Appropriate use of the ampersand

Peter G.'s picture

I’ve got a question for all you typographers:
When is it, and when is it not, appropriate to use the ampersand character (&) instead of the actual word “and”?

{Moderator: Wiki link added.}

dan_reynolds's picture

I think that this depends on the language. German might have actual rule forbiding it running text, I think. Many old Italian books used it all the time, every "and" instance; "etc." is also written "&c."

I think that in English, it could safely be used in headlines and other display applications, and in proper business names, i.e., "We decided to take our case to the firm of Reynolds & Reynolds Attorneys, instead of the cheap storefront team around the corner." Otherwise, I would leave it out of text.

Also, I belive that common practice is to remove spaces when initals are used, e.g., "Research & Development, Inc." but "R&D, Inc."

__
www.typeoff.de

rs_donsata's picture

In spanish it's almost forgotten because it represents no saving or advantage against the copulative conjunction "y". Many people here actually think that the ampersand is an english character.

Peter G.'s picture

Very interesting. Keep it coming.

dan_reynolds's picture

Very interesting. Keep it coming.

Discussion is a two-way street. In what context do you need an ampersand answer. Are you trying to accumulate some sort of general understanding, or do you have something specific that you are looking for?

__
www.typeoff.de

Kija's picture

In french the ampersand in rarely used, but it goes under the nice name of «esperluette» (there are other names, but this one is the prettiest, I think).

rs_donsata's picture

In spanish it's called Et, but mostly known as Ampersand.

Brian_'s picture

I think they can be distracting at the end of lines or after commas. Also it's confusing to see it used with and/or. (&/or)

paul d hunt's picture

i love seeing it instead of etc.: like this -> &c.

thierry blancpain's picture

i just read on the german wikipedia about it:

officially, you may only use it in company names (in german). i thought only with names ("Linda & Melissa"), but it seems not. only company names.

and they say that the & was originally a ligature of e and f in the middle age, like fi and fl today. b&racht& instead of betrachtet (="look at something" in german), in english it would be d&ermination instead of determination.

oldnick's picture

For what it's worth, the Chicago Manual of Style, the bible of "correct" academic writing, agrees more or less with the German interpretation, and says ampersands should be avoided UNLESS they are part of a company name OR a commonly used abbreviation (B&W, C&W, R&B, R&D and so on).

Maxim Zhukov's picture

It’s funny to see the ampersand creeping into the Russian usage... Apparently, it is being associated with things ‘Western’, ‘capitalist’, &c. And it looks so chic in the Cyrillic context. Some ad agencies just love it. Incidentally, the Russian for ‘and’ is the i (yes, that ‘inverted N’, U+0418 and U+0438), and the meaning of the ampersand (& = et) is completely lost on the Russians. But who cares? It is so cute.

paul d hunt's picture

that's very interesting, Maxim. I guess I never really thought about using the ampersand in other language contexts, especially lanugages that use a different alphabet, but it's right there in the Cyrillic keyboard layout is it not? It would be great to see in Russian or in Spanish fanciful versions of 'i' or 'y' used in place of the ampersand, or do they do this already? (I always thought THAT was interesting, that this small, common word is spoken the same in Russian and Spanish.)

Maxim Zhukov's picture

I am afraid, you are missing my point here, Pavel. The prized effect here is precisely the foreignness of the ampersand. And, of course, it is as tacky as casually dropping ‘moi?’ or ‘au contraire’ into the conversation, to show off. Cheap.

Miss Tiffany's picture

It can be used in so many ways. However, I think it is a matter of appropriateness. The appropriate way to use it is sparingly. IMHO The word came out of--as we all know--the word et and has become more and more elaborately designed calling more and more attention to itself, no longer allowing it to simply save space but is now a design element.

paul d hunt's picture

i don't think i missed your point... i just thought it would be interesting to take the concept of the logotype and try to incorporate that into cyrillic. i mean we do it so much, especially with articles and prepositions, but russian, for example has no articles, fewer prepositions (due to case constructions) and many of their prepositions are simply one letter. i thought it would be less tacky to take the concept of the amperand and russify it, instead of injecting a foreign character into russian text. but then again... maybe something like that would only come across as showy and tacky as well?

