Forward slashes are only useful in a limited number of situations. Users are familiar with them in mathematical expressions, dates, web addresses, and in some shortened forms.
Limit the forward slash to specific uses
The forward slash is also known as the ‘solidus’ or just the ‘slash’.
Use forward slashes:
- in some shortened forms
- in mathematical expressions
- to present lines of poetry in running text
- instead of ‘per’, ‘an’ or ‘a’ when abbreviating units of measurement
- in web addresses
- in dates if you can’t write them out – for example, in tables
- in some place names.
/- [for ‘care of’ in postal addresses]
/a [for ‘not applicable’]
(x + y)
/(a + b)
Don’t add spaces around most forward slashes
There is no need to include a space on either side of a forward slash.
The exceptions are for:
- official dual place names
- lines of poetry in running text – use forward slashes with spaces around them to show the line breaks.
/ Cape Barren Island [Official dual place name]
As far as possible, avoid using forward slashes either side of a line break.
If you must, include the slash before the line break so that the reader anticipates it as they read the next line.
Write shortened units of measurement with a forward slash
Don’t use forward slashes when spelling out units of measurement.
60 kilometres per hour
Use an en dash for financial years, not a slash
Don’t use a forward slash as a replacement for an en dash in financial years.
Write ‘or’ instead of a slash for alternatives
When showing alternatives, use ‘or’ instead of a forward slash. This is easier for people to understand.
a yes or no question
a yes/no question
Do not use ‘and/or’ in text. It could mean either ‘and’ or ‘or’, which confuses many users. Rewrite the sentence to make the meaning clear.
Don’t join words with a slash
Don’t use a forward slash between words that retain their separate identities. Instead, either use an en dash or reword the sentence. Forward slashes can make it look like you mean to show an alternative.
a Sydney–Brisbane flight
a Sydney to Brisbane flight
a Sydney/Brisbane flight
The digital edition consolidates information about when and how to use the forward slash.
The sixth edition included information about the forward slash in the section on sentence punctuation. It was also mentioned in the section on numbers.
The Content Guide did not have guidance on the forward slash.
About this page
Dixon JC and Bolitho B (2005–2019) Course notes and exercises: Editing and proofreading for the workplace, Centre for Continuing Education, Australian National University, Canberra.
Murphy EM with Cadman H (2014) Effective writing: plain English at work, 2nd edn, Lacuna, Westgate.
Seely J (2001) Oxford everyday grammar, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Stilman S (2004) Grammatically correct, Writer’s Digest Books, Ohio.
Truss L (2003) Eats, shoots and leaves: the zero tolerance approach to punctuation, Profile Books, London, 2003.
This page was updated Monday 21 September 2020.