Slash v. Hyphen

Use a slash to show that two words share an interchangeable relationship; use a hyphen to join two words but keep their meanings separate.

IMPOSSIBLE AND TROUBLING IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT: “daddy/daughter dance”
MORE ACCEPTABLE AND ANATOMICALLY WITHIN REASON: “daddy-daughter dance”

The question to ask when deciding which to use is: do I mean to present these words in an either-or context (he/she) or as two distinct things that have come together to form a single meaning (the Sprint-AT&T merger)?

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Comments
2 Responses to “Slash v. Hyphen”
  1. Derek says:

    Mitch takes issue with this one, but maybe it’s just your creepy example. You say a slash indicates either/or, but a daddy/daughter dance doesn’t mean you take turns dancing with the daddy and the daughter. I agree that a “waitress/porn star” doesn’t do her job simultaneously (unless it’s in the script, and I would definitely rent that movie), so your argument is solid there. But what about “singer-songwriter”? By the way, James would like to point out that your headline is not a court case.

    • cbgaines says:

      My point is that a “daddy/daughter dance” would be composed of people who could be either daddies or daughters. And a “singer/songwriter” would be someone who could be either one or the other; a “singer-songwriter” is someone who is both. (This isn’t to say a “daddy-daughter dance” would feature people who are both, but that it features both kinds of people brought together.)

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