My readers are getting smarter. This would be good news were it not for the fact that I’m getting lazier. And smart questions make me work harder, forcing me to engage in an activity my brain seems more loath to do every day: learn.
Still, if I’m going to keep raking in two figures a week for this column, I must try to keep up. So I’ll start with a tough one from Aine of city unknown who writes, “One thing I have started seeing the past year that is driving me nuts is when people use a slash but put a space before and after it. So rather than saying ‘male/female,’ they write ‘male / female.’ Can you comment on this?”
No, Aine. I can’t. But let me put down my needlepoint and I’ll do some (grumble, grumble) homework.
The “Chicago Manual of Style” contains some interesting stuff on the slash, including other names for it — virgule, solidus, slant (I’d have been perfectly happy to spend the rest of my life assuming that was some obscure Roman emperor, but Aine just couldn’t resist making me learn something). But amid all its mentally exhausting information, “Chicago” never says whether you ever put spaces on either side of the slash. A pretty good clue, though, is that every one of “Chicago’s” examples uses no spaces.