« Subject to Change | Main | IM What IM »

March 31, 2007


Brian Collins

indeed! i am ever remonstrating with my students: "avoid clumsy slash compounds."

thank you.

the english language thanks you.

Mike Keliher

Do people really use slashes in "real" writing? I use them while scribbling notes all the time, but I would *never* use them in real writing.

Still, though, in some technical situations, the "and/or" bit can be useful. Sure, just like the other examples, it can be confusing. But there are plenty of situations in which "and/or" is truly accurate and useful. That's why we must punish the misusers! They ruin it for the rest of us!

Jon Schneider

Dan, regarding "and/or", what would you suggest as a succinct alternative to "and/or" to avoid ambiguity over whether or not a use of only "or" would be intended to mean a logical "exclusive-or", that is, one item or the other but not both?

For example, if I say "I'd like to have lunch today at McDonald's or Wendy's," it is fairly clear from the context that I mean one or other, but not both.

But if I say "I'd like to own an XBox or a Nintendo," there may be some ambiguity over whether or not I might like to own both an XBox *and* a Nintendo.

In "Consult your doctor if you become sick or disabled," is there ambiguity about whether I should consult my doctor if I do unfortunately happen to become both sick *and* disabled (assuming I am taking direction only from the text, as opposed to applying my own common sense)? :-)

Andrew Galbraith

Thank you for another brilliant post, Dan! Mike, some people do indeed use slashes in "real" writing. I think it's meant to suggest accuracy and concision where neither exists.

Dan Santow

Thanks, guys (Brian, Mike, Jon, and Andrew) for your comments. Mike, yes, people really DO use slashes in “real” writing. I’ve seen slashes not only in press releases and other traditional media material, but in trade magazine articles and memos to clients, among other places. Jon, you’re obviously right – there are occasions where and/or – or at least the concept of and/or – is necessary to ensure accuracy. Still, it’s up to you to use your writing skills to make that clear without resorting to the phrase and/or. As you note, brilliantly, common sense does play its part. Lastly, Andrew, Shakespeare said it best: “I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.”

Susan Carrier

Hello, I'd love to subscribe, but your "subscribe to this blog's feed" doesn't appear to be working. Any suggestions?


Dan Santow

I’m far from being a tech geek (close to being a geek generally, though), but here’s how I subscribed to my own. Maybe this will help. On Outlook I clicked the drop down menu next to little orange RSS icon in the upper right of my screen and clicked “RSS 1.0.” That gave me the RSS URL (http://wordwise.typepad.com/blog/index.rdf), which I then cut and pasted to my Google homepage where my other feeds live (and die, since I forget to look anyhow). If anyone out there has a better suggestion, please let us know!

Hank Lay

I agree with most of your comments on virgules. However, "and/or" in particular does sometimes have its place. Indiscriminate use should indeed be avoided, but I can think of times when the author may not truly know which should apply in the readers' circumstances. A blanket ban seems pedantic and authoritarian to me. I'd much rather ban the use of "their" in place of "his or her" if I were to be such an authority.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Why "Word Wise"?

  • When I started to e-mail out a weekly writing tip to my Chicago colleagues at Edelman in 2002, little did I know how quickly how many people outside my office would start to request it. But word spread, as word is wont to do, and in 2006 the e-mail evolved into this blog. The tips, which are about grammar, usage and style, have a dual purpose – to remind my colleagues in PR of the power of the written word and, more generally, to support and perpetuate clear, concise, creative, honest, lively, stylish, compelling writing everywhere. In 2009 I started to add commentary about and links to stories and other blog posts related to the media, marketing, writing and, sometimes, just interesting stuff. For some reason, I also started Twittering (at SantowDan).