The Meaning of /: What It Is and How To Use It

What does / mean on a keyboard, and how can you use the forward slash in your writing? Keep reading to learn more about the meaning of forward slash.

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

Are you familiar with all of the different uses of the forward slash punctuation mark? This article will cover all the ways to use the forward slash and the difference between the forward slash, backslash, and vertical slash. 

What Does Forward Slash Mean?

According to Your Dictionary, the forward slash or “virgule” — represented as / — can be used in many ways. Below, learn how to use a forward slash to separate words, replace words, connect and oppose words, separate lines, and alter numbers. 

Using / To Separate Words

First, people can use the forward slash to separate words. Often, the forward slash separates the words “and” and “or” when they are next to each other in a piece of writing. For example, someone might write, “Make sure to bring a pen and/or pencil to the seminar to take notes.”

For another example, someone could say, “Could you bring water and/or soda to the party on Saturday?” 

In this case, the person asks someone else if they could help supply the party with water, soda, or both. 

Using / in Place of Words

The forward slash can also substitute certain words and phrases. Similar to how the forward slash is between “and” and “or” above, it can take the place of the phrase “and/or” altogether. 

For example, someone might write, “If/when you get pulled over, make sure that you have your license, registration, and insurance information ready to present to the police officer.”

People can also use forward slashes in abbreviations. There are many common abbreviations in the English language which use a forward slash. Some of these include air conditioning abbreviated as A/C, without abbreviated as w/o, and care of abbreviated as ℅. 

For example, someone might say, “Could you turn the A/C on? I’m sweltering in here.” In this case, A/C is short for air conditioning. 

Someone could also say, “They went to the movies w/o me. Do they even consider me a friend?” Here, w/o is an abbreviation for without. 

Abbreviations that contain forward slashes are not always acceptable in formal writing. If you are using shorthand with a coworker or friend, it is perfectly acceptable to use a forward slash. However, if you are writing a formal letter, essay, or another professional document, it might be best to type out the complete word or phrase.

Using / To Connect or Oppose

You can also use a forward slash to show the relationship between two things that are connected or opposing each other. Again, a person will have to look at the context clues to see if a forward slash is used for connecting or opposing ideas.

For example, someone could say, “We want the new theme park to appeal to young/old people, so we need to make sure that we implement attractions for all ages.” 

Someone could also say, “We want to drive past some desert landmarks on our cross-country road trip, so we will take the Arizona/New Mexico/Texas route.”

Using / With Numbers

You can also use the forward slash with numbers in various ways. First, you will often see forward slashes separating the elements of a date: either month and day, or month, day, and year. For example, someone could say, “My birthday is on 10/08,” or “I’m so excited for my wedding on 02/02/2022!” This is a fairly informal way to write a date, so make sure that you do not use this method in formal situations.

Forward slashes are also found in internet addresses or website addresses. If you look at the bar in the top of your browser, you will likely see a URL with forward slashes. These indicate the different pages and subpages of a website.

Finally, fractions can use forward slashes as a separator between the numerator and denominator. The numerator is the number on the top of the fraction, and the denominator is the number on the bottom of the fraction. For example, someone could say, “I am responsible for ⅓ of our hotel room.”

Using / in Poetry

The forward slash can indicate a line break between lines of poetry. Often, people will simply implement a line break, but if the text is quoted in paragraph form, a person can use a forward slash to separate the lines.

The Difference Between a Forward Slash, Backslash, and Vertical Slash

Forward slashes are not interchangeable with backslashes or vertical slashes. Read on to learn more about how to use each of these types of slashes.

You may find backslashes in for computer programming. For example, programmers can use a backward slash in command line apps or programming languages like HTML. Sometimes, this is used at the end of a line of code or paired with a certain character to execute a command.

Software developers can also use a vertical slash in computer programming to represent the word “or.” Mathematicians can use a vertical slash to denote absolute value or conditional probability in the mathematics field. 


The definition of forward slash can vary. People can use this piece of punctuation to separate opposing or related terms, in between words, in abbreviations, for fractions, and more. Using a slash is fairly casual, so make sure to steer clear of it in formal writing. Do not confuse a forward slash with a backslash or vertical slash. 


  1. Slash Symbols in Writing: When to Use a Backslash vs. a Forward Slash | Your Dictionary 
  2. Backslash Definition & Meaning | 
  3. What Is A Forward Slash (/) & How Do You Use It? |