What Is Character Data Type in R?


Scott Campbell

In R programming language, the character data type is used to represent text values. Text values can include letters, numbers, symbols, or any combination of these. The character data type is one of the basic data types in R and is commonly used for storing and manipulating textual information.

Creating Character Variables

To create a character variable in R, you can simply assign a text value enclosed in either single quotes (‘) or double quotes (“). For example:

# Single quotes:
name <- 'John Doe'

# Double quotes:
address <- "123 Main Street"

Both single and double quotes can be used interchangeably to define character variables. However, it is important to be consistent with your choice throughout your code.

Operations on Character Variables

R provides various operations that you can perform on character variables:


You can combine two or more character variables using the concatenation operator (paste()). This allows you to create longer strings by joining multiple smaller strings together. Here's an example:

first_name <- 'John'
last_name <- 'Doe'
full_name <- paste(first_name, last_name)

The resulting full_name variable will contain the combined value of 'John' and 'Doe', i.e., 'John Doe'.

Substring Extraction:

You can extract a portion of a character variable using the substring function (substr()). This function allows you to extract a specific range of characters from a string based on their positions. Here's an example:

address <- "123 Main Street"
street_number <- substr(address, 1, 3)

In this example, the street_number variable will contain the substring '123', which represents the street number.

Special Characters and Escape Sequences

R allows you to include special characters and escape sequences within character variables. Special characters are represented by a backslash (\) followed by a specific character, while escape sequences are used to represent non-printable characters or characters that have special meanings. Here are some common examples:

  • \\: Represents a single backslash character.
  • \n: Represents a newline character.
  • \t: Represents a tab character.
  • \": Represents a double quote character.
# Example usage of special characters:
message <- "This is an example\nwith a newline."
quoted_text <- "He said, \"Hello!\""

# Output:
# This is an example
# with a newline.
# He said, "Hello!"


The character data type in R allows you to store and manipulate textual information. You can create character variables using single or double quotes and perform operations such as concatenation and substring extraction.

Additionally, R supports special characters and escape sequences for representing non-printable or special meaning characters within strings. Understanding how to work with character data type is essential for handling text-based tasks in R programming.

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