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3.4 Stringizing

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 stringizing.

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

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

#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, stringized, 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.

Stringizing 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, stringizing p = "foo\n"; results in "p = \"foo\\n\";". However, backslashes that are not inside string or character constants are not duplicated: ‘\n’ by itself stringizes to "\n".

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

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

If you want to stringize 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 stringized 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.

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