Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Visiting the Virgule

Solidus, duckies! Well, it certainly sounds like a greeting, doesn't it? Alas, it’s only a dressed-up word for the oft-used forward slash. Let’s have a look at some of the common uses of this leaning tower of punctuation.

Probably the most recognized use of the forward slash is to offer alternatives. Choices such as either/or and he/she make use of this informal notation. Spaces on either side of the slash are unnecessary, but can be included if one of the separated terms is, as the Manual states, an open compound. Plain as a trench coat, yes? On we go.

If you’re tired of using en dashes when writing dates, you can slip in a forward slash. This is handy when noting a span of two years (1973/74), or when indicating a specific date (6/18/42). The Manual suggests using this kind of date notation only in informal pieces, to avoid confusion. While American writers tend to indicate the month first, writers from Europe and Canada more often use the day instead.

The forward slash can be used as a sort of shorthand for other notations, such as the word per in the following sentence: Even at $1/dozen, those shoes are no bargain.

It took several minutes before I realized that my cell phone made use of the forward slash in its calculator function. Couldn’t just use a divide symbol, oh no. The programmers are apparently devotees of the Manual as well, making use of the slash as a fraction bar.

Of course, we can’t forget the use of the forward slash when quoting poetry. Multiple lines of poetry, when quoted in text, are separated with spaced slashes to show line breaks. “The sweater now adorns my self / but looked much better on the shelf. / It suits me not; I blame the hue / I should have chosen one in blue.” 

That’s all we have time for today, dearies. The temperature is dropping into the single digits tonight, and I must bank the fire. If you think of any further uses for the forward slash, send them along c/o The Style Maven, won’t you? Heh, heh.

Photo courtesy of Darrick Bartholomew

The Style Maven made six attempts at a flourless chocolate torte before deciding that she’s much better at folding laundry than at folding egg whites. Follow the domestic adventures of her alter ego on The Procraftinator web page.


  1. In Australia we also follow the day/month/year format for dates. It does make for a lot of confusion in the first twelve days of each month.

    Love your photo, by the way. Very cute.

  2. Solidus and burn ... my approach to writing.

  3. I agree with Christopher, even though I have no idea what he said/wrote.

  4. I'm trying to remember if I've ever used this in my fiction. I probably have, although in dialogue I tend to write everything out, so I'd write "twenty-four seven." But that's why I pay an editor!

  5. We now have our own slasher at the Blood-Red Pencil. How appropriate! Hahaha. Aud, I love your signature line and picture. We all need to work on something as attractive and clever. Right, team?

  6. Yes, I love the new picture! Well done!

  7. Great photo! Love the slash(er).



The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.