I'm referring to a construction in a text where two options are provided, of which only one will be valid in practice. For example:

The user has the option to choose his/her own avatar.

  • 1
    It's an xor, or exclusive or. – ncmathsadist May 3 '16 at 16:53

In these cases, the slash is being used to express exclusive disjunction (one or the other, but not both).

I know of no conventional term for such phrases, but given the above, you might call them disjunctions, exclusive disjunctions or 'either/or' phrases.

You might call the slash itself a disjunctive slash or an exclusive disjunctive slash.


You are asking what people actually call this type of construction. Legal experts have referred to it as a “linguistic aberration” and a “disaster” because of the harm caused when trying to interpret contracts that use it. These terms, in turn, have been criticized as “somewhat disproportionate to the amount of harm it [and/or] causes”.

Outside of imprecations, there seems to be no accepted term for this construction.

Quotations are from Revisiting the Ambiguity of “And” and “Or” in Legal Drafting, Part VI, “And/Or”, by Kenneth A. Adams and Alan S. Kaye. [PDF]

  • As a comment, I'll add that I personally avoid this construction, not because of its meaning, but because it is awkward to read. A good test for an easy-to-read text is to read it aloud. A construction such as "his/her" can cause the reader to stumble because the resulting narrative thread is ungrammatical. – MetaEd May 3 '16 at 18:35

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