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When quoting multiple lines of verse inline, is it proper to put spaces around the slash? For example, with a slash but no spaces:

"Beside the lake, beneath the trees/Fluttering and dancing in the breeze."

Or a slash with spaces:

"Beside the lake, beneath the trees / Fluttering and dancing in the breeze."

I tried googling this and didn't come up with much. Wikipedia says to use spaces around the slash, but I'd like some additional insight. I think the spaces usually aren't necessary, and they look kind of silly every time I try using them. I can see the logic in adding spaces; in the example above, someone may think the slash is joining "trees" and "Fluttering" instead of joining the two lines, but I find that exceedingly unlikely.

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I personally add spaces, for the reasons you mention. It may be "unlikely" that anyone should misinterpret the sentence, but it is easier to read with the spaces. –  Cerberus Oct 9 '11 at 0:49

1 Answer 1

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Put the spaces around the virgule ( / ) when you are breaking lines of poetry on the same line. Leave them out when you mean to make two words correlative, as in "an either/or situation."

The advantages for readability are obvious (and this is how, as an undergrad in English, I was instructed to quote up to two lines of a poem), but another reason I can think of to use the spaces for poems is that in electronic media the words can get stuck together in an unpleasant and possibly misleading way. Say you had some lines of poetry like these (obviously not a real poem):

She asked me if I preferred either
or that we would choose another day.

If you were quoting them on a single line they would be rendered as

She asked me if I preferred either / or that we would choose another day.

But the sense would be completely muddled if short line-widths caused the following:

She asked me if I preferred
either/or that we would choose
another day.

Now either/or looks like a noun made from the adjectival amalgam I referenced in the first paragraph of this answer, and the reader might not even be able to parse the sense of the lines correctly.

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+1 good example! –  FumbleFingers Oct 9 '11 at 2:51

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