Slash - Explore Meaning, Definition, Types, Usage and Examples

Cappuccino/Espresso/Italiano – Which one would you prefer?

Are you a person who likes choices? Have you ever observed how choices or options are indicated in writing? In this article, you will be introduced to one such punctuation mark that is used to show the various available options in a particular category – the slash. Learn the meaning, definition, types and usage of slashes in writing. Also, check out the examples given for a clear idea of how it is used.

Table of Contents

Slash – Meaning and Definition

A slash, in punctuation, is a slanting line that is generally used instead of the conjunction ‘or’. It is also used to denote the availability of options and choices. A slash, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is defined as “the symbol / used in writing to separate letters, numbers, or words” and according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “a mark / used typically to denote “or” (as in and/or), “and or” (as in straggler/deserter), or “per” (as in feet/second)”. The Collins Dictionary defines a slash as “a short diagonal line (/) used between two words to show that either is applicable (and/or), in dates or fractions (3/8), to express “per” (feet/ second), etc.”

Types of Slashes

In the English language, slashes are of three types, each of them used for different purposes. The three types of slashes are,

  • Forward Slash (/)
  • Backward Slash (\)
  • Vertical Slash (|)

Have you ever noticed how many slashes there are on the computer keyboard? There are three keys on the keyboard with the slash symbol, two along with the alphabets on the main typing keypad and one on the numeric keypad. On the typing keypad, you have one of each (a forward slash and a backward) and on the numeric keypad, you have just a forward slash.

Let us now look at the significance of the forward slash, the backward slash and the vertical slash in detail.

The Forward Slash

The forward slash (/) is the most commonly used slash symbol. The forward slash means ‘or’, ‘and or’ or ‘per’. There are multiple scenarios in which the forward slash is used. They are as follows:

  • To separate the date, month and year as in DD/MM/YY
  • In between the numerator and denominator to indicate fractions as in ¼
  • To denote alternate options meaning either this or that as in coffee/tea
  • Instead of the term ‘per’ as in 45 km/hr

The Backward Slash

The backward slash (\), on the other hand, is not seen to be used very often. This is because it is only used in computer coding languages. For example,

  • Escape characters in python coding use backslashes. For instance: \n for a new line, \t for tab, \’ to insert a single quote, etc.
  • Windows uses backslashes to indicate paths or location of a folder as in C:\Users\Admin\Pictures

The Vertical Slash

The vertical slash (|), also known as the straight slash or the upright slash, is mostly used in coding language and mathematics. It also means ‘such that’ or ‘it is true that’. It also performs the role of an OR operator in coding languages. For example: Gowtham|Cyril means “Gowtham” and “Cyril”.

When and Where to Use a Slash?

You have already learnt what all a forward slash generally means and is used for. Now, let us see when and where it can be used. A slash can be used between words in a text, and according to the way it is used, it can mean different things.

A forward slash is used

  • Between two nouns or conjunctions as a substitute for the conjunction ‘or’. Example: his/her, he/she, if/when.
  • Between the conjunctions ‘and’ and ‘or’ to show that both options are available. Example: Coat and/or tie.
  • To separate lines in poetry, prose and even song lyrics. For example: “Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed/In one self place, for where we are is hell,/And where hell is must we ever be.” (‘Doctor Faustus’ by Christopher Marlowe)
  • To form abbreviations. Example: w/o meaning without. See to it that you do not use abbreviations such as these in formal writing.
  • To denote a relationship between two closely related terms. Example: Sun/Moon

Examples of Sentences Using Slashes

Take a look at the following examples and try analysing how it is being used.

  • You are allowed to bring your father and/or mother to the Parent-Teacher meeting.
  • You can use a black pen/pencil to mark the parts of the diagram.
  • My sister was looking for the newspaper dated 12/09/21.
  • A parent/guardian has to accompany the child to the auditorium.
  • Another day without your smile/Another day just passes by/And now I know/How much it means/For you to stay right here with me (“I Wanna Grow Old with You’ by Westlife)
  • Anyone who has his/her own vehicle can leave now.
  • I have met them at close of day/Coming with vivid faces/From counter or desk among grey/Eighteenth-century houses. (‘Easter, 1916’ by William Butler Yeats)
  • Carry a sweater/shawl to shelter yourself from the cold weather.
  • You will be required to submit address/age proof when you apply for a new bank account.
  • My mom asked me to add a little extra powdered pepper/chilli flakes when making pepper chicken gravy if I wanted it to be really spicy.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Use of Slash in Writing

What is a slash?

A slash, in punctuation, is a slanting line that is generally used instead of the conjunction ‘or’. It is also used to denote the availability of options and choices.

What is the definition of a slash?

A slash, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is defined as “the symbol / used in writing to separate letters, numbers, or words” and according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “a mark / used typically to denote “or” (as in and/or), “and or” (as in straggler/deserter), or “per” (as in feet/second)”. The Collins Dictionary defines a slash as “a short diagonal line (/) used between two words to show that either is applicable (and/or), in dates or fractions (3/8), to express “per” (feet/ second), etc.”

How many types of slashes are there and what are they?

Slashes are of three main types and they are,

  • Forward Slash (/)
  • Backward Slash (\)
  • Vertical Slash (|)

What is the use of a slash?

A slash can be used for various purposes. Some of them are as follows:

  • To write the date
  • To represent fractions
  • To form abbreviations
  • To indicate choices, instead of the conjunction ‘or’
  • To represent contradictory and similar relationships
  • To substitute ‘and/or’
  • To separate lines in poetry, prose and songs.