In the past, we have covered many different punctuation rules on this blog. Today shall be no different since we are talking about the slash!
No, not the lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses!
We are talking about that little, crooked line that you stumble upon every now and again and that’s part of every URL on the internet.
Writing purists are no fan of the slash. Despite that, it is used in many cases and is part of almost every day’s writing and reading routine and thus gained quite some popularity.
Now, lets have a look at the daily occurrences and usage of the slash.
The most common and known usage of the slash is to separate the months, days and years within a date. Depending on where in the world you live, the standard date format is one of the following: mm/dd/yyyy or dd/mm/yyyy . This would conclude in the following realizations to express April 12th 2016:
04/12/2016 or 12/04/2016
In some parts of the world, however, the slash is replaced by a period when writing down a date. E.g. 12.04.2016 for April 12th.
The slash is not a real part of poetry, but depending on the formatting of a poem, the slash is often used to separate different lines inside the poem.
For example, this part of Emily Dickinson’s poem “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” could be found formatted like this:
I’m Nobody! Who are you? / Are you – Nobody – too?
Especially in gender-neutral writing, the dash has become quite popular to express a non-existent gender bias. It is used for other conjunctions of alternatives as well though. Take the following examples:
1. Just tell him/her what I said. 2. The actor/humanist/comedian Ed Bryne...
Here, the slash can be omitted or replaced by different characters and words as well. When it comes to the gender-neutrality, the neutral pronoun them can be used instead of he or she. Other, mostly legal, documents use an initial sentence that states that the following use of the male pronouns should be seen as including the possibility of both genders.
In case of the second conjunction, the dash (-) or sometimes the conjunctive word or can replace the slash.
In coding, the slash is very much alive and widely used, either to denote a folder structure in, e.g., Linux or as part of a website’s address:
1. images/vacation/sundown.jpg 2. http://online-spellcheck.com/faq
The slash should, here, not be confused with the backslash (\) that serves another function.
Should I use the Slash?
Generally speaking, the slash is a tool used in first drafts and note taking, not a punctuation mark that should occur in proper writing. In most if not all cases, constructions using a slash can be replaced by a proper expression. Just like in the following examples:
1. w/o → without, b/c → because 2. any man/woman → any man or woman