro argument, you have to use two levels of macros.

     #define xstr(s) str(s)
     #define str(s) #s
     #define foo 4
     str (foo)
          ==> "foo"
     xstr (foo)
          ==> xstr (4)
          ==> str (4)
          ==> "4"

s is stringified when it is used in str , so it is not macro-expanded first. But s is an ordinary argument to xstr , so it is completely macro-expanded before xstr itself is expanded (see Argument Prescan ). Therefore, by the time str gets to its argument, it has already been macro-expanded.