Let’s keep our symbols simple – The Slash

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There’s a growing trend to refer to constant business operations as 24/7 rather than 24×7. For math-savvy individuals, this is a headdesk-worthy trend.

The slash is used in arithmetic to indicate a fraction (or division), which means that 24/7 means 24 hours over seven days. In other words, over the entire workweek you’re operating 24 total hours. That’s not the intended meaning, of course.

The intended meaning, working 24 hours every day for seven days, is more accurately conveyed by 24×7 which—mathematically—equals 168, the total number of hours in a week.

In general usage and specifically in an office setting, mathematical symbols like this tend to have a variety of mutually irreconcilable uses. For example, the slash is also used to indicate or (as in “a yes/no question”), and (as in “the CIA/NSA program”), or an abbreviation (as in “w/o objection”).

These uses should be deprecated and replaced. The slash should be reserved for combinations in which the preceding term is a part of the following term. A good example of this is how the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) refers to its leadership: the Director of NRO is D/NRO, the Deputy Director is DD/NRO, and so on.

Unfortunately, some organizations do the opposite of this. For example, the State Department refers to its internal units by placing the larger office before the smaller one. For example, State’s Office of Space and Advanced Technology (SAT), which is part of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), is referred to as OES/SAT.

To put it bluntly, State should simply stop doing this, and so should any other organization that does this.The sub-office should come first.

Keep symbols simple. The constituent part first, then slash, then the whole.

Category: informational
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