Why is between abbreviated as b/w?


I saw such usages many times(including one in this blog post I saw just now) especially when we are writing on the blackboard, but I don't know why between is simplified as b/w. It seems very strange to a non-native speaker when it meets the eye. Should logic be shelved in such casual cases? Any similar simplifications?

Lerner Zhang

Posted 2019-07-02T14:00:06.440

Reputation: 2 015

3As a native speaker, I wouldn't recognise "b/w" as "between". I might recognise "btw" in a context such as a text message. – jonathanjo – 2019-07-02T14:09:25.750

1@jonathanjo Maybe this is an American vs British thing? I'm American and "b/w" was used to shorten "between" by nearly every teacher/professor I had in high school and college, as well as in every workplace I've been in. Definitely don't use "btw;" many people will read it as "by the way," as showsni says – pip install frisbee – 2019-07-02T14:22:06.583

@jonathanjo I have encountered such notations many times in the American classrooms. – Lerner Zhang – 2019-07-02T14:27:52.910

5Midwest American engineer here - I've never seen "b/w" as short for "between." My first thoughts were "black & white" and "bandwidth." Also agree that "btw" is, if anything, worse, and will mean "by the way" to most people. – TypeIA – 2019-07-02T14:28:15.873

1writingexplained endorses btw, but my guess is most people wouldn't even *try* to abbreviate between. Just a slash, dash, or other "non-standard character" would normally have the required contextually obvious sense, so if you really didn't have the time or (space) to write the full word, almost any kind "separator" symbol would do. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2019-07-02T14:49:11.820


I am astonished that anybody would write "b/w" for "between". I don't believe I have ever seen it, and I don't believe that "between" would even occur to me as a meaning for it, (except that the context would probably force that). I see that people have been asking about this for at least ten years

– Colin Fine – 2019-07-02T15:08:26.567

@pipinstallfrisbee I'm native BrE with much exposure to AmE: I do note that "slash abbreviations" are more common, and different in the US. Can I ask what part of US you've seen "b/w" commonly used? I wonder if it's regional. – jonathanjo – 2019-07-02T15:38:22.903

@jonathanjo Northeast and west coast, usually in university/school settings. I've seen it a few times at work (software engineering firm in mid-atlantic) a few times, but the contexts in which it comes up are just a lot less frequent than when I was in school – pip install frisbee – 2019-07-02T15:48:51.713



As with any other abbreviated expression, it depends entirely on whether your reader knows what you mean. When I see something new such "b/w", I have to evaluate it in the context of similar shorthand expressions. The slash commonly indicates two separate words, such as:

n/a = "not applicable"

i/o = "input (and) output"

y/o = "year(s) old"

and various others. My first guess therefore is that it is a variation on b&w, meaning "black and white". It may be that those who coined "b/w" to mean "between" confused it with "w/o" (meaning "without") and assumed any word can be shortened with a slash. However, "without" at least suggests two separate words ("with out") while "between" does not.

The point is that "b/w" does not fit standard shorthand conventions, so there is no reason why "between" is shortened that way. As others have mentioned, a simple dash, arrow, or slash would be sufficient to convey this meaning:

Visualize the relationship age - wage

Visualize the relationship age/wage

Still, once a certain shorthand becomes commonly used, it needs no reason for its existence.

It would probably be misleading to abbreviate "between" as "btw" since this shorthand already exists to mean "by the way".


Posted 2019-07-02T14:00:06.440

Reputation: 85 521