How to quote and encode XML attribute values

Attribute values in XML are usually double-quoted, but single-quotes can be used as well, according to the relevant part of the XML Spec. Here is the production:

[10] AttValue ::= '"' ([^<&"] | Reference)* '"'
                  | "'" ([^<&'] | Reference)* "'"

In plain English: an attribute consists of

  • a double or single quote
  • any number of the following:
    • any character but <, & or “ OR
    • an entity reference
  • the same character that was used to begin the attribute (double or single quote)

What’s most interesting about this to me is that a < is forbidden inside attribute values, but a > is not. I always assumed both were illegal.

This is why I love reading specs. The XML spec is a great example of clear and terse writing. There is no chance for confusion when reading the productions themselves! Any secondary source can only obscure the matter, in my opinion.


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