There are several ways to quote strings in Python. Triple quotes let strings span multiple lines. Line breaks in your source file become line break characters in your string. A triple-quoted string in Python acts something like “here doc” in other languages.
However, Python’s indentation rules complicate matters because the indentation becomes part of the quoted string. For example, suppose you have the following code outside of a function.
x = """\ abc def ghi """
Then you move this into a function
foo and change its name to
def foo(): y = """\ abc def ghi """
y are different strings! The former begins with
a and the latter begins with four spaces. (The backslash after the opening triple quote prevents the following newline from being part of the quoted string. Otherwise
y would begin with a newline.) The string
y also has four spaces in front of
def and four spaces in front of
ghi. You can’t push the string contents to the left margin because that would violate Python’s formatting rules. (Update: Oh yes you can! See Aaron Meurer’s comment below.)
We now give three solutions to this problem.
Solution 1: textwrap.dedent
There is a function in the Python standard library that will strip the unwanted space out of the string
import textwrap def foo(): y = """\ abc def ghi """ y = textwrap.dedent(y)
This works, but in my opinion a better approach is to use regular expressions .
Solution 2: Regular expression with a flag
We want to remove white space, and the regular expression for a white space character is
\s. We want to remove one or more white spaces so we add a
+ on the end. But in general we don’t want to remove all white space, just white space at the beginning of a line, so we stick
^ on the front to say we want to match white space at the beginning of a line.
import re def foo(): y = """\ abc def ghi """ y = re.sub("^\s+", "", y)
Unfortunately this doesn’t work. By default
^ only matches the beginning of a string, not the beginning of a line. So it will only remove the white space in front of the first line; there will still be white space in front of the following lines.
One solution is to add the flag
re.MULTILINE to the substitution function. This will signal that we want
^ to match the beginning of every
line in our multi-line string.
y = re.sub("^\s+", "", y, re.MULTILINE)
Unfortunately that doesn’t quite work either! The fourth positional argument to
re.sub is a count of how many substitutions to make. It defaults to 0, which actually means infinity, i.e. replace all occurrences. You could set
count to 1 to replace only the first occurrence, for example. If we’re not going to specify
count we have to set
flags by name rather than by position, i.e. the line above should be
y = re.sub("^\s+", "", y, flags=re.MULTILINE)
You could also abbreviate
re.M. The former is more explicit and the latter is more compact. To each his own. There’s more than one way to do it. 
Solution 3: Regular expression with a modifier
In my opinion, it is better to modify the regular expression itself than to pass in a flag. The modifier
(?m) specifies that in the rest of the regular the
^ character should match the beginning of each line.
y = re.sub("(?m)^\s+", "", y)
One reason I believe this is better is that moves information from a language-specific implementation of regular expressions into a regular expression syntax that is supported in many programming languages.
For example, the regular expression
would have the same meaning in Perl and Python. The two languages have the same way of expressing modifiers , but different ways of expressing flags. In Perl you paste an
m on the end of a match operator to accomplish what Python does with setting
One of the most commonly used modifiers is
(?i) to indicate that a regular expression should match in a case-insensitive manner. Perl and Python (and other languages) accept
(?i) in a regular expression, but each language has its own way of adding modifiers. Perl adds an
i after the match operator, and Python uses
as a function argument.
More on regular expressions
 Yes, I’ve heard the quip about two problems. It’s funny, but it’s not a universal law.
 “There’s more than one way to do it” is a mantra of Perl and contradicts The Zen of Python. I use the line here as a good-natured jab at Python. Despite its stated ideals, Python has more in common with Perl than it would like to admit and continues to adopt ideas from Perl.
re module doesn’t support every regular expression modifier that Perl supports. I don’t know about Python’s