- Slash (punctuation)
The slash (/) is a sign used as a punctuation mark and for various other purposes. It is now often called a forward slash (a back-formation used to distinguish the slash from the backslash, "\"), and many other alternative names.
- 1 History
- 2 Usage
- 2.1 In English text
- 2.2 Proofreading
- 2.3 Arithmetic
- 2.4 Currency
- 2.5 Bowling
- 2.6 Computing
- 2.7 Genealogy
- 2.8 Dates
- 2.9 Fiction
- 2.10 Library science
- 2.11 Linguistics
- 2.12 Physics
- 2.13 Other alternations with hyphen
- 2.14 Gender-neutrality in Spanish and Portuguese
- 3 Alternative names
- 4 References
- 5 External links
The slash goes back to the days of ancient Rome. In the early modern period, in the Fraktur script, which was widespread through Europe in the Middle Ages, one slash (/) represented a comma, while two slashes (//) represented a dash. The two slashes eventually evolved into a sign similar to the equals sign (=), then being further simplified to a single dash or hyphen (–).
In English text
The slash is most commonly used as the word substitute for "or" which indicates a choice is present. Example: Male/Female, Y/N, He/She
Additionally the use of the slash is to replace the hyphen or en dash to make a clear, strong joint between words or phrases, such as "the Hemingway/Faulkner generation".
The slash is also used to indicate a line break when quoting multiple lines from a poem, play, or headline. In this case, a space is placed before and after the slash. For example: "Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, / But bears it out even to the edge of doom". When used this way, the mark is called a virgule. It is thinner than a solidus if typeset.
In an ordinary prose quotation, such a spaced slash is sometimes used to represent the start of a new paragraph.
British English particularly makes use of the slash instead of the hyphen in forming abbreviations. Many examples are found in writings during the Second World War. For example, "S/E" means "single-engined", as a quick way of writing a type of aircraft.
In the US government, office names are abbreviated using slashes, starting with the larger office and following with its subdivisions. In the State Department, the Office of Commercial & Business Affairs in the Bureau for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs is referred to as EEB/CBA.
The slash is often used, perhaps incorrectly, to separate the letters in a two-letter initialism such as R/C (short for radio control) or w/o (without). Purists strongly discourage this newer use of the symbol. However, since other uses of the slash with individual characters are highly context-specific, confusion is not likely to arise. Other examples include b/w (between or, sometimes, black and white), w/e (whatever, also weekend or week ending), i/o (input-output), and r/w (read-write).
The slash is used in some abbreviations such as w/ (with) and w/o (without).
The slash is also used to avoid taking a position in a naming controversy, allowing the juxtaposition of both names without stating a preference. An example is the designation "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac" in the official US census, reflecting the Syriac naming dispute. The Swedish census has come to a similar solution, using Assyrier/Syrianer to refer to the same ethnic group.
There are usually no spaces either before or after a slash. Exceptions are in representing the start of a new line when quoting verse, or a new paragraph when quoting prose. The Chicago Manual of Style (at 6.112) also allows spaces when either of the separated items is a compound that itself includes a space: Our New Zealand / Western Australia trip. (Compare use of an en dash used to separate such compounds.) The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing prescribes "No space before or after an oblique when used between individual words, letters or symbols; one space before and after the oblique when used between longer groups which contain internal spacing", giving the examples "n/a" and "Language and Society / Langue et société".
The slash is also sometimes used to denote (often mutually exclusive) alternatives, such as in male/female.
When highlighting corrections on a proof, a proofreader will write what he or she thinks should be changed—or why it should be changed—in the margin. They separate the comments with a slash called a separatrix.
When marking an uppercase letter for conversion to lowercase, a proofreader will put a slash through it and write lc or l/c in the margin.
The solidus and slash are distinct typographic symbols with decidedly different uses. The solidus is significantly more horizontal than the slash. However, it is acceptable to use the slash in place of the solidus when there is no alternative; the character found on standard keyboards is the slash. The solidus is used in the display of ratios and fractions, as in constructing a fraction using superscript and subscript, e.g. “123⁄456”; the slash is used for essentially any other textual purpose.
A slash followed by a dash is used to denote the conclusion of currency if cents are not included. For example, on a check/cheque or a hand-written invoice, somebody may write $50/- (equivalent to $50.00) to denote the end of the currency. This keeps anybody from adding further digits to the end of the number.