Joe Pemberton's picture

I talked to a writer about it once. He was bashing designers for overusing it. I asked him why - I had an answer, but I wanted to hear his. His point: "It's punctuation. It doesn't belong in most contexts." In his argument it would not belong in a headline. I'd make an exception to that depending on whether the decorative nature of it is appropriate.

I think the tendency to use it is because it's pretty and different. Interesting that Russians associate it with Western-ness.

ben_archer's picture

'It can be used in so many ways.'

A lot of the time, we seem to use it for identifying the difference between fonts! My favourite type references always include the numerals and the ampersand, because often it's one of the more distinctive characters in a typeface.

As a young 'un I was taught the Chicago Manual of Style version, that setting ampersands is only acceptable in company names and common abbreviations. Later on this also came to include (of rare necessity) copyfitting headlines and titles where no other alternative was available.

ebensorkin's picture

I had a surprisingly big arguement with a pal of mine about the use ofg '&'. I had used it a lot in the text on my website & he thought it was a big mistake. - Like in that last sentance. He is an english major. More on that later.

I had read a very convincing article that made the point that '&' saves space, & that really, like anything cultural the decision to use 'and' not '&' is just a matter of habit or dogma - or put another way - it's use or lack of it is what what people are used to at the time.

The article further argued that culture changes & that really people could be used to using '&' instead of 'and' if we decided that that was what we wanted. Still more, there were aesthetic & economic benefits! I bought that idea.

I like '&'. I like to see it. I like all the variatons in form it offers. The character is one of the most doted on by type designers & is sometimes - often - the most beautiful glyph in a font as a result.

So my view of '&' is nuanced. I want to see it more but I know it isn't widely accepted as a substitude for 'and'. I am in the minority & I know it.

I also know that my opinion is just culture and could change - again. Still, I think in English we just have a body of english majors who have bought the dogma that '&' should not be used in body text & parrot that idea without looking or thinking or feeling anthing much about it. They are just stupidly rigid. Goddam Chicago manual. Fpppht.

BTW - I like '&c' too.

Joe Pemberton's picture

If you believe that text should have as few distractions along the way as possible - that it should flow nicely you would:

a) Use an en dash buffered by two spaces on either side – like that. The alternative—em dash—is huge and distracting.

b) Use small caps instead of regular capitals so as to not call too much attention to them. People in the US and in the former USSR can both agree. It allows the reader to flow along the line.

c) The argument that it saves space could also be applied to the percent symbol, as the origin of it came from truncating the fraction 1/100. I would argue that a big fraction is more distraction than the percent symbol and would opt for it 99% of the time.

d) Finally, I would certainly not put an ampersand in the middle of a line & I would certainly not put an ampersand in the middle of a line.

revbean's picture

The ampersand has also enjoyed a fair amount of use in poetry, at least in English over the last half-century or so, serving the same purpose of flow. Interestingly, when a poem is set in a sans serif font, further simplifying the & to a +, a prospect that seems vaguely blasphemous, serves that purpose even more.

gavin's picture

perfect arguement Joe... agree 100/100.

always kerning...

Miss Tiffany's picture

revbean, don't you think that the use of the & and the + in poetry is more or less for a sort of visual effect? I know that e.e.cummings used it, but it always struck me as a conscious choice.

Peter G.'s picture

Dan, sorry for the late reply, I had no idea this question would be so popular and it seems Typophile doesn't email me anymore when people reply. My curiosity was sparked by a recent logo I designed that used a somewhat prominent ampersand. This led me to question its proper use, and this led me to Typophile.

