Special Characters



The special characters for controlling how the Windows PowerShell interprets the next character in a command or parameter



The grave-accent (`) character is the PowerShell escape character. On a Qwerty keyboard this character is typically located at the top left corner of the keyboard on the key also containing the tilde (~) symbol. The purpose of ` character varies based upon the context of its use. The following list explains it's meaning in various parts of the PowerShell environment:


When preceding a variable, it indicates that the next character should be passed to the calling command without substitution. The following example demonstrates the affect of not using the ` character prior to a variable name that is contained inside of double quotation marks:


$a = "Ken Myer"

Write-Host "Hello, $a"


The output from this command is:


Hello, Ken Myer


In contrast, the following demonstrates the affect of using the ` character prior to a variable name that is contained inside of double quotation marks:


$a = "Ken Myer"

Write-Host "Hello, `$a"


The output from this command is:


Hello, $a


When used in a script at the end of a line (that is, with no other characters following it), the ` symbol acts as a continuation character. It instructs PowerShell to continue reading the command line from the next line. This allows you to write compact lines of code for easier reading. The following script file demonstrates how to use the ` character as a line continuation character:


$a = Get-ChildItem

foreach ($file in $a){

Write-Host $file.name $file.CreationTime`

  $file.LastAccessTime $file.LastWriteTime



The ` character in this example continues the Write-Host command so that all four properties of the $file variable will be displayed at the console. Note that if you want to type this script at the command line rather than put the contents in a script file, you must make sure that the opening brace of the command block appears on the same line as the foreach statement, as shown.


When used inside quotation marks, the ` character indicates that the following character should be interpreted as a special character. For example, `n is a "new line" character that causes the PowerShell to start a new line at the character, and `t is a tab character that aligns the next character to the left of the next column, which, by default, is eight characters wide.


The following are the special characters recognized by PowerShell:


·         `0 – Null

·         `a – Alert

·         `b – Backspace

·         `n – New line

·         `r – Carriage return

·         `t – Horizontal tab

·         `' – Single quote

·         `" – Double quote


The alert (`a) character sends a bell or beep signal to the computer's speaker. This can be useful if you need to inform a user of some action that will be occurring as a result of running a particular command or script. The following command sends two beep signals to the local computer's speaker:


for($i = 0; $i -le 1; $i++){Write-Host `a}


Including the backspace (`b) character in a command moves the cursor back one character. It differs from the backspace key by not erasing the previous character.  The following example sends two backspace signals immediately after the Write-Host command writes the word, "backup".


Write-Host "backup`b`bout"


The output from this command is as follows:




The new (`n) line character adds a line break immediately after `n. The following example shows how to use the `n character in a Write-Host command:


Write-Host "There are two line breaks`n`nhere."


The output from this command is as follows:


There are two line breaks




Including the carriage return (`r) character in a command is equivalent to pressing the carriage return key. This is similar to the backspace character (`b) except that it removes the entire line prior to the `r character. The following example demonstrates this behavior:


Write-Host "Let's not move`rDelete everything before this point."


The output from this command is:


Delete everything before this point.


The horizontal tab (`t) character adds tab stops to the output. The default tab stop is 8 spaces. The following example adds two tab stops between the columns:


Write-Host "Column1`t`tColumn2`t`tColumn3"


The output from this command is:


Column1 Column2 Column3


The following special characters are not for screen output but do perform the following operations for printer output:


`fForm feed

`vVertical tab


How the single and double quote characters function is covered in the about_quoting_rules topic file.




For information about single and double quote rules, enter the following command:


help about_quoting_rules