In the UK, prior to decimalisation, a slash (or the similar, more horizontal, solidus symbol) was used to denote shillings; thus "5/6" meant "five shillings and six pence", and "5/-" meant "five shillings".
A leading slash represents the root directory of the virtual file system; it is used when specifying absolute paths:
The slash is sometimes called a "forward slash" to contrast with the backslash, "\", which is used in DOS, Windows and OS/2 systems as a path delimiter. Due to DOS and Windows users often seeing far more backslashes than normal ones, they sometimes incorrectly assume a backslash is normal and incorrectly call a slash a "backslash", or felt they needed to say "forward slash" to ensure the correct one was understood. With the increased visibility of slash in Internet URLs, and increased use of Unix systems (such as Mac OS X and Linux), slashes have again become more common for most computer users and the term "forward slash" is now considered an anachronism.
IBM JCL uses two slashes to start each line in a batch job stream (except for /* and /&).
Many Internet Relay Chat and in-game chat clients use the slash to distinguish commands, such as the ability to join or part a chat room or send a private message to a certain user. The slash has also been used in many chat mediums as a way of expressing an action or statement in the likeness of a command.
- /join #services – to join channel "#services"
- /me sings a song about birds.
The slash is used as a reply on instant messages representing "OK" or "check" or "got it" and also implying "thanks".
In Second Life chat the slash is used to select the communications channel allowing users to direct commands to various virtual objects listening on different channels (e.g. "/42 on" could be a message in local chat directing the house lights to turn on).
In computer programming, the slash is Unicode and ASCII character 47, or U+002F. Note that ISO and Unicode.org both designate this character as the “SOLIDUS”, while calling the solidus “FRACTION SLASH”, in direct contradiction to long-established English typesetting terminology. It is used in the following settings:
- In most programming languages, / is used as a division operator. Starting with version 2.2, Python uses // (two slashes) for integer division, rounding down.
- MATLAB and GNU Octave also have the ./ (a dot and a slash) to indicate an element-by-element division of matrices.
- Comments in C, C++, C#, Java, PHP, CSS, and SAS begin with /* (a slash and an asterisk), and end with */ (the same characters in the opposite order).
- C99, C++, C#, PHP, and Java also have comments that begin with // (two slashes) and span a single line.
- In SGML and derived languages such as HTML and XML, a slash is used to indicate a closing tag. For example, in HTML, </em> ends a section of emphasized text that had been started with <em>.
- Slashes are used as the standard delimiters for regular expressions, although other characters can be used instead.
- Slashes are sometimes used to show italics, when no special formatting is available. Example: /Italic text/
The GEDCOM Standard for exchanging computerized genealogical data uses slashes to delimit surnames. Example: Bill /Smith/ Jr.
Slashes around surnames are also used in Personal Ancestral File.
Certain shorthand date formats use / as a delimiter, for example "16/9/2003" 16 September 2003.
In the UK there used to be a specialised use in prose: 7/8 May referred to the night which starts the evening of 7 May and ends the morning of 8 May, totalling about 12 hours depending on the season. This was used to list night-bombing air-raids which would carry past midnight. Some police units in the USA use this notation for night disturbances or chases. Conversely, the form with a hyphen, 7–8 May, would refer to the two-day period, at most 48 hours. This would commonly be used for meetings.
ISO 8601 provides a standard method of expressing dates and times which resolves ambiguities caused by the different formats historically used by different countries. According to this norm, dates must be written year-month-day using hyphens, but time periods are written separated by a solidus: 1939-09-01/1945-05-08, for example, would be the duration of the Second World War in the European theatre, while 2010-09-03/12-22 might be used for the autumn term of a northern-hemisphere school, from September the third to December the twenty-second, both in 2010. Instead of the solidus in some applications a double hyphen is used, e.g. 1939-09-01--1945-05-08, which would allow the use of the duration in filenames.
The slash has been used as the title of a novel by Greg Bear, / (Slant). The "Slant" was added on to give people something to call the book, but it has ultimately become the accepted title in many book lists.
The slash is also the symbol for a wand in NetHack.
In cataloging, as prescribed by the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, a slash is used to separate the title from the statement of responsibility (e.g., author, director, production company). The slash is flanked by a single space on either side. This form may be seen on catalog cards as well as electronic catalogs, depending on how items are chosen to display.
- Gone with the Wind / by Margaret Mitchell.
- Star Trek II. The Wrath of Khan [videorecording] / Paramount Pictures.
