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I'm writing documentation for an online system, with sentences like this:

Click/tap the ‘cog’ icon of a content filter to edit it.

This does not go down well with Microsoft Word. The grammar checker advises me: 'Consider revising'.

However, when I change it to:

Click or tap the ‘cog’ icon of a content filter to edit it.

... all is well. Which makes me wonder: is it bad to use a slash here? Is there perhaps a formal rule about this?

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    I'd say there's no "formal rule" but it's plain bad to ever use slashes. Note too that you're better to simply say only one word or the other. They mean the same thing. – Fattie Aug 21 '14 at 10:22
  • @JoeBlow For many people, they do not mean the same thing (even if they do the same thing). A click generally refers to the press of a button on a mouse (or equivalent). A tap generally refers to a direct touch on a touch sensitive screen. Also, there are times when a slash is useful, such as to save space, or to indicate an identity between things with alternative. names. – bib Aug 21 '14 at 11:30
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    Use @media handheld, only screen and hide the Click when mobile without keyboard and hide Tap when not – mplungjan Aug 21 '14 at 11:57
  • Hey bib - I'm pretty sure he's referring to an on-screen experience. (either using a mouse, or, touchscreen.) In a word, to further address the excellent points you raise, the OP should explain exactly the milieu in question – Fattie Aug 21 '14 at 12:14
  • @mplungjan I was not looking for a technical solution. – kasimir Aug 21 '14 at 12:15
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For the record:

Your specific question "is it bad to use a slash here?", in my opinion it is bad to use a slash in your specific example, for this reason:

Note that you can in fact perfectly replace the slash with a " or ", in this case.

In my opinion, if that sentence in italics is true, you should do it.

Note that in other situations you can not replace a slash with an " or "; IMO it is then good and proper to use a slash.

Your specific question "Is there perhaps a formal rule about this?" There is no such formal rule. In different "specific style books" they may have a rule. (For example, ScientificAmerican magazine writers may have some specific house rule.)

In my opinion, the logical and good rule to apply is if you can in fact perfectly replace the slash with a " or ", then choose the " or ". But that is just a formulation I have come up with, applying all the broad general thinking on slashes and " or "s. i hope it helps!


Note In my opinion regarding your specific sentence. (This is -extra of your literal question: a long-standing tradition here on ELU!) I believe the best thing to write is simply "click" because that applies perfectly whether there is actually a physical click (eg with a mouse) or when describing a button on a touchscreen. My reasoning for using one word rather than two (regardless of slash/or issues): you are always always better to "K.I.S.S." in writing. if you can cover all relevant situations with one word, do that.


An important point which has arisen: note that regarding virtual controls on screens. We use the entire gamut of words which could refer to real physical controls, on, virtual controls. (So, words like turn, throw, slide, in, out, positions, clickstops, springs, click, push, etc etc etc.) This is normal and utterly established.

Just another minor point" note that the virtual controls on PC/Mac screens, are indeed, just as virtual as the virtual controls on toushscreen devices. It's true that a mouse has a "real" click, but when you say "click such and such button on the screen" you're talking about the virtual button, not the mouse. (Note too that within a short time, all screens everywhere will also include a 30 cent touch layer, so there will be no distinction between with-mouse devices.)

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    So are you saying/implying that people/writers/twits who use/employ/write slashes/solidi/virgulae are being lazy/sloppy/uncaring/stupid? Because if you aren’t, I certainly am. :) – tchrist Aug 21 '14 at 12:40
  • I’m teasing you. Omnipresent slashes run a close second behind ubiquitous ellipses for peskily pervasive peeve-points. People can’t decide whether to use one or the other or both, and if both, whether to use and or or, so they push their own sloppy thinking on the rest of us, spreading their own general confusion like a meme virus. – tchrist Aug 21 '14 at 12:43
  • Quite. However for me the ultimate is apostrophe misuse. Pls see frame six!! achewood.com/index.php?date=09122008 – Fattie Aug 21 '14 at 12:45
  • This is a proper answer, perhaps opinions differ though. Interesting point: does 'click' refer to the user action in a mechanical way (a mouse producing a 'click' noise) or a figurative way (making a button 'click')? – kasimir Aug 21 '14 at 12:47
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    Also, in terms of clarity, tablet users will know what to do when a button says 'Click here!' And Microsoft seems to agree on the slash thing. So, I'm inclined to change 'click/tap' to just 'click'. – kasimir Aug 21 '14 at 12:54

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