Slash (punctuation): Wikis


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apostrophe ( ' )
brackets ( [ ], ( ), { }, ⟨ ⟩ )
colon ( : )
comma ( , )
dashes ( , , , )
ellipses ( , ... )
exclamation mark ( ! )
full stop/period ( . )
guillemets ( « » )
hyphen ( -, )
question mark ( ? )
quotation marks ( ‘ ’, “ ” )
semicolon ( ; )
slash/stroke ( / )
solidus ( )
Word dividers
spaces ( ) () () ( ) () () ()
interpunct ( · )
General typography
ampersand ( & )
at sign ( @ )
asterisk ( * )
backslash ( \ )
bullet ( )
caret ( ^ )
copyright symbol ( © )
currency generic: ( ¤ )
specific: ฿, ¢, $, , ƒ, , , , £, , ¥, , , , , , ,
daggers ( , )
degree ( ° )
ditto mark ( )
inverted exclamation mark ( ¡ )
inverted question mark ( ¿ )
number sign/pound/hash ( # )
numero sign ( )
ordinal indicator (º, ª)
percent (etc.) ( %, ‰, )
pilcrow ( )
prime ( )
registered trademark ( ® )
section sign ( § )
service mark ( )
sound recording copyright symbol ( )
tilde ( ~ )
trademark ( )
underscore/understrike ( _ )
vertical/broken bar, pipe ( |, ¦ )
Uncommon typography
asterism ( )
falsum ( )
index/fist ( )
therefore sign ( )
because sign ( )
interrobang ( )
irony mark/percontation point ( ؟ )
lozenge ( )
reference mark ( )
tie ( )

The slash is a sign, "/", used as punctuation mark and for various other purposes. It is often called a forward slash (to distinguish it from the backslash, "\")[1] and many other alternative names.



This symbol 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 most common use of the slash is to replace the hyphen or en dash to make clear a strong joint between words or phrases, such as "the Hemingway/Faulkner generation". It is used to represent the concept "or", especially in instruction books. It is also commonly translated today as "and".

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".

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. And in the USA, "O/O" is used by trucking firms or taxi-cabs to mean "owner-operator" (or "owned and operated by"). Notice that the phrase has a hyphen, whereas the abbreviation uses the slash.

In the USA 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).

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".


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. “123456”; the slash is used for essentially any other textual purpose.

Used between numbers it means division, and in this sense the symbol may be read aloud as "over". For sets, it usually means modulo ( quotient group ).


A slash followed by a dash is used to denote the conclusion of currency. For example, on a check or a hand-written invoice, somebody may write $50/- 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, the similar solidus symbol was used to denote shillings; thus "5/6" meant "five shillings and six pence", and "5/-" meant "five shillings". For this use, see Solidus.


A slash is typically used to denote a spare, knocking down all ten pins in two throws, when scoring ten-pin bowling, and duckpin bowling.



On Unix-like systems and in URLs, the slash is to separate directory and file components of a path:


A leading slash represents the root directory of the virtual file system; it is used when specifying absolute paths:


It is sometimes called a "forward slash" to contrast with the backslash \, which MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows systems also accept as a path delimiter. Due to 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), the term "forward slash" is now considered an anachronism.

Microsoft Windows, MS-DOS, like CP/M, use slash to indicate command-line options. For instance you add the "wide" option to the "dir" command by typing "dir/w" (no space is necessary).

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.


In computer programming, the slash is Unicode and ASCII character 47, or 0x002F. Note that ISO and 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 "9/16/2003" (in United States usage) or in most other countries "16/9/2003" September 16, 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.

The International Standard ISO 8601, in attempting to resolve this ambiguity, introduced problems of its own. According to this norm, dates must be written year-month-day using hyphens, but time periods are written as two standard dates separated by a slash: 1939-09-01/1945-05-08, for example, would be the duration of the Second World War in the European theatre, while 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. Instead of the slash 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.


For a specialized use of the slash in the titles of fan fiction stories, see slash fiction.

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.


Slashes are used to enclose a phonemic transcription of speech.


In quantum field theory, a slash through a symbol, such as a̷, 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 advocates of this composed form should be used when the sex of referred person is unknown or when description fits both sexes. Traditionally, speakers of these languages (and others from the Romance family) employ the masculine form in this sense, i.e. 'pintor', even the description is also suitable for a woman, a characterization of androcentrism.

Although compositions with the parentheses '()' are longer and less specific than with '/', these are the preferred signs in Portuguese. So, male or female painter is usually written as pintor(a) in this idiom. Important grammar references in the lusofonia actually does not mention any use of slash[2], but at least one proposal of gender-inclusive Portuguese does incorporate the sign[3]. According to PCIG, '/' should be use instead of '()'. Slash should not be used only when '@' and 'æ' are more appropriate.

Alternative names

  • diagonal[4] (rare)
  • forward slash
  • forward stroke
  • oblique[5] in British English.
  • oblique dash[1]
  • oblique stroke[4]
  • over when the symbol is used to indicate division
  • right-leaning stroke[citation needed]
  • scratch comma[6]
  • separatrix[7]
  • slak[4] (rare)
  • slant[4]
  • slat[8] (rare)
  • solidus (a real solidus (or shilling mark) is more slanted than the slash)
  • stroke[1] In British English this is often used when reading the character aloud, although this term is also used for the hyphen.[citation needed]. 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[1] (rare)
  • whack[9] Some speakers use this term only for the backslash ("\")[10].

Suggested terms: John Peel's Home Truths programme on BBC Radio 4 (UK) broadcast the suggestion from a 6-year-old contributor to use zig for the forward slash and zag for the backslash, the two forming a zigzag. Comedian Richard Herring has suggested that the forward slash should be referred to as a flash and the backslash as a blash.


External links

  • Forward Slash Definition by The Linux Information Project (LINFO)
  • Gender-inclusive use of '/' in Portuguese (and in Spanish too): 2 - A língua e o sexo (2 - Tongue and Sex), Quartos (quarters) I, II and III, one of the subjects of Controversial Numbers project

Simple English

The slash or stroke ( / ), also called virgule, diagonal, forward slash, right-leaning stroke oblique dash, slant, separatrix, scratch comma, over, slak and whack is a symbol used to separate different things, generally in case of a choice between these things.

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