Regarding the use of the ampersand

kaisa's picture

Hello everyone,

I thought I'd give myself a good grounding the classics, so I'm reading up on Tschichold's work and Geoffrey Dowding's "Finer Points". I was wondering: does anyone here use the ampersand in body text to improve spacing and lines, and if so, when, where and why?

Many thanks!

hrant's picture

I think this used to be acceptable practice a long time ago. The most recent example I know of (there must be more though) is Eric Gill's heavy use of the ampersand in his wonderful "Essay on Typography" - although I don't know if it was for spacing, color, or what.

I myself use the ampersand, but very rarely in formal text, basically for things like "cut & paste", or sometimes to group things in a complex sentence, like this: "... for which Perrin drew, and had engraved & cast his Augustaux capitals."

hhp

matteson's picture

I'm pretty sure Gill's use of the ampersand was for better spacing (and even rag). Likewise his use of tho' vs. though. When I used to do some hand-setting, I used to use them for better spacing.

I guess I still use them to varying degrees, depending on what face I'm using. Tho' with the advent of glyph scaling in InDesign, and paragraph-level composers, I'm sure it's hardly necesarry.

kaisa's picture

I was just searching Typophile and ran into Geralds' link to http://www.lanstontype.com/WineGlass.html
where he bemoans the demise of the ampersand.
Where are you, Gerald?

A. Scott Britton's picture

It is considered improper grammar (if that matters to you) to use the ampersand in text. Somehow this character has, at least in publishing circles, been relegated to things such as logos or, in the rare case that one does see an ampersand in text, things like "B&B", where "B and B" just doesn't look right (of course, respectable editors and English professors will argue that you shouldn't be writing "B&B" in the first place--it ought to be "bed and breakfast".)

kaisa's picture

Thanks, everyone. After reading the above books and noticing their use there, and knowing it wan't considered gramatically correct nowadays, I nevertheless wondered if there were instances of their use today (in body text). Some esoteric typographic reason, perhaps...

Giampa's picture

I care to differ with those that believe the ampersand has no place in text.

http://lanstontype.com/WineGlass.html

This is correctly set, this is not advertising, this is fine book work. Ever heard of fine book work?

Sorry guys, read it and weep. http://www.typebooks.org/r-finept.htm

Don't be an amateur.

kaisa's picture

Gerald! There you are! Thank God you showed up!

andrew_fall's picture

Fine book work my arse. Book are meant to be read. Splitting 'Five' and 'hundred copies' like this is just a barrier to understanding, and neither of the two uses of an ampersand in this dog's breakfast can be justified grammatically. Does anyone really still believe that typographic masturbation like this is fit work for a grown man?

Back in the real world, those of us for whom legibility and ease of use is of rather more concern know that ampersands should never be used as a substitute for 'and' in the run of text (or, for that matter, headlines), except where they form part of an organisation's name (ie Marks & Spencer, P&O) or an accepted abbreviation (like 'b&b').

What may have been acceptable common practice in Eric Gill's day (putting full points between initials, using 'tho' for 'though', overenthusiastic dog-worrying) isn't any more.

And, at the risk of offending Hrant too, I think that rewriting a sentence to make it comprehensible is always better than inserting ampersands.

hrant's picture

Certainly, one wonders if typography can be like a transparent wineglass if it is an actual wineglass... BTW, to me it looked like one of those large potted plant vases you see in fancy resorts until I was told it was supposed to be a wineglass.

> rewriting a sentence to make it comprehensible is always better than inserting ampersands.

Sometimes better, or even usually better, I'd agree. But once in a while (like in that sentence I wrote) using an ampersand* makes things fall nicely into place, without requiring linguistic contortions or pandering to people with room-temperature IQ.

* No matter what the grammatical despots want. You should hear about my ideas of using Castillian punctuation and the Armenian emphasis mark in English text...

hhp

Giampa's picture

Read the book and weep!

hrant's picture

How many fluid ounces of wine is required for that effect?

hhp

matteson's picture

I'm sure Gerald will correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the 2 ampersands in his wine glass there for spacing reasons? I.e., to make the lines fall in a fairly smooth contour while having reasonably even spacing among the words? Seems to me like that's something more than mere wanking.

And this is perhaps a nit-picky and non-productive comment, but I wouldn't say that an ampersand is poor grammar so much as poor usage. Or at least non-standard usage. It's not the use of the word "and" that's in question in any of these instances -- it's how you write it.

kaisa's picture

What's incomprehensible about an ampersand?

hrant's picture

Its bouma, for one thing.

But when it comes to Tiffany's suggestion for more subtle ligatures, I am so for that.

hhp

dan_reynolds's picture

I think that the ampersand's use makes more sense in romance languages that still use the latin "et" for the word and. In English, "and" is spelled "a-n-d", not "e-t".

