Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Writing 101: Forget About the Slash Key

You wouldn't be wrong if you called me an author/blogger...unless you do it in a book. I'm a big fan of brevity, a point I've made clear in several past posts, but I am not a fan of the slash key. When you're writing your books, forget it even exists.


The slash serves a very important function on the Internet, and it's a fantastic little device for shorthand purposes. Lots of people and items are more than one thing. Gene Kelly was an actor/dancer, Marilyn Monroe a pinup girl/movie star, new Kindles function like ereaders/tablets. It's common to see the slash in product advertising, online and print articles, commercials -- you can find it everywhere.

That doesn't mean I want to find them in your books. The novel is one of the last vestiges of civility society still has. Each book is a tribute to, and an expression of, the written word. Start substituting those words with handy little symbols like the slash, and you're on a slippery slope. Next, you'll be adding abbreviations to your work -- and at that point, why even bother to put the thing into an ebook, why not just tweet it? 

However, I am willing to make a concession. 

Slashing Sometimes

Adding a slash isn't always the worst thing you can do in a book. Let's face it, there's just no way better to write input/output. Sometimes, the slash really is the best choice, but only if it's not within dialogue. Outside dialogue, if you're using an expression or certain phrasing that is best-served by the slash, then you ought to use it. But you can't use it in dialogue, not ever.

People don't often use the slash when they are speaking, and when they do they don't sketch a funny little symbol into the air. They actually say the word slash, so you've got to spell it out properly (example: "Marilyn Monroe was an actress-slash-pinup girl"). When in doubt, always just spell it out. Symbols don't really have any business being in books...because books are for words.

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