So far, I think I'm going to have to go with the Chicago Manual of Style on this one. I agree that the ampersand tends to stand out too much and so becomes distracting, as Eben's post illustrates well (no offense).

Thanks for the great discussion everyone. You've even managed to spark an interest in another topic: the use of small-caps. But that's for another post.

hrant's picture

I think the ampersand is underused (although frankly not by much). Some people (often amateur designers) use it too much, frivolously; but some people want to outlaw its use based on some strange linguistic purism, or worse still, based on Modernism, e.g. "as few distractions as possible". Information is not a distraction; information is useful. So if you use the ampersand in a way that helps convey more information (like through disambiguation), that's a good thing.

Examples from my own writing:

"The most obvious way that Latinization affects a non-Latin script is in the imposition of 'foreign' formal elements such as certain serif structures, stroke contrast & stress, modularity, etc."

"Letters made to look like animals or nuts & bolts are not uncommon."

"Because of its high level of modularity and reliance on the basic line & circle, Futura presents us with much more uniform –therefore ambiguous– word shapes than Gill Sans."

But the argument for saving space doesn't seem very sensical to me, except in rare cases where the ampersand can avoid an ungainly linebreak (while not being too intrusive itself).

hhp

revbean's picture

Tiffany, I'd agree that probably in Cummings's poetry, and certainly in that of the even more concrete poets that followed him, most typographic choices were likely made with a very conscious eye towards the look of the printed poem. However, a lot of poetry is also written with a conscious ear towards the sound of the poem recited. And, although this may very well be veering towards an entirely different conversation, I think that typography, especially in the context of poetry, 'and' vs '&' vs '+' for example, can affect, even if only minutely, the way something is read aloud.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I'm curious, revbean, how does the ampersand sound different from the word?

hrant's picture

I can think of two ways:
1) When an ampersand looks a lot like an E+T.
2) When the text is being read by somebody whose native language is something else.

hhp

ebensorkin's picture

Or when the person reading is a Chicago Manual of style dogmatist. Then small interuptions of flow may be heard as the bump into the disagreeable character...

revbean's picture

For me, and this is completely unscientific, when 'and' is spelled out and used in extensive repetition, it begins to feel heavy, to the point where, if I was reading aloud, I would begin to pause before each occurrence, treating the conjunction as an implied comma. The ampersand on the other hand, being a single character, provides a continuous flow between the linked words or phrases. This is possibly a construct entirely of my own—logic would imply that the ampersand, as punctuation would be the more likely to cause one to pause slightly, and not the other way around.

Thomas Phinney's picture

There is one specific use of the ampersand for disambiguation that I like. In American movies (and many foreign ones that follow US conventions), the Writers Guild requires deliberate use of "and" vs "&" to distinguish the relationship of the writers.

For example, screenplay by "Elba Matzoff and Chris Sobrino & Pat Roberts" means that Chris and Pat actually worked together on a version of the screenplay, whereas Elba did a treatment or rewrite on her own.

Cheers,

T

ebensorkin's picture

What a nice example! Both because it is distinction with a definite meaning as used by this guild, And because it shows how arbitrary a choice it is - It might have been the other way around. An '&' seems to draw two names closer ( to me at least ) not the other way around. Still, once the choice is made, it's done for a while - it's culture. Until culture changes.

When re-reading this I stared thinking about quotes & started imagining how you could have a similar sort of thread about which is better

- french quotes < quote >
( poor attempt at this for m of quote I know )

- or english ones "quote".

One culture goes one way the other another. They certainly 'feel' different, but is one better? Im not sure one is. I think The '& - and' debate is the same way.

Talking about reading and pauses, I agree an '&' is probably going to make most folks pause a little more just because they see it less often. Sort of like if you set a section of text or a word in some font unfamiliar to the reader.

