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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
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    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
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Here is one solution:

to which any relevant files are written.

Or:

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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