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I'm wondering about the usage of slash/stroke as a way of separating alternatives (perhaps it, in this sense, could be called a abbreviation of "or"?). If the alternatives are similar, but the second one is longer, then how would I write this as short as possible, with the smallest possible risk for confusion? Let me give you an example:

I have a card reader where you can insert a Memory Stick or a Memory Stick Pro. If I label the card reader with "MS/Pro", it could most certainly be interpreted as "either MS or Pro". Still, I want the label to be as short as possible.

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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

There is a slight risk involved using a slash. While "or" is implicitly added while reading a sentence using slash, slash is used often enough in other contexts that it might require a reader to stop and repeat in order to get the proper meaning, which, if your priority is clarity, you should always avoid. However in order to reduce space, I can also see the necessity.

I would recommend only that if you were to use a slash in this instance, I would write "MS/MS Pro", since it isn't "MS" or "Pro" but "MS" or "MS Pro" as your two options. I see your dilemma, though surely you can have a label which holds "MS/MS Pro".

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Yes, well I guess you're right. By the way, I don't really have a card reader. I intended to write "Let's say I have ..." but I managed to remove that part, while reorganizing the text before posting. –  Shathur May 6 '11 at 9:38
    
Well the solution still fits doesn't it? You need to write Memory Stick or Memory Stick Pro in a small space. Does MS/MS Pro do fine then? –  Neil May 6 '11 at 10:48
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Yes, and now I have enough rep to upvote your answer. ^^ But say if I want to write a text like "Visual Studio 2008/Visual Studio 2010". Then it would be more motivated to be able to do something like "Visual Studio 2008/2010". But, as you say, I guess the slash is too ambiguous to eliminate the risk for confusion and misinterpretation. –  Shathur May 6 '11 at 11:18
    
Good point. In that case, I think it's clear because by the time you read "Visual Studio", you're expecting a year, so separating years with slashes is kind of intuitive. I think you could only get away with that if it's a date, number, version (something countable in other words). Thanks for the upvote btw. :) –  Neil May 6 '11 at 12:31
    
If you want to be even shorter - at the expense of being slightly less clear - you could even have MS (/Pro) –  psmears May 6 '11 at 14:03
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The conventional way to do this is with brackets instead of a slash:

Memory Stick (Pro)

However, this might not be the best choice in this case, since brackets can also be used for other things with names. On the label, Neil's MS / MS Pro would be excellent. In a manual, you could say Memory Stick or Memory Stick Pro the first time, then Neil's MS / MS Pro afterwards, or just the stick, since people will now know what you are referring to.

If only all writers of manuals and computer technicians considered the interpretation of their labels and terms so diligently!

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