Slash (Virgule) Punctuation Rules With Examples

With as many punctuation marks and rules that exist in the written English language, it’s no wonder that many people are often confused about what to use and when. The forward-slash (also known as a virgule) is a commonly typed punctuation mark that should be reserved for informal situations or formatting purposes. 

Take a look at when it is appropriate to use and how you might use it. These rules are simple, and I provide examples to help you use the slash symbol correctly in writing. 

What is the Difference Between a Slash vs. a Backslash?

Unlike the backslash [\] that is only used in computer coding, the forward-slash [/] (sometimes called a virgule) has various uses in informal writing situations. It can replace words such as or, and, and per; form abbreviations for words or dates; indicate fractions, spans of time, or breaks between poetic lines; or even define conflicting and connecting relationships between two words or phrases. Take a look at these punctuation mark rules below. 

What Does a Forward Slash Mean in Writing? Virgule Examples

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The forward-slash should only be used in informal writing scenarios unless used in a formatting situation. The following rules provide simple uses of the punctuation mark with examples to help you determine when and when not to use one. 

Rule #1

Use a forward slash to indicate the word or.

For Example:

  • You need to bring your own linens/sleeping bags and kitchen supplies to rent the vacation house. 

Rule #2

Use a forward slash to indicate the word and.

For Example:

  • She graduated with a dual BA/MS degree.

Rule #3

Use a forward slash to indicate the word per.

For Example:

  • His summer job offered $10/hour, significant for a 15-year-old.

Rule #4

Use a forward slash to indicate breaks between poetic lines.

For Example:

  • Sowing, ignorant/ of the method-it will grow/ maybe anyway.

Rule #5

Use a forward slash to form an abbreviation.

For Example:

  • With = w/
  • Care of = c/o

Rule #6

Use a forward slash to indicate conflicting and connecting relationships.

For Example:

  • The longstanding conflict between nature/nurture continues to be the primary source of discussion in psychological studies. 

Rule #7

Use a forward slash to form a fraction. 

For Example:

  • Three-fourths = 3/4

Rule #8

Use a forward slash to abbreviate dates. 

For Example:

  • December 15, 2010 = 12/15/2010

Rule #9

Use a forward slash as part of a website address.

For Example:

  • https://grammarist.com/writing-tools/best-online-spellchecker-free-and-paid-options/

Rule #10

Use a forward slash in place of the Latin preposition cum. Cum means “along with being,” “combined with,” or “also used as.” 

For Example:

  • After years in the classroom, they exhausted her as a teacher/therapist/counselor to hundreds of students. 

Rule #11

Use a forward slash to indicate a two-year span of time. 

For Example:

  • The difficulty of the 2020/21 school year was superseded by the nightmare 2021/22 became. 

Do Spaces Go Before and After a Slash?

When you use a slash in a sentence, you might be struggling to determine when and how to use spaces before or after a slash. The rules surrounding this are quite simple: there is no space if the slash divides two words. 

For Example:

  • If you could send over that material either Tuesday/Wednesday of next week, that would be great. 

When it divides two phrases, sentences, or a single word from the rest of a phrase, you place a space before and after the slash. 

For Example:

  • The Great War / World War I conflict involved an incredible amount of loss and economic strife for those countries involved.  

When using a slash to indicate lines in a poem, place a space directly after the slash.

For Example:

Nothing beside remains./ Round the decay/ Of that colossal wreck,/ boundless and bare/ The lone and level sands stretch far away.’ [Ozymandias]

Using the Forward Slash in Writing

“… our Federal Highway Administration hosted forums in Denver, Phoenix, Louisville/New Albany, Hartford and Brooklyn/Queens … “ (Frost Illustrated)

It’s sometimes used to indicate a dichotomy or a vague disjunction between two things—for example, “Its appeal cuts across the usual liberal/conservative line.” (Patriot Post

Let’s Review

The forward slash is an informal punctuation mark that works to clarify relationships between words and numbers when appropriately used. Although its use should be avoided in formal writing situations, it is acceptable to use in various circumstances. 

Use these rules to help determine when and how it is acceptable to place a forward slash in your sentences.