What’s the Difference? You Know What I Mean

Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on March 12, 2014
When Is It Proper To Use Ampersand In Place of And

When Is It Proper To Use Ampersand In Place of And?

This is the first in an occasional series that grouses about the demise of proper communication thanks to texting, Facebook, and other modern-day inconveniences.


When Is It Proper To Use Ampersand In Place of And?

I (heart) the ampersand. I love the word and I adore the snaky symbol (&), especially when rendered in traditional and hand-lettered typefaces. Apparently, many type designers share my fascination and as a result, the ampersand is often one of the most notable glyphs in a font. In addition to being beautiful, it is so very efficient, a clever 2-character space-saving symbol for “and” perfectly suited to the age of texting.

Or is it? 

Grammatically speaking, although the ampersand symbol commonly stands in for the conjunction “and,” it’s not literally an abbreviation for it. (Google this and you’ll be faced with: The word ampersand is a corruption of the phrase “and (&) per se and”, meaning “and (the symbol &) intrinsically (is the word) and.” Confused yet?)

Let’s just say that, like most special things, the ampersand should be reserved for special occasions. They are commonly acknowledged to include: a company name (Tiffany & Co.) or logo; a movie or book title; common abbreviations such as R&D for “Research and Development” (note there is no space between characters when used this way); in tables and other instances when space is at a premium;  and in source citations as per the APA Style Guide. There are other, more obscure uses that enjoy varying levels of acceptance, such as when addressing written correspondence to two people or including a two-part name such as “rhythm & blues” in a list.


But mostly, when writing, you should spend the extra two characters and spell out “and.”


If you want to know more (and see more) of the glorious ampersand RIGHT NOW, visit Wikipedia.

If you’re interested in a more leisurely and companionable amble through the history of fonts and glyphs (including our hero the ampersand), check out Just My Type by Simon Garfield.

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