I'm writing up some instructions and have come across a clumsy phrase:

to which the relevant file/s is/are written.

This seems like a silly way to write this, it's also easy to misread as the slashes take up more space than the spaces. I thought about writing

to which the relevant file is/files are written.

But that's not something I remember seeing anywhere else, so I'm wary of it being confusing for someone to read ("What do they mean 'is and/or files'?").

Should I use the former, or the latter? Or maybe, just accept bad grammar for readability.

to which the relevant file/s are written.

closed as unclear what you're asking by aparente001, Mitch, curiousdannii, Nathaniel, Rory Alsop Sep 29 '16 at 19:07

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  • 3
    Unless there is any reason that reference to files in the plural would confound the understanding of anyone dealing with a single file, I would just use the plural and assume it to be inclusive. – Spagirl Sep 26 '16 at 15:03
  • I prefer TonyK's answer, but if you must have the dis-ambiguation, consider parentheses instead of slashes, "...to which the relevant file(s) is (are) written." – cobaltduck Sep 26 '16 at 20:17
  • The quote you have provided is too fragmentary. "to which the relevant files are written" sounds a little strange to begin with. I can imagine a context in which this would work, but really, we shouldn't have to imagine. Please provide a more complete context. I have voted to close but I would be happy to change my vote if the question is improved as I described. – aparente001 Sep 27 '16 at 13:25
  • 1
    Another compromise: ""...to which the relevant file(s) are written." If we stipulate that "file(s)" is shorthand for "file or files", then this is equivalent to (but more compact than) TonyK's final suggestion. – Scott Sep 28 '16 at 20:14

Here is one solution:

to which any relevant files are written.


to which all relevant files are written.

Neither of these excludes the possibility that there is only one file.

Of the examples in your post, I prefer the last, as the best of a bad lot:

to which the relevant file/s are written.

Another option is:

to which the relevant file or files are written.

which I think is grammatical

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