Grammar and Punctuation The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation


Despite its popularity, the slash (/), technically known as a virgule, is frowned upon by purists. Other than to indicate dates (9/11/2001) or to separate lines of poetry ("Celery, raw / Develops the jaw"), it has few defensible uses.

Usually a hyphen, or in some cases the word or, will suffice. Instead of writing the novelist/poet Eve Jones, make it the novelist-poet Eve Jones. Rather than available to any man/woman who is qualified, make it any man or woman.

The slash has always been a handy tool for taking notes and writing rough outlines. Substituting w/o for without, y/o for years old, and b/c for because can save valuable time and space.

However, most slashes can—and should—be removed from a final draft. Writers should replace a construction like any man/woman with any man or woman in their finished work.

"The virgule is a mark that doesn't appear much in first-rate writing," says Bryan A. Garner in A Dictionary of Modern American Usage. "Use it as a last resort."