The Editorial Apartment

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Using the slash mark

When reviewing business copy, I often notice a lot of use of the slash mark. First, besides appearing in URLs, fractions, or dates, for example, a slash is a mark that shows options: Food/drinks will be available in the patio.

This use of the slash is a bit informal and can sometimes be awkward, hence it’s probably best to avoid it or at least not overuse it. Some think the phrase “and/or” is unclear: Does the slash really mean both “and” and “or,” or does it mean just “or”? Lawyers, in particular, don’t like “and/or”—see this article for an explanation.

There is also the spacing issue around the slash. Here’s when to put space around it and when not to:

  • If the options are single words, you don’t need a space around the slash: We have a substantial promotions/signage budget.
  • If one of the options, or both options, is a phrase, put a space around the slash to help clarify what the options are: Please sign up for our e-newsletter / text message alerts here.

If you think the spacing looks a bit awkward, avoid the slash and just use words: Please sign up for our e-newsletter and text message alerts here.