Backslash in Sentence

Primary tabs

51 posts / 0 new
Last post
Andrew Sipe's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2005 - 10:44am
Backslash in Sentence
0

After following the En-Em Dash debates (http://typophile.com/node/30372) I have a question of my own.

When using the backslash in a sentence, what is the acceptable (English) usage?

This is a problem that has plagued me for sometime now, but never enough to illicit proper research. Hopefully you fine folks can help.

1. No spacing:
The work around utilized by eRMS operators was to Reverse/Cancel Shipping Document…

2. Spacing on both sides of the backslash:
The work around utilized by eRMS operators was to Reverse / Cancel Shipping Document…

3. Spacing after the backslash:
The work around utilized by eRMS operators was to Reverse/ Cancel Shipping Document…

I apologize for my boring example, it's from a document I'm currently working on.

Alexander Kominek's picture
Joined: 10 Dec 2004 - 6:27pm
0

I was always taught that you don't put any spaces around the slash unless it's separating poetry lines or song lyrics, but I don't have any style manuals handy at the moment.

BTW, this: / - is a slash and this: \ - is a backslash.

- Lex

David Smith's picture
Offline
Joined: 14 Jan 2007 - 11:16pm
0

To my eyes, at least, number 1 looks best. Also, I think it may be a forward slash your using??

later: woops, Lex beat me to it!

Conor Nolan's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2006 - 10:05am
0

BTW, this: / - is a slash and this: \ - is a backslash

Not often I get to be completely anal twice in a week. But this: / - is a virgule

;^)

As a personal rule of thumb, I’d use it without the spaces either side.

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

Chicago refers to it as the solidus (also known as the slash, slant, or virgule) and suggests the same spacing rules apply to it as to the em- and en-dash, i.e., no spacing.

I've been known to bend that one on rare occasions, depending on the font -- setting something in italic with a slash might want one (thin, actually, in retrospect) space after, but it's not usual. Spacing on both sides cancels out the whole purpose of putting the slash there in the first place, because it indicates an alternative choice. My copy of Chicago has several such examples, all set tight.

At least here in North America: elsewhere, mileage/kilometrage varies.... ;-)

seconds later: Ah, great minds think alike!

Conor Nolan's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2006 - 10:05am
0

Ah! Linda. Out of nowhere! ;^)

Conor Nolan's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2006 - 10:05am
0

Solidus is used for fractions.

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

A punctuation mark by any other name would do the job as well. ;-)

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

(Gawd, I love questions like this!)

Interestingly enough, APA (The American Psychological Association) Manual calls it a "slash, also called a virgule, solidus, or shill" but has some considerable differences in use from Chicago.

APA warns against use in and/or constructions (they want a phrase instead), simple comparisons (they want a hyphen), or "more than once to express compound units" (where they want centered dots and parens).

The New York Public Library of Style has even more names for "slash" -- virgule, cancel, shilling, diagonal, slant bar, stroke, solidus, and (my personal favourite) separatrix.

Words Into Type says that separatrix is used in bibliographical matter to indicate where one line ends and another begins (this is also a function in setting poetry continuously).

And last, but not least, the second edition of Editing Canadian English lists it in the index as "solidus."

Whew! ;-)

Tim Daly's picture
Offline
Joined: 11 Sep 2003 - 9:04am
0

No space
The workaround utilized by eRMS operators was to Reverse/Cancel Shipping Document…

unless it affects the rag, in which case I leave it with the previous word.
The workaround utilized by
eRMS operators was to Reverse/
Cancel Shipping Document…

btw I would use workaround as one word.

Tim

Conor Nolan's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2006 - 10:05am
0

Just had a gander at The Elements of Typographic Style, which refers to it simply as a virgule. The solidus is refered to as being used in fractions and appears slightly more tilted to the right than the virgule, as you would for fractions.

Jason Pagura's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Sep 2006 - 6:19pm
0

Is there any proper use in English (or any other language) for the backslash (\) in a sentence?

Conor Nolan's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2006 - 10:05am
0

> Is there any proper use in English (or any other language) for the backslash (\) in a sentence?

To refer to The Elements of Typographic Style once more, it’s useless, with no recognised use in typography. Superfluous. Purely a cosmetic addition.

Chris Lozos's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
0

MSDOS commands :-P

ChrisL

Conor Nolan's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2006 - 10:05am
0

> MSDOS

A programming language… mmm! ;^)

Don McCahill's picture
Offline
Joined: 30 Mar 2006 - 7:55pm
0

The solidus and virgule are totally different characters. The former has a steeper angle, and I believe the baseline is also different.

Lari Elovainio's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Nov 2005 - 12:05pm
0

There’s a clever rule in Finnish. If the slash is between two words, no spaces at all. If it’s between two sets of words, then put spaces on both sides.

typos edited

Example
and/or

white hat / grey pants

Andrew Sipe's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2005 - 10:44am
0

If the slash is between two words, no spaces at all. If it’s between two sets of words, then put spaces on both sides.

What if it's proper nouns?

