Slash: When to Use Slash in Writing (Examples)

By Carly Forsaith, updated on May 24, 2023

Are you wondering what a slash is and how and when to use it? If so, you've come to the right place. This article will teach you everything you need to know about using a slash in your writing.

In short:

  • A slash is a punctuation mark used for many purposes in English, usually to show a connection or a separation between two things.

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

What Is a Slash?

When it comes to English grammar, a slash is a punctuation mark. But it's also used as a symbol in computing and mathematics.

  • Technically there are two types of slashes: the backslash (\) and the forward slash (/), but the backslash is not a punctuation mark and is only used in the context of computing, so in this article, we'll focus solely on the use of slashes.

The plural of slash is 'slashes,' so you would say 'one slash' and 'two slashes.' Not that you would often use the plural form all that much in this context since you'll rarely see several slashes in a row (except in a website URL, which we'll talk about later). The noun does have several other meanings, though, for which you might use the plural form more often.

Now let's find out when you should use the famous slashes.

When to Use a Slash

As I mentioned earlier, you can use the slash as a punctuation mark in grammar, or you can use it in the context of programming and mathematics. Let's have a look at both.

In Grammar

There are five main ways you can use a slash grammatically:

  • To replace 'and' and 'or'
  • To show a connection between two or more things
  • To mean 'per.'
  • In abbreviations
  • In dates

Let's go ahead and find out more about each of these.

Replace 'And' and 'Or'

A slash can often replace the words 'and' and 'or' when presenting two or more options. It's a way to either show that all the options are available shows or that there's a choice between them.

Allow me to illustrate with the following sentence:

The available milks are cow/almond/soy.

In the above sentence, the slash replaces the word 'and' because it says all three kinds of milk are available. Now look at the following sentence where the slash replaces the word 'or.'

Dear Sir/Madam.

Here, only one of the options is available: it's either 'Sir' or 'Madam;' it can't be both.

Let's take a look at some more examples.

Do you take milk/sugar?

I'll learn to ski if/when I ever decide to go on a skiing vacation

Either/or is fine by me.

Top Tip! Don't use spaces before and after the slash when you're just showing the relationship between single words.

Show a Connection Between Two or More Things

This use of slashes is similar to the one we just covered but extends to relationships between concepts, ideas, debates, and so on. It can work in a variety of contexts here.

In the following sentence, for example, it stands for 'vs.'

Where do you stand in the blue dress/gold dress debate?

But in the following sentence, the slash shows a back-and-forth between two extremes:

Their love/hate relationship gives me a headache.

In this example, it means 'also used as':

I work from my dining table/desk/ironing board.

  • No matter what it means, what the slash has in common in all these sentences is that it provides context for the relationship between two or more things.

Top Tip! It would be perfectly acceptable for you to insert a space before and after the slash in these scenarios because we're connecting phrases instead of single words. Although, as you can see, I've chosen not to. The choice is yours!

To Mean 'Per'

When writing units of measurement, you can use a slash to replace the word 'per.'

At 90 km/hour we can get there by 2 pm.

We can fit all the cows in the field if we use a ratio of 0.5/acre.

The average internet speed is 79Mbps/second.

  • It can technically replace the word 'per' in almost any context, but it's best kept for situations where you're using numbers, as otherwise, it can come across as a little lazy.

Take a look at the following sentence, for example:

How many cows/acre can you fit in the field?

In this context, you're best off writing the word 'per,' as such:

How many cows per acre can you fit in the field?

In Abbreviations

Sometimes you might abbreviate words by reducing them to a few letters separated by a slash.

Here are some common ones:

  • c/o - care of
  • w/o - without
  • n/a - not applicable
  • w/r/t - with regards to
  • a/c - air conditioning

These are handy for personal use when taking notes so that you can write faster. They're also great for texts if you want to write more within a shorter space.

But really, you can use them in pretty much any casual setting. Avoid them in formal settings.

In Dates

You can use slashes in dates to separate the day, month, and year if you're writing it in the numeral format.

She turned 36 on 12/27/2022.

I start my new job on 6/10.

We'e having a moment of silence to commemorate the 9/11 tragedy.

In Other Contexts

Slashes are also used in mathematics and computing to:

  • form fractions
  • write a URL address
  • in computer folder names

Let's take a look at some examples of each of these.



Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article on the use of slashes. I hope you found it helpful and feel confident about tackling slashes in your writing now.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • A slash is a punctuation mark.
  • You can use it in the context of grammar and mathematics/computing.
  • Slashes can replace the word 'or,' 'and,' or 'per;' to show a connection between two or more things; and help format abbreviations and dates.

If you enjoyed this article, you'd love our Grammar Book, a free online database of grammar articles just like this one. Check it out!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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