oblique

The oblique is also known as a solidus, slant (line), bar, virgule, diagonal, stroke or slash.

Do not use the oblique instead of a hyphen at the end of a line of ordinary prose to indicate word division. The correct uses of the oblique are explained below.

On this page

Abbreviations

The oblique is used in certain abbreviations:

  • a/c (account)
  • A/Director (Acting Director)
  • c/o (care of)
  • i/c (in charge)
  • n/a (not applicable)
  • w/o (without)

It can be used as a symbol for per:

  • km/h
  • N/m²

Do not use the oblique to represent per more than once in a single expression:

  • 2.7 m·s-2 (not 2.7 m/s/s)

Do not use it with expressions of quantity written out in full:

  • metres per second (not metres/second)

Numerals

The oblique is sometimes used in fractions, especially when they are set into running text, or when they would be ungainly with the numerator placed above the denominator and separated from it by a horizontal line:

  • She covered 2 1/3 lengths in 70 seconds.

Use it with ellipsis points and a numeral at the lower right-hand corner of a page to indicate that the text continues on the following page:

  • …/2

Alternatives and headings

An oblique may indicate alternatives:

  • Send in your cheque / money order without delay.
  • and/or
  • Parent/Guardian: Placeholder for the answer

A similar use is seen in bilingual titles such as L’Actualité terminologique / Terminology Update.

The expression and/or may be redundant and should be used with caution:

  • The engines will be manufactured in Canada and/or the United States.

but

  • renovations or repairs (not renovations and/or repairs)

Note that the expression and/or should never be used with more than two options:

Unclear: The engines will be manufactured in Canada, Mexico and/or the United States.

Oblique strokes may separate headings on a form:

  • Division/Branch
  • Series/Cert. No.

The oblique is used increasingly to indicate complex relationships between words, a role traditionally filled by the hyphen:

  • the student/teacher ratio (the student-teacher ratio)
  • labour/management relations (labour-management relations)
  • owner/manager (owner-manager)
  • the total Boston–Montréal/Montréal–Toronto air mileage

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