Would it be: North America/South America

or would it be: North America / South America

Andrew Sipe's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2005 - 10:44am
0

Finally, I'm at peace. Thank you all very much.

Not only has my question been answered, but I have been corrected in what type of slash it was (Lex and Conor) also, I thought it was called a backslash because it was tilted towards the rear.

This prompts another query… maybe we should have a Grammarwiki to go with the typowiki

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

The COPYEDITING-L list (https://listserv.indiana.edu/cgi-bin/wa-iub.exe?A0=COPYEDITING-L) put together a "definitive" style guide ten or so years ago, which I assume is being kept up.

You need to be a member to download it, and I left because it was just too busy. With permission, it might be a good start to a grammarwiki here....

Andrew Sipe's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2005 - 10:44am
0

It would be a grammarwiki with the typographer in mind. With entries that show examples of where the rules could be "bent" for to facilitate proper (visually aesthetic?) typesetting.

There does seem to be a lot of grammar-centric questions on Typophile. Where you have type, you have text…

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

It would be a grammarwiki with the typographer in mind. With entries that show examples of where the rules could be “bent” for to facilitate proper (visually aesthetic?) typesetting.

Absolutely, but using that group's accumulated knowledge would at least solve some of the "well, in this country we do A, but in that country, we do B" arguments straight out: we can always fill in all the typographic quirks ourselves. ;-)

Conor Nolan's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2006 - 10:05am
0

I can’t resist…

> There does seem to be a lot of grammar-centric questions on Typophile.

There do seem to be a lot of grammar-centric questions on Typophile.

I hope I’m right. ;^)

Andrew Sipe's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2005 - 10:44am
0

Is that a Hat-trick for you today?

There does seem to be a lot of grammar-centric questions on Typophile.

There do seem to be a lot of grammar-centric questions on Typophile.

There seems to be a lot of grammar-centric questions on Typophile.

Maybe we're both right?

David Smith's picture
Offline
Joined: 14 Jan 2007 - 11:16pm
0

If you substitute "lot of grammar-centric questions" for something singular: say, O I don't know, "silliness"? - then you would have to use "does," which implies that "do" is correct?

I'm always wrong with these things, but ummm, maybe? :-)

Jason Pagura's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Sep 2006 - 6:19pm
0

There does seem to be a lot of grammar-centric questions on Typophile.
There do seem to be lots of grammar-centric questions on Typophile.

???

Is one of those wrong? Are they both wrong?

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

Well, it's true that some Typophiles ask many questions relating to grammar.

:-)

Tiffany Wardle's picture
Offline
Joined: 13 Jul 2001 - 11:00am
0

I think understanding grammar is integral to being a good type-setter.

Andrew Sipe's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2005 - 10:44am
0

I think understanding grammar is integral to being a good type-setter.

I'm screwed.

Tiffany Wardle's picture
Offline
Joined: 13 Jul 2001 - 11:00am
0

I should add that while I think it is intergral I struggle just as much as the next typographer. ;^)

Maurice Meilleur's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 8:13pm
0

Andrew, I don't know if you have any editorial say in this, but Bryan Garner--a very condensed version of whose Modern American Usage appears in CMS 15/e--would say that if you really mean "or," write "or," or pick one or the other: "reverse" or "cancel." Hence, your virgule/separatrix/etc. problem goes away.

Garner would probably also say that the verb for "to draw out" or "provoke" is elicit, but I recognize the gratuity of my pointing that out.

Also--to make my post even more gratuitous--when people mean "use," why can't they write "use," and not "utilize," a three-syllable word than means nothing more or less than "use"?

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

There does seem to be a lot of grammar-centric questions on Typophile.
There do seem to be lots of grammar-centric questions on Typophile.
???
Is one of those wrong? Are they both wrong?

(putting on my editor hat)

The former is my pick of the two.

That being said, it is awkward to see it written, and is phrased more as a rhetorical question (I keep expecting to see "doesn't there?" at the end). IMHO, it should be rewritten as

"There are many grammar-centric questions on Typophile."

OTOH, I don't have a problem in people writing here as they talk, and certainly the rhetorical question format is much more conversational and colloquial.

And thus endeth the grammar lesson for today.... ;-)

(taking off my editor hat)

There are days when it's useful to have one foot in the typography/design camp and the other in the anal-retentive editor camp, I guess.

Lari Elovainio's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Nov 2005 - 12:05pm
0

Does grammar-centric mean grammatical?

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

Lari, I think I'd define grammar-centric more as "centred around grammar": grammatical means "conforming to the rules of grammar."

I'd like to think we're doing the former while discussing the latter. ;-)

Andrew Sipe's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2005 - 10:44am
0

…the more I read, the less confident I feel about what I've written…

I'm elated that I've sparked such an interest in "proper" grammar; please stop dissecting my sentences. It's starting to give me a complex.

Maurice Meilleur's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 8:13pm
0

Andrew: sorry. I can see about three things I'd change in my last post, anyway, if that's any consolation. Self-consciousness is good, so long as it doesn't paralyze you.

