What Does a Forward Slash Mean In Writing?

Whether you are writing code, poetry, or anything in between, you will probably find yourself using this particular punctuation mark pretty often: the slash. Slashes have several different uses depending on what you’re writing, so today we’re going to go see exactly when you should and shouldn’t use them. Let’s get started!

First, we need to make a distinction between the forward slash and the backslash. The backslash is mainly used in computing and isn’t considered an English punctuation mark. This video will be focusing solely on the forward slash, which, as mentioned, has many different uses in English.

One of the most common uses is when you are showing options or conditions within a text. When we want to describe a situation with multiple outcomes, we commonly use “and/or”. Here’s an example:

Residents are able to pay rent with a check and/or credit card.

Here, the slash indicates that renters can pay their rent with a credit card, a check, or with both a credit card and check at the same time. If we were to say

Residents are able to pay rent with either a check or a credit card.

the residents must choose one or the other; both at the same time is not an option.

We can use a slash in a similar way between the words if and when when talking about when something will happen. For instance:

If/when you call me, I will give you the information.“It’s a simple yes/no answer”, she said.

Yes and no are conflicting responses, and the slash between them shows that. Here’s another one:

He spends his day in his robe/loungewear.

In this example, robe and loungewear are both similar things that describe what the man is wearing, so we put a slash between them.

In a similar way, we also use slashes when more than one gender is being addressed. For instance,

The teacher made sure each child had his/her jacket before going outside.

A slightly less common use of slashes can be found in poetry and plays. When writing poetry or a play, slashes are commonly used to show where a line ends. This is only if the text is written in paragraph form instead of verse or stanza form. Here’s an example from the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare:

Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes/Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated/This bird of dawning singeth all night long/And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad/The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike/No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm/So hallow’d and so gracious is the time

The last use of slashes we’ll look at today lies outside of separating words. We can, and often do, use slashes to separate numbers. There are a couple of different instances where this becomes useful. The first is when we want to show the date as, for example, Day/Month/Year. We also use a slash to write out fractions and ratios. For example, we might say someone has a 50/50 chance of winning, or someone may have a blood pressure of 120/80.
Okay, now that you’ve learned several ways to use slashes, let’s go over a couple of review questions to see what you remember.
1. Which of the following does NOT use a slash correctly?

  1. She only ate ½ of her candy bar.
  2. John asked him a simple yes/no question.
  3. You should get either/or the red one and the blue one.
  4. Everyone should have his/her own pair of shoes.

The correct answer is C! You can use a slash between either and or, but not in this instance. The sentence should say “You should get either the red one or the blue one.”

2. True or False: In poetry, you must always use a slash at the end of each line.

The correct answer is False. The only time you would use a slash to indicate the end of a line of poetry is if the poem is written in paragraph form instead of verse or stanza form.

That’s all for this review! Thanks for watching, and happy studying!

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: January 14, 2021