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Eliminate/Reduce Slashes/Diagonals/Slants

The use of the forward slash (/) has gone too far. Whether known as the slash, diagonal, virgule, slant, or solidus, the mark is simply showing up too often. I used to see them commonly in only and/or and his/her constructions. But lately I can’t turn away from my computer without having another one appear on the screen. Are you experiencing the same thing?

Here are examples:

  1. Some clients/customers prefer to deal with a local vendor.
  2. Please provide pricing/packaging information.
  3. The library has books/tapes/audios/CDs/reference librarians.
  4. We will use other advertising avenues such as web site/email blasts and direct mail.
  5. Determine who/what is the subject of your document.
  6. His title is Director of Budgets/Allocations.
  7. Provide all substantive correspondence/email with vendors/suppliers/other external persons/organizations.

When I read, I say the words in my mind, sometimes slowly to think about their meaning and sometimes fast just to get the gist of the message. But I always say the words.

So when I get to a slash, I have to stop and think about what word it stands for. For example, in Number 1 above, I can’t just say “clients slash customers”–a gruesome thought. I have to decide that it means “clients and customers.”

In Number 2, I have to slow down to determine whether the meaning is (1) pricing and packaging or (2) pricing or packaging.

In Number 3, I have to insert commas and the word and, or I will imagine several unfortunate librarians squeezed in at the end of a shelf of books/tapes/audios/CDs.

In 4, I wonder whether the writer intends web site blasts and email blasts, or web sites and email blasts.

In 5, I can easily fill in the word or, but I wonder why I have to. Why doesn’t the writer use a two-letter word instead of making me supply it?

In 6, I am sure the director’s life would be easier with a word rather than a slash in his title. He would never have to explain “Budgets slash allocations.”

Number 7 cries out for revision:

Provide all substantive correspondence, including email, with vendors, suppliers, and other external persons and organizations.

What is your view/opinion/experience? Do you have guidelines/suggestions/tips on the use of slashes? (Forgive me. I wrote those questions just to point out how slashes inspire redundancy.)

Please share your comments. And see my earlier post on the legimate use of the slash for combined titles.


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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.

2 comments on “Eliminate/Reduce Slashes/Diagonals/Slants”

  • dear Lynn,
    for technical issues the slash meaning change completely the sense:”Distribution cabling will be …low smoke and fume/armored cables”
    What is the value of the slash?
    And or Or ? In my case, a very particular case is of a few millions
    of Pounds.

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