Split Character String at Whitespace in R (2 Examples)


In this R tutorial you’ll learn how to split character strings by spaces.

Table of contents:

Let’s just jump right in:


Introduction of Example Data

To start with, we’ll need to create some data that we can use in the examples later on:

my_string <- "aaa b   cc   ddd e"                      # Create example character string
my_string                                              # Print example character string
# [1] "aaa b   cc   ddd e"

Have a look at the previous RStudio console output. It shows that our example data is a single character string object containing different alphabetical letters and numerous spaces.


Example 1: Split Character String at Whitespace Using strsplit() Function

Example 1 illustrates how to use the strsplit function to split our character string based on any number of spaces.

For this, we have to specify ” +” as a splitting condition:

my_string_split1 <- strsplit(my_string, " +")[[1]]     # Apply strsplit function
my_string_split1                                       # Print split character string vector
# [1] "aaa" "b"   "cc"  "ddd" "e"

Have a look at the previous output of the RStudio console. As you can see, we have created a character vector where each vector element was defined by the whitespace in our input character string.


Example 2: Split Character String at Whitespace Using scan() Function

Example 2 demonstrates how to apply the scan function to divide our character string into chunks.

Within the scan function, we have to specify the text and what arguments:

my_string_split2 <- scan(text = my_string, what = "")  # Apply scan function
my_string_split2                                       # Print split character string vector
# [1] "aaa" "b"   "cc"  "ddd" "e"

The previous output shows exactly the same character vector as in Example 1. Whether you prefer the strsplit or the scan function to divide your data based on spaces is a matter of taste.


Video, Further Resources & Summary

Have a look at the following video of my YouTube channel. In the video, I’m explaining the topics of this tutorial in a live session.



In addition, you might want to read some of the related tutorials on this website.


In this R programming tutorial you have learned how to split a character string into a vector by any number of spaces. If you have further comments or questions, don’t hesitate to tell me about it in the comments section.


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