Use of the ampersand & and

& and

When is it appropriate to use an ampersand “&” instead of the word “and”?

[A]   Ampersands should be used anywhere the letter pair “et” exist. &ymology instead of etymology.

[B]   Ampersands should be avoided unless they are part of a company name or a commonly used abbreviation (R&D)

[C]   The ampersand should never be used. It’s punctuation and doesn’t belong in most contexts.

[D]   The decision to use “and” or “&” is a matter of personal habit.

Posted by on December 15, 2005
Filed Under Typography | 33 Comments

  • David


  • Richard Parsons

    absolutely [D] especially just because “&” looks cooler than “and” :)

    have you addressed the single vs. double quote marks issue? LOL

    or, the what is the most overused abbreviation on the web issue?

  • Kristopher Cargile

    Personally, I’d argue that options B & D are correct. The idea that punctuation doesn’t belong in “most contexts” is hogwash, and a quick look at various style manuals (Chicago and AP, for example) will show that this is really a matter of personal taste — usually that of the editor reading your manuscript.

  • Stefan Kjartansson

    & Phone Home.

  • Chumpy

    B (& a bit of D)

    I think the common usage is to use the ampersand in logos more as a graphic/typographic device but not in text (i.e., not in body copy, paragraphs, sentences).

    I see it used also as a space-saving device in advertising, sometimes, especially in headlines.

    Generally, I think it is more properly used as a graphic element rather than textual element except in the commonly used abbreviations as you cited in your question above.

    On the usage vs. rules continuum, I have my preference but don’t mind much either way. Using ampersands or the numeral 4 instead of four, e.g., seems appropriate in some cases but off in others. (“2 kewl 4 U” seems appropriate if childish on CD liner notes; I follow more buttoned up rules on my contracts.)

  • Pete

    Interesting question. But none of the answers gives the complete picture. According to the Adobe gods the English and French substitute the ampersand with “and” and “et” while the Germans are more formal in their application and relagate it to business logos and such. Personally, I’d consider it jarring to come across it in modern common text. Probably “B” comes closest according to the information I could dig up. There are exceptions (always are). Addresses come to mind — Mr. & Mrs.

  • Seth Schneer

    Eh, I don’t really believe in any of your choices. It’s an abbreviation in itself and therefore should only be used when it’s okay to abbreviate. According to Chicago and MLA abbreviations should be used when space is a problem, such as footnotes of a bibliography or when they’re part the name (& Co.) Other than that, never. Which means that in any publication both &t. and etc. are incorrect. So I guess that B comes the closest, but doesn’t fulfil all hopes and dreams.

  • David Carson

    anytime one feels like it is fine.

    the plus sign (+) is preferrable however.


  • andy fossett

    B+D. (But the plus sign is sooooo much cooler.)

  • Carl

    Definitely (B)

  • Dan Wilson


  • Chris Piercy

    I like to use & instead of and when limited to a set number of characters in text fields, & such. This creates two more precious spaces for two other characters or work fragments that might have more meaning than the wasted, superfluous characters “an” or “nd”.

    Therefore I choose D.

    Does an & count as a syllable in haiku?

    If so, here’s mine:

    discussions of
    & are quite peculiar.
    & or and? dunno.

  • Theodore Rosendorf

    Regarding David’s suggestion, I could see the plus sign (+) being of more use internationally: the ampersand doesn’t translate to all languages. Does anyone have more info on that?

  • Seth Schneer

    well as long as no long is using roman numerals, then everyone sees the + sign. the Ampersand is merely et, or latin for and (that’s why you see &c. in some old text instead of etc.) is accepted i every western country I’ve been to, though I would assume no usage in asia…

  • Jeff Dowding

    (D) which sometimes implicates (B),but is better stated as (E).

    [E] The ampersand should be used at the typographer’s dicretion when it is necessary to improve the justification of a line. Or, in this mad, mad 21st century, to improve the rag.

  • Dennis R.

    B is the choice as outlined in most authoritative stylebooks, APA, Canadian Press and others. In short, the ampersand really belongs only between proper names such as might appear in the name of law firms or parenthetical references, for example, (Schirmer & Stein, 2002).

    Of course, with informal writing, use it anywhere it won’t create confusion or inconsistency.

  • Ray

    The absolute worse place for ampersands is in trivia answers such as who wrote “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Everyone natural puts “Simon and Garfunkel” (because that’s the answer), but the answer is written as “Simon & Garfinkel”, which I think is wrong if they were never known as Simon ampersand Garfunkel.

    Also it is wrong to call “War and Peace” “War & Peace”.

  • Bob Stevens

    Etomologically, the & was the last symbol in the alphabet and was used for the word and. When someone recited the alphabet and came across a letter that was also a word they would say “letter name per se letter name” to acknowlege the relationship. So reciting the alphabet would be; A per se A, B C D E F G H I per se I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z & per se &. Hence the nane ampersand or “and per se and”. Now it is just a shorthand to be used in informal text.