Of course once the reader gets used to it - then it's different thing.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Perhaps we need a new thread, Eben. But, for me guillemets (no?) stand out much more than the quotes. This is purely cultural as I grew up reading the quotes and not guillemets. But, I'd imagine that it would be vice versa for someone who, perhaps, grew up in France.

hrant's picture

I love guillemets, and I think they work fine in English. Once you get used to them they're a lot "smoother" than floating quotes, especially when you have an adjacent apostrophe.

You know what I found the other day? What I believe is the earliest instance of "rationalist" quotes. And they're French guillemets! You have to see them.

And yeah, new thread please!

hhp

hrant's picture

Here are those fabulous "hybrid" rationalist* quotes:

http://www.themicrofoundry.com/other/Tuleu/NGravure.gif

Have you ever seen anything as unorthodox as it is functional?
The font is called "nouvelle gravure", cut in 1847 by M Legrand.
About 50 years before ATF did it with "Anglo" quotes, and without
the impetus of mechanical facilitation (the pantograph).

* Which is what I call quotes that both face "in".

hhp

hrant's picture

Here's something I just ran into: "With 10% unemployment, falling prices and demand for wine I guess they think 'something' has to be done." It's unclear that both the prices and the demand for wine are falling. Sure, you can deduce it from the context, but that's just wasted effort; and sure, the sentence could be rewritten to avoid ambiguity, but why bother, when all you need to do is use an ampersand? Elegant, smooth, rich.

hhp

dan_reynolds's picture

Here is where I would definitely insert an ampersand:

With 10 percent unemployment, falling prices, and a falling demand for wine & other luxury goods, I guess they though that "something" had to be done.
__
www.typeoff.de

hrant's picture

That too. But you have a new problem: in your version all prices are falling; but it's only wine prices.

hhp

ebensorkin's picture

I think his point had to do with the point at which he felt an '&' would be appropriate. He was just differing.

Dan, you are suggesting that it takes a little more before you would use an '&'. No?

I like these examples. Both of them. I take Hrant's point to be and please forgive me if I miss it - that there is a point when the '&' adds to flow rather than taking away from it. That the glyph, when used in a subtle way reinforces the inteneded meaning of the sentance. Is that right? So far that feels right to me.

On the other hand I would like a description of what is at work here. When & how does this happen & why? Can it be explained?

My intuition tells me that - no - it can't - really it's all utterly relative to what your used to & the fact that these examples feel good & right to me has to do with some shared typographic cultural soup I happen to be in rather than some sort of noncultural aspect of type like maybe this bouma shape we hear so much about.

Then again maybe I'm wrong.

hrant's picture

To me it seems to be a balance of the undeniable jarring effect of the "&" glyph versus its -also undeniable- semantic usefulness in adding structural information to a sentence. The big question is, how fast can a person get used to seeing it in text? Like how far into Gill's "Essay" does the typical reader (not at all the same as the typical type designer) stop noticing the glyph and just absorb the content?

Lacking strong insight into Familiarity (a pervasive issue in type design), hyperconservative people will totally shun the ampersand (since it constitutes a deviation from the status quo), while iconoclasts will overdose on it. The people in the middle are -as always- in the most difficult position, since they actually feel compelled to think about it, to try it out and objectively gauge the effects on the ground.

hhp

ebensorkin's picture

I agree Hrant, but for one thing - I don't know that this searched for objectivity exists to be found.

Still, I like your subjective examples very much - Any chancce you want to explain how you decide? Is it just a feeling?

hrant's picture

It's just another type of decision when you're writing, I guess. When an ampersand can save me (and the reader) from an overly-ponderous sentence, or when it unifies things that are really one concept (e.g. "line & circle" above), I use it. Come to think of it, it's sort of like using parantheses in a math equation to explain what gets multiplied before/after being added, etc.

hhp

hrant's picture

BTW, another character that's underused -in fact much more so than the ampersand- is the humble hyphen: very often, dumping it (either by separating or joining the two components) reduces comprehension. My favorite example is "readjust", which is virtually impossible to read smoothly, because of the two strong boumas ("read" and "just") breaking the compound in the wrong place. To me "re-adjust" is a simple act of kindness to the reader.

hhp

ebensorkin's picture

So you are saying that to you the '&' tightens the connection. I agree. Hollywood writing standards apparently don't - but I don't care. The fact that the space is decreased is enough for me to have it feel closer. I guess the counter arguement might be that 'and' is natural and common whereas the '&' is exotic - by current use anyway. But I don't feel that way.