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

I’m elated that I’ve sparked such an interest in “proper” grammar; please stop dissecting me sentences. It’s starting to give me a complex.

Just so long as it's not one like Oedipus.... ;-)

The practices of "grammar" and "typography" have almost too many similarities: I've always thought of them as being opposite sides of the same street, to skew Tiff's analogy a bit.

(Probably the two most important is that they both require an eagle-eye for detail, and it's essential to know the rules so you can break them when a situation calls for it.)

In the thirty-plus years I've spent working with both, I've often been asked which one I prefer, and the answer's always been "I can't pick just one." I consider myself very lucky that I've always been able to make a (relatively) good living by doing them at the same time.

(And for my next philosophical discourse, we'll look at the jokes of Ludwig Wittgenstein....) ;-)

David Yoon's picture
Offline
Joined: 17 Apr 2006 - 7:58pm
0

There does seem to be a lot of grammar-centric questions on Typophile.
There do seem to be a lot of grammar-centric questions on Typophile.

Speaking as an editor, each of those sentences could be correct for a particular meaning: if the "lot" were an actual thing, like in the sense of "the items on sale in the auction were grouped into twenty lots", the singular verb would be correct, but if "a lot of" were used as a synonym for "many" without any implication of the existence of actual lots, then the plural verb would be preferable. I think the latter is what is meant here.

Cameron Midson's picture
Offline
Joined: 3 Nov 2005 - 6:14pm
0

I agree with Grot Esqué on this one, and I suppose it is similar to my views on the en-dash as well. No spaces if you are contrasting two words (yes/no) but spaces if you are contrasting phrases (not today / no comment).

Where I tend to use it most is for event listings:
Mon/Tue/Thu
or
4 February / 5 March

And if a grammarwiki was started it would be my number 1 bookmark.

Choz Cunningham's picture
Offline
Joined: 27 Jun 2006 - 1:30pm
0

So, if the backslash is on all our keyboards, is there something useful we might do with it? The backslash is slowly losing it's role in file management, and it would be a shame for it to just atrophy. The "|" has some decorative use, I've started on getting the ascii tilde some play, but I'm totally open to getting to 'own' another key on my 'board!

Choz

Ricardo Cordoba's picture
Offline
Joined: 6 Jun 2005 - 6:57pm
0

Late to the party... I just have to comment on

(my personal favourite) separatrix

That is awesome, Linda. I have a new favorite word! It sounds like a grammar disciplinarian, i.e., "You will stay apart!"

;-D

Lari Elovainio's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Nov 2005 - 12:05pm
0

I’m going to North America/South America.
I’m going to North America America. / I’m going to North South America.

I’m going to North America / South America.
I’m going to North America. / I’m going to South America.

Andrew Sipe's picture
Offline
Joined: 25 Apr 2005 - 10:44am
0

I’m going to North America / South America.
I’m going to North America. / I’m going to South America.

Lari, thank you for clearing that up.

Choz: That's an interesting question.

Don McCahill's picture
Offline
Joined: 30 Mar 2006 - 7:55pm
0

I like that Finnish rule. Wish it could become usage in English. It adds clarity, as Grot shows in his last post. Clarity is a good thing in grammar (and in typography).

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

separatrix

That is awesome, Linda. I have a new favorite word! It sounds like a grammar disciplinarian, i.e., “You will stay apart!”

;-D

Ricardo, any editor worth their salt carries a range of whips, uh, red pencils, with them for just such a purpose. ;-)

Lari, in a situation like that, and assuming I was visiting both, I'd write I'm going to North America and South America. Sometimes, using a conjunction is a better solution to using a punctuation mark.... ;-)

Lari Elovainio's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Nov 2005 - 12:05pm
0

Yes, I personally always write “or”. (Can “/” ever mean “and”?)

Linda Cunningham's picture
Joined: 26 Jul 2006 - 3:55pm
0

The general consensus (at least in the style guides I have) is that something like apples/oranges means apples and/or oranges anyway.

Lari Elovainio's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Nov 2005 - 12:05pm
0

Yeah, that’s what I thought. “And/or” or “or”.

Alexander Kominek's picture
Joined: 10 Dec 2004 - 6:27pm
0

To me, "or" means the same thing as "and/or", but maybe that's because I've done so much computer programming and logic stuff.

- Lex

Jason Pagura's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Sep 2006 - 6:19pm
0

In the absense of "either", "or" can be taken to imply the inclusive sense, but "and/or" makes that intent less ambiguous. The exclusive "or", however your preferred programming language puts it, is analogous to a phrase like "either x or y".

I think I know what I'm talking about, but I'm not sure...

Lari Elovainio's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Nov 2005 - 12:05pm
0

Lex, didn’t your logic teacher tell you about the real world?

100 US $ is 77 € or 118 CAD. Either 77 € or 118 CAD, not 77 €, 118 CAD or 77 € + 118 CAD.

Mine had this lousy joke about dessert being coffee or ice cream. He had many lousy jokes.