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Using the Slash/Diagonal

Rita sent a great question today. She wanted to know the correct way to make combined titles plural when using a slash.

Is it singer/producers? Or singers/producers? Singer/songwriters? Or singers/songwriters?

graphic asking "singer/songwriters or singers/songwriters"

The answer is this: Make it plural just once–not twice. These are correct:

Singer/songwriters: Both singer/songwriters received a Grammy.
Singer/producers: It’s an impressive line-up of singer-producers.
Actor-directors: The three actor-directors will compete for the Oscar.
Secretary-treasurers: The secretary-treasurers both serve in January so that the transition is smooth.
Editor/publishers: Many editor/publishers run their own presses.

Notice that I used both the slash (/) and the hyphen (-) for the combined titles. Both are correct. To make matters even more complex, the slash has another name: diagonal.

Although slashes and diagonals are perfect for combined titles such as secretary/treasurer, they are used far too often as substitutes for the words and and or. Eden wrote today asking which was correct: Dear Sir/Madam or Dear SirMadam. Neither! This is correct:

Dear Sir or Madam:

No one has the combined title Sir/Madam. And to expect the reader to translate the slash into the word or is simply lazy.

For combined titles, use the slash or the hyphen, which are standard. But when you mean and or or, spell out the word you intend.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

One comment on “Using the Slash/Diagonal”

  • When using the slash is it proper to put a space i.e., singer / songwriters, or do the spaces need to be deleted singer/songwriter. My boss insists on putting spaces between the words.


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