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Punctuation Series: How to Edit Slashes


We’re toward the end of our self-editing blog post punctuation series, but it certainly is not the end of the self-editing blog posts! In 2020, I’m planning a fiction and nonfiction course available in this similar blog post format to help writers nail down those sometimes tricky nuances of self-editing.

And sometimes the tricks are small, like the slashes we’re going to cover in today’s blog post. But though they are small, they are mighty in presentation—because that’s been the focus of this series, to ensure our manuscript presentation is spot-on for agents, editors, and readers, and for you, because when our presentation is beautiful, it’s something to be even prouder of, isn’t it?

Using slashes is important for both genres: fiction and nonfiction, believe it or not.

You might think it strange using slashes in fiction. . . well, how about fantasy or science fiction, where there’s occasionally that word or turn of phrase that just requires the slash? Like, the Hyperdrive 437/895 or Sector 222 maneuvering into the 343/898 realm.

I’ll be referring to The Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition, chapter six.

You may have always known the slash as the slash. But there’s another name for it. Several, actually. Yeah, I didn’t know that either, but I think it’s really cool!

  • The slash / is also known as slant or forward slash. OK, those we know. . .
  • But—the slash / is also known as virgule. Say, what?
  • And, the slash / is also known as solidus.

I see now how the slash makes a good case for being used in fantasy or science fiction, ha! Those last two alternate words are definitely fiction-worthy!

Let’s dive into the few tips for using slashes correctly within our manuscripts.

Slashes can signify alternatives in our writing. (Chicago Manual of Style 6.106).

  • Using the slash is somewhat informal, but even in formal circumstances, it can be used more effectively than the longhand “or.” The slash is shorthand or slang for our writing.
  • Sometimes the slash can be used for alternative spellings or names.
  • Now, one minor point to notice with that last bullet:
  • If you’re using a slash and your phrase has more than one word (compound), then simply enter a spacebar space between the slash on both sides.

Ready for some real examples? Here we go!

  1. he/she  Philip/Phyllis
  2. and/or  World War II / Second World WarNow, sometimes a slash makes better sense to replace “and” in a sentence. For instance, a Jekyll/Hyde personality, a BS/MS program, or an addition/deletion error. These slashes would refer to the phrases as an equal opportunity or offers both options, or includes both things.

Using slashes that span two years (Chicago Manual of Style 6.107).

  • If you’re using dates with the difference of one year, then a slash is a better option to use than an en dash.
  • For example, Between 1943/44 the US was in the thick of a world war.

Using slashes in breaks with poetry (Chicago Manual of Style 6.111).

  • We see poetry in both fiction and nonfiction, and knowing where to put those breaks is super helpful.
  • If you’re writing two or more lines of poetry, rather than using a comma at the end of each stanza, use a slash at the end of each stanza break.
  • For example, “A word is dead / When it is said, / Some say. / I say it just / Begins to live / That day.”

Using slashes with URLs and other paths (Chicago Manual of Style 6.112).

  • We see this mostly in endnotes, bibliographies, sources cited, etc. And sometimes we see them in prose, but not often. (Again, it’s also useful for science fiction genres.)
  • Slashes are great for URLs, file paths, and certain directions, including where to find something in Word.
  • With URLs, insert a slash with each part. For example, Or,
  • If you’re using any kind of resources page at the end of your book (this applies mostly to nonfiction), and a URL happens to be part of the resources used, it’s good to separate part of the link after the slash, not before.
  • With file path directions, it’s best to outline it this way for ease and clarity: To find Track Changes in Word, in the toolbar, go to Review/Tracking and click the down arrow to select Track Changes on/off or to see in Simple Markup, All Markup, or No Markup.

How’s that for a very brief introductory to using the slash that’s sometimes used but so often tricky to use?

Using the well-placed slash is important because your overall presentation makes a world of difference to your editor, agent, publisher, and readers. That may seem counterintuitive because the writing is equally important, but it’s the presentation that enhances your credibility as a writer. (Especially if you self-publish and are doing your own first-draft editing.)

Pro Tip :: I’m creating a few cheat sheets on some of the topics I’ve covered so far, and if you’d like to be in the loop for when they’ll be ready, just go to my website and email me, letting me know you’d like to be added to my Grammar List!! I look forward to seeing you!

Please take a minute and join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

Conversation Time!! What kinds of things would you like to see in my upcoming Fiction and Nonfiction self-editing courses? This can be anywhere from finding the “need,” how to edit character, scene, or dialogue, or anything else that you have been curious about! Drop a line in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

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