    &, that’s how it is.

  • Cccccrazy

    I think it should be B. I think “&” is more like a symbol. In formal writing, I would use “and”.

  • stanley donwood

    i think it should be used all the time without any exceptions whatsoever. it looks better the more its used & anyway its much easier for the slack typist to type one letter rather than 3. also i think we should use the long ‘s’ again because it slows down your reading speed which can only be a good thing.ß

    all have lots of words on this sort of thing.

  • JB

    To fit in, I probably wouldn’t use it in a typed text (at least not in the body), and save it for usages such as corporate names, collaborators (ex. when a screenplay had two writers working together) and for “Mr. & Mrs.” (which we don’t use in Quebec anyway… this is the 21st century and women keep their names).

    However, in handwriting I always use it or the little plus-sign with a loop which is like a cross between a very quick & and a +.

    But, when I want to shit-disturb, I use it for “and”, and depending on my mood for “et” in English. In french I like to use it to piss off my teachers. I tell them it’s a ligature just like “ae” and “oe”. Also, just to be different I sometimes write an (italic-style) ampersand with a long crossbar that takes up around 3 to 5 letter spaces…

    It’s fun.. people should use it more.

  • Jules

    Fair enough on the Simon and Garfunkel, but as War and Peace is a translated title, the & could be substituted depending on the translator.

  • Green Fingers

    I think it is D through and through. A close relationship can be expressed by & (Lennon & McCartney). Not so Long ago it was the 27th letter of OUR alphabet. We use latin all the time: am, pm, i.e., e.g., ad, etc or should that be &c? et is latin for and so & stems from et. It is not punctuation, but its use is becoming rarer. We cannot allow it to slip into the obscurity of time.

  • Matt

    I think B & D are both acceptable. Although “&” is a symbol, it is perfectly acceptable to use it for the word “and”. There is nothing sloppy or unrecognisable in its use, providing you don’t alternate between the two. Plus, it is much more efficent and quicker than “and”.

  • Stephen

    The use of the ampersand symbol in body text is a bit jarring and interrupts the flow of reading while the symbol is “interpreted”. Do The purpose of the ampersand was to relieve scribes of the tedium of writing out “and” in full and to conserve space. Following the advent of of printing, the use of the ampersand symbol seems unnecessary except to conserve space or where it is used as a design element.

    Using the ampersand symbol nowadays in print in body text seems to be an affectation.

    Current ‘good’ style (which, of course, changes over time) would allow ampersands in company names (e.g., Johnson & Johnson), formal combinations such as “Mr & Mrs”, collaborations such as joint authors, e.g., Lerner & Lowe, Lennon & McCartney, etc.). It is very often seen in advertising copy. But, to be fair, what is unconventional today may be conventional tomorrow.

    Today, the use of “&” in handwriting is quite acceptable and is often seen along with other shortenings such as wd. for “would”, cd. for “could”, “asap” for “as soon as possible”, pls for “please”, etc. Mediaeval scribes used the & symbol and lots of other techniques to speed up their writing and to make the most of the available space on the vellum or parchment that they wrote on.

  • Matt Gibbs

    Conventionally, the ampersand is used as an abbreviation. If you choose to write “&” instead of “and” in your text when, in fact, you don’t mean to abbreviate, you either display your choice to appear cool or your ignorance of the conventional use of the ampersand.

    Once aware, your choice to use the ampersand says more about your personality than your writing. If you write “&” instead of “and” in a passage of text, you display your choice to be seen as unconventional, that’s all.

  • Scott

    If I decide to use “&” in my text flow and it comes at the end of a line should it stay at the end of the line (before the break) or be moved to the next line (after the break)? I haven’t been able to find a hard and fast rule for this. For example:

    I saw Jeff &

    Larry yesterday.


    I saw Jeff

    & Larry yesterday.

  • Martin Johnson


    is it B & D or

    is it B&D

    i.e. should there be spaces around the & in all cases? or only in some?



    Why does this particular page have thjese links — any connection to and / & ???

  • Ann

    What is the rule for spacing using the ampersand symbol between numbers. Is there a space before and after the & symbol?

  • Theodore Rosendorf

    Absolutely. Think of & as the word and.

  • Billy

    You should only use ‘&’ in extreme cases. Like if your girlfriend is from Greeland and you want to tattoo her name on your ass and it won’t fit using ‘and’, e.g. ‘Billy & Inniminniilersinnak 4 Ever’.

  • e11even

    & is not a replacement for ‘and’, end of story. The ampersand denotes a union of two separate entities in to one, eg. Ogilvy & Mather, two people = one company. Simples…