Language Rules

Definately Fixing Alot Of Americas Grammar 1 Word At A Thyme


with 3 comments

This is for all you people who, in the course of your lifetime, have had or will have the opportunity to verbally spell out a website address to someone – you know, with all the https and the slashes and whatnot.

For the record, here’s what’s up, yo.

A backslash points from NW to SE. It leans “back” toward what you just typed, assuming the bottom of the text is your frame of reference. It’s also by far the less common of the two types of slashes (in plain old English, anyway; computer languages may differ in this regard.)

A slash is its perpendicular, pointing from NE to SW. It points in a forward direction from the text you’re writing, again assuming you’re going from the bottom here. It’s more common than a backslash in written language, and it’s NOT called a forward slash; slash and slash alone does the trick. It’s the one used in either/or situations, in fractions, in between lines of prose or song, and, most importantly for the purposes of this gripe, in internet addresses.

To provide perhaps a lamer, less straightforward way to remember the two, remember the phrase slashdot (the name of the popular “news for nerds” site, and the icon of which I’ve made the title of this post). Pretend the bottom of the appropriate slash is the center of a clock, the slash itself being the minute hand and the imaginary line between the slash and the dot being the hour hand. In the case of both the slash and the backslash, the time reads close to 3 o’clock. However, with the backslash, it’s about 5 minutes before 3 (\.), having gone “back” in time, while with a slash, it’s roughly 3:05 (/.), or relatively “forward” in time with respect to 3 o’clock on the dot.

Hmm, no one’s going to remember that one. You could just remember that /.=slashdot and not backslashdot. Anyone else have a useful mnemonic?

Written by benferguson

2006 Oct 9 at 19:59

Posted in punctuation

3 Responses

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  1. I always think of it as a forward slash / because it’s moving forward, as in, from left to right, the way we read.

    Forward slash ///////////////////////////// They’re like stick soldiers marching forward.

    And the other one is the backslash \ because it’s looking back.

    Backslash \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

    This doesn’t work for languages where you read from right to left, but oh well.


    2006 Oct 17 at 12:40

  2. Cool.

    But don’t most people just say ‘forward slash’ instead of slash anyway? Forward is straighforward, no? Leaning forward, etc …

    I like your site so far. I love language and its little secrets and things. English is my 2nd language so I’m still learning some basics but it’s far easier than Hungarian.


    Keep up the good work!


    2006 Nov 2 at 13:51

  3. Simply “slash” is sufficient to refer to a non-backslash; “forward slash” is used only occasionally, as far as I know.


    2006 Nov 3 at 18:06

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