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For example, would it be OK to write: Many of these articles belong to School of Thought A and/or School of Thought B.

What about the other cases in general just to replace "or" with "/"? E.g. This brain area might coincide or connect with the brain area responsible for... Can I write it as "This brain area might coincide/connect with the brain area responsible for..."

  • Yes, why wouldn't it be? – Allure Nov 3 '18 at 6:19
  • What about the other cases just to replace "or" with "/"? – Aqqqq Nov 3 '18 at 6:21
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    Provide other cases... – Solar Mike Nov 3 '18 at 6:48
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    Personally it's too informal for my taste but I don't know if it's strictly forbidden by any style guides. – astronat Nov 3 '18 at 8:59
  • @Allure because it makes one look lazy, vague, and with no sense of taste... – Evariste Nov 3 '18 at 23:22
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The question “is it OK” is a bit too vague to be answerable. Surely the sky won’t collapse if you do it. But to make things a bit more precise, I would say that if you want your writing to communicate your ideas in the best way to your readership, and if you want it to be taken as seriously as possible by as many people as possible rather than have it tend to be dismissed (consciously or subconsciously) by some people as the product of an immature writer, then no, you should not use the “X/Y” informal writing pattern.

Remember also that the reason scientific writing uses a formal writing style is that the primary purpose of a scientific text is to communicate technical ideas, in as clear a way as possible, to a broad audience that’s usually very diverse and consists of people from many countries, cultural backgrounds, age groups etc, and for many of whom English is not a native tongue. For this reason, using anything in a scientific text that may distract too much from the main technical content or confuse readers who don’t share your particular background is generally frowned upon. That includes things like slang terms, emoticons, graphical symbols with a charged historical and political meaning, pointless anecdotes, and, in my opinion, the “slash” shorthand device.

  • But how would you suggest to use instead? E.g. I have a sentence in my paper that goes "...provide future possible research directions as they can be refined and/or tested with these measures." If I write instead "...provide future possible research directions as they can be refined or tested with these measures or both.", I am not sure if it would be understandable for the readers. (Or is it understandable for the readers?) – Aqqqq Nov 3 '18 at 18:22
  • @Aqqqq it’s hard to say for sure without knowing the exact context, but it sounds like a simple “and” will do just fine for your sentence. – Dan Romik Nov 3 '18 at 19:09
  • Because some studies can only be refined with "these measures" and some can only be tested with "these measures"... Would "or" also be OK? – Aqqqq Nov 3 '18 at 20:39
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"It's best to avoid using and/or," Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl, "You'd be hard pressed to find a style guide that doesn't admonish you to drop and/or and rewrite the sentence with just and or just or."

Rather than "Many of these articles belong to School of Thought A and/or School of Thought B," try

Many of these articles belong to School of Thought A, School of Thought B, or both.

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Given that scientific writing needn't be pedantic, the answer in general would be yes. But it also has the potential for confusion if the two terms aren't closely related or the and/or sets up a conflict. So, at least think about the overall meaning when you use it in any technical writing. As an example:

I run hot/cold on this question.

Note, however, that in those places where it is especially important to be precise, such as the statement of an hypothesis, it would be a mistake to write in such a way that might generate confusion.

  • +1 for the last sentence :-) – cag51 Nov 3 '18 at 18:20
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    I may have downvotes for that sentence also. And fun time was had by all/none. – Buffy Nov 3 '18 at 18:53
  • To clarify, is the last sentence meant as an example of an inappropriate use of the slash? Because personally I don’t understand what that sentence is trying to say, but perhaps that was your point. – Dan Romik Nov 3 '18 at 19:13
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    Yes, @DanRomik, that was my point. It also makes your point as well. It can lose clarity. The opening of A Tale of Two Cities doesn't work as "It was the best/worst of times". – Buffy Nov 3 '18 at 19:42

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