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Avoiding the slash

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The slash or “/” is usually deployed when you need a quick and dirty way of saying “and” or “or.” Examples: “writer/director” and “and/or.”

But, one reader asks, how do you make such phrases possessive?

For example, which of these is correct:

If a zone/region’s 2010 results already exceed its target ...

If a zone’s/region’s 2010 results already exceed its target ...

If you view the slash as another way of saying “and”—which is the predominant view, found in Merriam-Webster and the Chicago Manual of Style—then you’d write “zone’s/region’s.”

But we like the advice found in several style manuals, which essentially urge writers not to use a slash when a different phrase would be clearer.

In other words, rewrite the sentence. Example: “If the 2010 results of a zone or region already exceed its target ...”

It takes a little effort to rethink the sentence. In doing so, though, you accomplish the ultimate goal of business writing: Make it easy for the reader. Avoid confusing her with a phrase that looks strange.

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