Definition Wednesday: Forward Slash vs. Backslash

Consider a pipe (straight up and down).  If it leans forward (to the right) it's a forward slash.  If it leans back (to the left) it's a backslash.

Forward Slash (/)

The forward slash (/) is the correct way to separate distinct parts of a web address; for example in the address, a forward slash follows edu.

The slash, also known as a forward slash or stroke, has been used throughout history for thousands of years to denote multiple meanings. In English text the slash stands for "or," such as Yes/No (meaning yes or no). The slash can also be used to create a compound of items, such as "Our New Zealand/Western Australia trip." Slashes may be used in abbreviations, such as n/a (not applicable), in proofreading, arithmetic (division), currency, bowling (spare), computing, genealogy, date formatting, and more.

Backslash (\)

The backslash is used in many programming languages and is used as a separator in the file structure for the Windows operating system.

How to Remember the Difference

  1. Start with a vertical line, a pipe |.
  2. If this line leans forward (to the right), it becomes a forward slash /.
  3. If this line leans backward (to the left), it becomes a backslash \.


Last Updated: August 23, 2016