Slashes (virgules) are used in music as an alternative to writing out specific notes where it is easier to read than traditional notation, or where the player can improvise. They are commonly used to indicate chords either in place of or in combination with traditional notation, and for drummers as an indication to continue with the previously indicated style.
Slashes (or virgules) are used in addresses of places. E.g. 8/A Pushkar Society, to specify the eighth Apartment (bearing Number 8) in Building A of a multi-building residential complex named Pushkar Society. However, 8-A or # 8A will mean Section or Wing A of Apartment 8. In this sense, the slash stands for of.
Slashes (or virgules) are used to indicate the serial number of an article in a set of a finite number of articles. E.g. "page #17/35" in a document indicates the seventeenth out of a total of 35 pages in a document/chapter/book. Also, the marking "#333/500" on one of many packages indicates that the package so identified is three hundred thirty-third out of 500 numbered packages. In this sense, the slash stands for "out of".
In quantum field theory, a slash through a symbol, such as a, is shorthand for γμaμ, where a is a covariant four-vector, the γμ are the gamma matrices, and the repeated index μ is summed over according to the Einstein notation.
Other alternations with hyphen
Besides the varied usage with dates, the slash is used to indicate a range of serial numbers which have the hyphen already as part of their alphanumeric symbol set. The primary example is the US Air Force serial numbers for aircraft. These are usually written, for example, as "85-1000", for the thousandth aircraft ordered in fiscal year 1985. To designate a series of serial numbers, the slash is used, as in 85-1001/1050 for the first fifty subsequent aircraft.
Gender-neutrality in Spanish and Portuguese
In Portuguese and Spanish, as well in other West Iberian languages, many feminine forms are very similar to the masculine ones, differing only by an extra desinence, usually an "-a". For instance, the feminine of "pintor" ("male painter" both in Spanish and Portuguese) is "pintora". These two forms can be joined together through a slash: pintor/a. Proponents of gender-neutral language assert that this composed form should be used when the sex of the person referred to is unknown or when a description fits both sexes. Traditionally, speakers of these languages (and others from the Romance family) employ the masculine form in this sense, even when the description is also suitable for a woman.
Although parentheses are longer and less specific than a slash, they are the preferred punctuation marks in Portuguese, so "painter" (meaning male or female) is usually written as "pintor(a)". Prominent Portuguese grammar references don't mention any use of the slash, but at least one proposal of gender-inclusive Portuguese does incorporate the sign. According to Portuguese With Inclusion of Gender, a slash should be used instead of parentheses. Slashes should not be used when an at-sign ("@") or an ae ligature ("æ") are more appropriate.
- diagonal (rare)
- forward slash
- forward stroke
- oblique in British English.
- oblique dash
- oblique stroke
- over when the symbol is used to indicate division
- per when used to indicate prices (e.g., $5/dozen, read, "five dollars per dozen")
- right-leaning stroke
- scratch comma
- slak (rare)
- slat (rare)
- solidus (a real solidus—or shilling mark—is more slanted than the slash)
- stroke In British English this is often used when reading the character aloud, although this term is also used to mean any single mark or dash in general. It is common to hear someone say "this stroke that", whereas a North American speaker is more likely to say "this slash that". However, the term slash is usually used in the UK when reading computer pathnames. Stroke is also commonly used among the North American amateur radio community.
- virgule suspensiva
- whack Some speakers use this term only for the backslash ("\").
- ^ 
- ^ 
- ^ Cunha & Cintra (2001). Nova Gramática do Português Contemporâneo, 3rd edition revised. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira. ISBN 85-209-1137-4
- ^ http://numpol.com/br/pdf/2II.pdf in Portuguese and also http://conscienciaefervescente.blogspot.com/2009/08/proposta-do-portugues-com-inclusao-de.html, in Portuguese as well
- ^ a b c d Free On-Line Dictionary of Computing
- ^ The Canadian style: a guide to writing and editing, p. 115
- ^ a b Oxford Dictionaries FAQ[dead link]
- ^ Authors' and Printers' Dictionary, p. 371, READ BOOKS, 2007
- ^ Dictionary.com
- ^ http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/A/ASCII.html
- ^ "stroke", Dictionary (Merriam-Webster online), http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stroke, retrieved 2011-10-18
- ^ Truss, Lynn (2004). Eats, Shoot & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham Books. p. 73. ISBN 1-592-40087-6.
- ^ Whack
- ^ Jargon file page on ASCII
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