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What is the difference between a backslash and a forward slash?

Answer: The term "backslash" is on of the most incorrectly used terms in computing. People often refer to forward slashes as backslashes, especially when referring to URLs. Web addresses (URLs), such as http://pc.net/helpcenter/, contain forward slashes, rather than backslashes. The difference between a backslash and a forward slash is defined below:

Backslash: \

Forward Slash: /

A good way to remember the difference between a backslash and a forward slash is that a backslash leans backwards ( \ ), while a forward slash leans forward ( / ).

In Windows, backslashes are used to separate directories in file paths (ex: C:\Program Files\Common Files\microsoft shared\). On Mac and Unix systems, forward slashes are used for the same purpose (ex: /System/Library/Screen Savers).

Forward slashes can also be called simply "slashes," since they are much more commonly used than backslashes. (Slashes are also used as division symbols and in place of the word "or.") Therefore, the URL http://pc.net/helpcenter/ could be verbalized, "PC dot net slash help center." If you say "backslash" when sharing a URL, people will know what you mean, but you might come across as a noob. Therefore, it's best to get in the habit of using the correct term.

Entered: November 30, 2012 – by Per Christensson

Category: General

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