You may have seen slashes in texts, both with and without spaces. This page examines precisely when to use a space after a slash and when not to use it. There are also examples for you to see the spacing in context.
Space Before and After Slash?
Generally speaking, there is no space before or after a slash. However, sometimes you “should” include a space before and after. For example, in quoted prose, the slash indicates a new line and should contain a space. Also, use a space when listing compound words such as “Great Britain.”
The guidance in APA, MLA, AP, and Chicago styles is the same, and there is no identifiable variation between their stipulations. However, one commonality they all share is that they say in formal writing, it is usually better to use a word to link two words rather than a slash.
When linking two or more words that are not compounds, it is unnecessary to include spaces before or after the slash.
However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
For example, when quoting prose or poetry, the slash is used to indicate a new line in the poem/text, and you should include a space before and after the slash.
Furthermore, when combining compound nouns containing more than one word, such as “South Korea”, you should also use a space before and after the slash.
When to Include Space Before and After Slash
According to the APA, MLA, AP, and Chicago styles, there are two occasions when you should use a space after a slash.
The first is when you are quoting poems or prose, the slash is used to separate the lines of the poem and requires a space before and after.
- “The world is not ours, / It is a reflection of powers,”
- “He spoke of a warm place, / That was always lacking in grace,”
The second occasion you should use a space before and after a slash is when the things you are listing are compounds, i.e. they contain more than one word.
- The countries he visited included France / Hungary / Japan / South Korea.
- He couldn’t decide which module to study in history between the choices of Medieval Conflicts / Roman Empire / World War One.
When to Exclude Space Before and After Slash
The times when you should not have a space between the items separated by a slash are when the words are single words that are being linked.
For these instances, you should not use a slash for any of the styles, including APA, MLA, Chicago, and AP.
Here are some examples:
- Could we meet Tuesday/Wednesday if you are free?
- The salary for this position is $14.00/hour.
- We have a presence in several states, including Florida/California/Texas/Alabama.
When Can I Use Slash in Writing?
Slashes can be used on several different occasions in writing. However, here are the most common reasons people use slashes.
To separate lines in quoted prose, songs, poems, plays etc.
When quoting several lines from a piece of work, such as a song/poem/play, you must use a slash to indicate line breaks.
When doing this, there is always a space after the slash to indicate a new line. Furthermore, some people use a space before the slash and after, while others just use one after.
- “I can see it in your eyes, I can see it in your smile / You’re all I’ve ever wanted and my arms are open wide.”
- In Flanders Field, the poppies blow/ Between the crosses, row on row,
To mean “or”
Slashes are commonly used when presenting a range of options; you do not want to use commas and a conjunction to connect them. In formal writing, this usage is somewhat frowned upon. However, it is still relatively common in non-academic writing to separate things with a slash.
When using slashes to mean “or,” if the words you are separating have more than one word, you should use a space before and after the slash.
- We have many food options in this city, including Chinese/Italian/French/Spanish.
- I can’t decide whether the Southern USA / Eastern Europe tour was my favorite vacation.
Slashes are often used in abbreviations to separate the words in the abbreviation. Using them for abbreviations is not customary to use spaces before or after the slashes.
Here are some common abbreviations with slashes:
- A/C – Air conditioning
- N/A – Not applicable
- R/C – Radio control
To indicate a double use or conflicting opinion
When something has two functions or uses, it is common to use a slash to indicate this. Furthermore, slashes are also used to distinguish two opposites or two sides to something.
As shown in these examples:
- He has built a shed / games room in the back garden.
- We have a love/hate relationship.
- The pro-choice/pro-life debate in the US is a fiercely contested issue.
Dates and Fractions
Slashes are commonly used to separate the days, months, and years when writing the date. They are also used in fractions. You do not need to insert a space before or after the slash for both of these uses.
Here are some examples: