We all recognize the slash (/) as an integral part of a URL, the Uniform Resource Locater affiliated with website addresses: http://www.RuthlessEditor.com
The slash has other useful applications in personal and business writing, and it has other names: solidus, slant, diagonal, virgule, forward slash, front slash, oblique stroke, shill.
The slash generally does not require a space on either side of it. (Exception: when used to show separate lines of poetry, songs or plays.*)
Here’s how and where to use the slash appropriately.
Use it as a substitute for the word or when you indicate a choice:
He prefers classes with a pass/fail option.
Please bring a foldup/inflatable mattress for sleeping in the cabin.
Take your pick: Spending cuts/tax increases will be required to balance the budget.
Use it informally to create an abbreviation:
I can’t get to the meeting w/o (without) directions.
Can you help me w/ (with) this report?
Send it to that address c/o (in care of) James Preston.
If a category on a form doesn’t apply to you, write n/a (not applicable).
Use it to show a connecting or conflicting relationship between words:
When asked how they feel, many people misuse the bad/badly distinction.
I rewrite sentences that offer a he/she pronoun choice.
Adopted children can have strong opinions on the nature/nurture debate.
Here are more uses for a slash.
A slash can mean per:
- He starts the new job at $25/hour.
- North American hummingbirds’ wings average 53 beats/second in normal flight.
A slash can indicate combined with:
- He works at home in a spare bedroom/office space.
- The psychiatrist is the manager/therapist in that practice.
- She became president/CEO four months ago.
Slashes with numbers:
- For Americans, 9/11 is quickly recognized as the date of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
- Some use the slash when expressing dates entirely in numbers (12/23/2018), and some use hyphens (12-23-2018) or periods (12.23.2018).
- Other times, the month is written out or abbreviated: December 23, 2018, or Dec. 23, 2018.
As is the case of using either the slash or the hyphen in dates, punctuation — one aspect of grammar in general — continues to be governed “two-thirds by rule and one-third by personal taste,” observed author G. V. Carey decades ago.
What’s important is consistency: Choose how you want to express something, and for the sake of your reader, stick with it. Consistency contributes to readability.
*When writing lines from poems or song lyrics, use a slash with a space before and after to show original line separation:
Mary had a little lamb / It’s fleece was white as snow / And everywhere that Mary went / the lamb was sure to go.
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