The important idea behind all the non-iconoclastic suggestions I have seen here is that the '&' can somehow suggest a different kind of sense of '&/and'. A different flavor or intesity of '&/and'.

You & Dan are also suggesting that an '&' after a long string of text helps the flow of reading. So maybe there is some sort of linguistic or visual rule that could be invented. For instance: if the sentance you have is over 'x' number of words/charcters long and no ascenders or descenders come within 'x' number of characters then an ampersad is preferable to 'and' because it aids in reading - or something better thought out - but do you see where I am going? The use could be described. But it would be complicated. Still, I like this direction.

hrant's picture

> You & Dan

You see, this I personally wouldn't do; we're just friends. And although length is a factor, I think an ampersand can be useful in a short sentence too.

hhp

ebensorkin's picture

So you see You & Dan as a suggestion that you are a couple or something? Wow. That is tight. :-)

I dug this up by accident

This is from

http://store.adobe.com/type/topics/theampersand.html

"Ampersand usage varies from language to language. In English and French text, the ampersand may be substituted for the words and and et, and both versions may be used in the same text. The German rule is to use the ampersand within formal or corporate titles made up of two separate names; according to present German composition rules, the ampersand may not be used in running text. In any language, the ampersand's calligraphic qualities make it a compelling design element that can add visual appeal and personality to any page." - Max Caflisch

So permisive... ;-)

dan_reynolds's picture

eben, when I have to write "and… and…", then I try to put in an ampersand in place of one of those ands. But the first thing I would try to do is rewrite the sentence that I used commas and phrases better, and would only need one and. But, if it wasn't may text, or if it just wouldn't work otherwise, I would put in an &, even though that is "technically" wrong. Sometime, it just makes more sense in context, I think.
__
www.typeoff.de

bieler's picture

In the book Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangement of Type there is a good argument for the use of the ampersand in text, based on traditional practices. But it is more a British tradition.

Interestingly, when Hartley & Marks reprinted the book, and added a new preface, they used ampersands ad nauseum and their setting was awful as a result because they ignored the rationale for the use of the ampersand. It allows for tighter word spacing (which they ignored). And there are usage rules (where they should be placed or not placed, how many to use in a line, etc.). In the context of British typesetting (mid-century) the use of the ampersand is not an aesthetic decision in and of itself, but a technical one, as it facilitates a better looking page.

ebensorkin's picture

Cool. Any chance you could scan or type up the text from the book?

Chris Rugen's picture

Peter, I've always avoided the ampersand, in spite of my affection for its appearance, except in titling where a bond was being implied between two proper nouns or between two things spoken of as a unit. I like the ampersand, but I find it jarring outside of certain contexts. It's faster, more eye-catching, and more space-efficient, which makes it good for headlines, and particularly in ads.

I've always associated ampersands with advertising/commerce for those reasons, particularly when they're over-used. In fact, I read a book where ampersands were intentionally inserted into the copy when the author wanted to emphasize something he was speaking about and give it a crass, commercialized edge (a sort of sarcastic marker, in a way, that references advertising copy). It would read something like this:

He was walking down the street in his blazer & loafers, showing us all how he had wealth & power now. But it was obvious he had just come into some cash and had no real class whatsoever.

I can't remember who did it, though. David Foster Wallace, maybe?

hrant's picture

Sarcasm or no, it works! :-)

hhp

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