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.}

bieler's picture

eben

Sorry, don't really have the time to do that and besides, its illegal to do so. You can pick up used copies at either abe.com or amazon.com. Author is Geoffrey Dowding.

Gerald

hrant's picture

I think providing just a snippet is Fair Use, no?
But yeah, it is a commonly available and affordable book.

hhp

William Berkson's picture

Dowding's discussion runs several pages, beyond 'fair use' I suspect.
But the gist of it is that he defends using the ampersand to get more
uniform word spacing in lines. I doubt that this will fly with publishers
today, as it would be unconventional practice, and would take getting
used to for readers.

ebensorkin's picture

I say it's probably a Fair Use too. There might be a problem after a certain length of text.... But no worries. Thanks for the info all the same!

theorosendorf's picture

Here's a discussion on Blogdorf about the use of the ampersand & and
http://rosendorf.us/blogdorf/archive/2005/12/15/1257.aspx

~
Theodore Rosendorf
http://rosendorf.us

Letterguess's picture

I have heard that the ampersand is a combination of E and T, spelling the Latin word Et meaning "and." Given that the form often looks like an E and T and the word Et is indeed Latin for "and," that's what I'm inclined to believe.
&&&&&&&&&&&&

fontplayer's picture

...& parrot that idea without looking or thinking or feeling anthing much about it. They are just stupidly rigid. Goddam Chicago manual. Fpppht.

LOL.

Some ampersands are so pretty it seems a shame to sentence them (no pun intended) to the mired pit of correct usage.

And I've always been of the opinion that if you feel strongly about something, then play the tune. If enough people start marching, playing, or singing along with it you are a trend-setter, and not merely a rule-breaker.

Some valuable art and music exist because some rule was broken and a bunch of people said "YEAH!"

interrobang_lp's picture

We're actually having an argument about this in the office now.

A creative director wants to lead a line with an ampersand and I flatly refuse.

The ampersand should be used judiciously, typically as has been mentioned in company names and the like, as well as where space constraints dictate, though this is more an issue in hot metal.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I avoid at all costs starting a line with an ampersand. It is just as ugly as starting a line with a dash (of any length).

blank's picture

A creative director wants to lead a line with an ampersand and I flatly refuse.

Good for you; starting a line with an ampersand would be quite dreadful.

Nick Shinn's picture

I would have to see it before forming an opinion.

fontplayer's picture

I would have to see it before forming an opinion.

I like that attitude.

Renaissance Man's picture

I put out a newsletter I call &cetera.

Take a look at Allan Haley's piece on the ampersand
here.

He did a longer piece for X-height magazine, but it seems to exist only in print. If anyone knows if and where it's available online, I'd be most grateful.

An excerpt from Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangement of Type on the ampersand is available here, about halfway down.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Hi Steve,

your link is broken. Here you go: ‘Ampersand’ by Allan Haley.
F

Renaissance Man's picture

Hmmm. The editing feature is still not fixed. After I edited my post (adding "An excerpt from...") I found and corrected the first bad link. By the time the edit was (re)posted, if appeared after Florian's. Thanks, Florian, for beating me to my own correction!

ebensorkin's picture

I like that attitude.

Me too.

Ch's picture

i often prefer to use a +

cleaner, less filling.

jayyy's picture

What a great thread. The things you can find in the Typophile basement!

I had a discussion about this a week ago and based on my gut feeling removed a lot of ampersands from the body text of a resume, leaving some in headings, company names etc.

For me it is an aesthetic decision and I feel that ampersands in running texts are distracting and inappropriate.

As for the + symbol, quite pos+moderm I think :)

BarbHauser's picture

Well, I arrived at this thread because I'm handsetting a colophon in lead type, Caslon Italic No. 540, and as I was counting the sorts to see if I had enough, the ampersands got my attention. They're very flamboyant and begged to be used. There are only two occurrences of "and" in the colophon, but I wasn't sure if it was right to use ampersands in what actually was a paragraph of running text.

I looked in Geoffrey Dowding's Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangement of Type and was happy to find an entire section on the use of the ampersand (pages 23 through 29 of the paperback edition). He begins the discussion by saying that, in hand composition, "The judicious use of the short ‘and’ invariably improves the appearance and readability of a setting" by providing an additional option in word spacing. But what rang truer to me were some thoughts he passed on from George D. Painter of the British Museum's Department of Printed Books: "[the ampersand] is or can be a beautiful object in its own right, and was dwelt upon more lovingly by scribes and type-designers than any other sort except Qu, I should say."

I should say. I decided to use the ampersands in the colophon but not in the main text, which is a poem and doesn't need word spacing to justify lines, and which will be set in Caslon Oldstyle No. 471, whose ampersands are stodgy by comparison. Now I just have to decide whether to use one in the title, which I would like to set in some sort of casual script. It would fall at the beginning of the second of two lines. Mr. Puckett above says that "starting a line with an ampersand would be quite dreadful," but Dowding says, "It should be remembered that while the (&) looks quite happy at the beginning of a line it may not do so at the extreme end of a line...". I suppose I'll have to see it before forming an opinion.

microspective's picture

(Grateful for the bump. This was a fun read.)

mjr's picture

There are some publications that deal with railroads which have a guideline to always use an ampersand within the name of a railroad, even if the company name officially uses and That is because those publications tend to run strings of railroad names together, and the ampersand helps distinguish between them.

For example, consider the sentence:

Some classic railroads of the past included the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe; the New York, New Haven & Hartford; the Delaware & Hudson, and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific.

victor ivanov's picture

hey guys, I've got an additional question regarding the use of an ampersand.
Is using an ampersand from a serifed face in a sans-serif headline considered bad tone?
I'm trying to establish the limitations to Bringhursts 'use the best available ampersand' rule.
I've got a sub heading set in National book smallcaps, and am having a tough time finding a suitable, aesthetically interesting ampersand to go with it. Thanks.

William Berkson's picture

If you ask, you might get a small cap ampersand from Village and Kris Sowersby.

.00's picture

I've been including a small cap ampersand in the fonts I've release over the last few years.

Don't ask, don't tell!

Nick Shinn's picture

If there isn't a small cap ampersand, you can shrink the normal ampersand and stroke it up to a suitable weight, in your page layout application.

victor ivanov's picture

National does have a small cap ampersand, not the most dashing ampersand however. So my main question is whether it's ok for me to use an ampersand from a serifed typeface in line with sans. I was thinking minion pro italic for an ampersand.

thanks.

hrant's picture

> stroke it up

!

hhp

victor ivanov's picture

hrant: sorry, i'm not sure what you mean. could you please elaborate?
i'm guessing it to achieve a consistent stroke width throughout? so is it ok to use an ampersand from a serifed face so long as the stroke widths are consistent?

thanks for your feedback everyone

Nick Shinn's picture

Here's my "fluffing" technique:


1. Small caps and ampersand same size (24 pt.)
2. Reduce size of ampersand (17 pt.)
3. Apply stroke to ampersand (0.17 pt.)

hrant's picture

Dude, do people need type designers or not?!

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

If typographers are discerning enough to use this technique, they will quickly come to the conclusion that it's not infallible, is a lot of hassle, and doesn't work nearly so well for fonts with serifs, contrast, and bold weight. So they will develop a taste for the real deal. That's my agenda :-).

In the meantime, it can enhance the faux effect provided by applications.
For a subhead in a regular weight sans, it's not too bad.

**

But if Peter is still considering inserting a serif ampersand in a sans setting, I would say not unless there is a bit of a "wordmark" treatment; otherwise, in a straight setting, the mere use of the ampersand character provides enough interest.

The meme which combines ornate ampersand with block sans is used primarily for titles, and acronyms.

nina's picture

"discerning enough to use this technique"
Funny logic. To me stroking type because it's too light seems about as «discerning» as squooshing type because it doesn't fit in the designated space.

Nick Shinn's picture

So this is your h&j setting?

nina's picture

I'm not at my office computer right now. But what I can tell you is that with «squooshing» I mean Glyph Scaling, which yes I have definitely always set to 100%.

Nick Shinn's picture

Nina, varying letter spacing and glyph spacing by two or three percentage points (to improve justification) is a perfectly acceptable "cheat", that isn't noticeable as such. You should try it some time.

**

Note that I advocate stroking for faking small caps primarily for regular sans serif fonts.

BTW, when faking small caps, it may be useful to increase horizontal scaling and tracking as well.

I stress that this process is for discerning typographers, because it requires subtle massage and a good eye.

**

These transformations (adding weight, adjusting scaling and spacing) are the same ones used by type designers when we make small caps -- although we have more subtle tools (allowing different additions of weight to the x and y axis) and also add further manual tweaking. I would imagine that the vast majority of true small caps are created by type designers by thus modifying upper case glyphs. At least, that's the way I always work, and I can't imagine why one would make them from scratch, rather than modifying upper case glyphs.

nina's picture

"You should try it some time."
Nick, I have. I guess we have different thresholds of acceptability. FWIW, I do use tracking differences of a few 1/1000s when it's really unavoidable (as it sometimes just is); but I don't subscribe to distorting type.

"I stress that this process is for discerning typographers"
And I stress that discerning typographers know when not to fake something. At least in my book, no small caps are clearly better than fake small caps* (and yes also better than stroked fake small caps).

(* Except maybe on the web, where the generally coarse resolution may make the difference less perceptible.)

Nick Shinn's picture

...discerning typographers know when not to fake something...

OK, then please identify which of these are real, and which faux:
(Screen grab from InDesign file.)

Admittedly, I copied true small caps, then applied stroke, tracking and horizontal scaling to match.
But if one doesn't have true small caps to copy, then one really does have to be discerning to create a good faux small caps effect in InDesign.
To follow on Hrant's comment, it's a bit like type design.

hrant's picture

> I guess we have different thresholds of acceptability.

Not to mention nausea.

hhp

deadsea's picture

in Turkish, the ampersand may also have meaning "versus" meanwhile. So, the designer should be careful while using it, if the two elements are contradictory the ampersand is the sign of "versus".

hrant's picture

> in Turkish, the ampersand may also have meaning "versus"

Interesting. Any examples?

hhp

Florian Hardwig's picture

As in Tom & Jerry?

deadsea's picture

@ Interesting. Any examples?

The usage of ampersand is very rare in Turkey, why? No idea :) On the other hand you can see especially in sports posters in the meaning of versus.

@ As in Tom & Jerry?

Yes sir, we can consider as it is. I do not mean that ampersand means "versus" in Turkish; it has also a lateral meaning to be careful of use.

Tom&Jerry means "Tom and Jerry" and also it can be understood like versus.

hrant's picture

I wonder if "vs" (or the sound "versus") might mean
something inappropriate (or confusing) in Turkish?

hhp

deadsea's picture

Not quite, it is not about the sound or the meaning.. It is all about the "glyph".

Vocals are different cases. Almost all languages pronounce the letter "i" in other way, this does not change the meaning of the letter.

Syndicate content Syndicate content