For better and for worse, modern typesetting has changed many rules than were in play before the second world war, and the use of the ampersand is no longer common, normal, or "appropriate" for use in normal, boring body text.

I think that Gerald's use of it is completely appropriate. A colophon, or even an entire fine-printed book, is neither normal, nor body text.

timd's picture

There is an opportunity to design a character that elides "and" & I would like to see one that does the same for "www", something that I have been considering for a while. If ampersands were more lower case it might not jar the bouma so much, obviously research and experiment are called for.
Tim

Giampa's picture

Nathan

I'm sure Gerald will correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the 2 ampersands in his wine glass there for spacing reasons? I.e., to make the lines fall in a fairly smooth contour while having reasonably even spacing among the words? Seems to me like that's something more than mere wanking.

Yes, that would be the reason.

and the use of the ampersand is no longer common, normal, or "appropriate" for use in normal, boring body text.

Should text be boring, either to read, or to view?

adriano's picture

I've never thought typophile could be like this! hehehehe. I think Age & Work should be intersected with recognition.

hrant's picture

Gerald, there's no denying that you inspire... a certain type of person. A type of person who would rather celebrate the past rather than explore the future. Talk about boring. Your potted wine glass (which btw is not book typography, fine or otherwise) turns some people on. So does a fox hunt in India*. I'd much rather eat mutton, for breakfast.

* http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3907861.stm

hhp

Giampa's picture

Hrant,

Well

hrant's picture

> I was unaware I had offended

Not a chance.

What turns me on? Lead-free wine.

hhp

Giampa's picture

Lead-free wine? :-) Polymer-wine for you! You must be happy that wine corks are not made of cork anymore?

kaisa's picture

Gerald's work inspires me. As I've said before, I'm not a typographer by any means; but when I grow up I want to be able to create work a whisper as good as Gerald's.

What about being inspired by the past to create work that explores the future? When I see (to my eye anyway) beautifully set text (old or otherwise), set with care and consideration, its not only a joy to read but also to look at. And it makes me want to learn as much as I can about it so that maybe, one day, I could set some text that would make someone else note that it was something special and a pleasure.

As little as it may acutally be used or required, my eye still doesn't go "What the?" whenever it encounters an ampersand.

My eye did object to liver-shaped coffee tables, however. And flares...

Giampa's picture

Now maybe Paul (Andrew) could show us some of his work?

hrant's picture

Gerald, stop harping on. Show us what you have created lately. Anything to indicate that humanity exists outside moldy museums? If aliens saw your stuff they'd think it's an abandoned planet.

hhp

Giampa's picture

Hrant,

If aliens saw your stuff they'd think it's an abandoned planet.

If they saw you they would think you were one of them. You are such a child Hrant, someday I will take you out for an ice cream cone :-)

hrant's picture

That would be so poetic. Do you like poetry, Gerald? Vanilla, chocolate or horsecrap?

hhp

Giampa's picture

Kaisa,

Gerald's work inspires me. As I've said before, I'm not a typographer by any means; but when I grow up I want to be able to create work a whisper as good as Gerald's.

I would be honoured if I inspired you to do great work in the future. If I can help just ask.

Giampa's picture

Hrant,

Do you like poetry, Gerald? Vanilla, chocolate or horsecrap?

Improper potty training, geezads! Put a diaper on it.

kaisa's picture

Gerald,

Now you've done it. You won't hear the last from me!

kaisa's picture

Mmm... and I've just found an example in Richard Hendel's "On Book Design", p.47, an example where "the small cap ampersand has been employed on an ad hoc basis to resolve remaining word space problems."

dan_reynolds's picture

Many OpenType fonts include both full-size and small cap ampersands. That is just delightful!

Chris Rugen's picture

I wouldn't have guessed that the ampersand had common use in running English typeset text. I use the ampersand for anything I want to join into a unit, a sort of verbal/visual ligature between words. It also makes more compact headlines, making for a quicker 'hit'. Also, this technique has, in my opinion, been co-opted by companies and commerce.

Thus, I would write:
"Bed & Breakfast"
"Bartles & James"
"Barnes & Noble"
"it's raining cats and dogs"
"I use both ampersands and words"

I think David Foster Wallace actually uses ampersands in some sentences to specifically imbue something with a sponsored, branded feel.

From a practical perspective, I would never be able to convince a typical client that an ampersand is acceptable, and I don't think I could provide a convincing argument to reverse their opinion. It may not affect the texture of the page, but an unexplained ampersand in modern text will most likely jar the reader. My concerns with the ampersand are less typographic and more editorial/reader oriented.

kaisa's picture

Oi! ...now I've just found this: http://www.adobe.co.uk/type/topics/theampersand.html
...where it says that use of the ampersand varies from language to language, and it's used to replace "and" in English and French, but the Germans are more rigid about its use.

Giampa's picture

Hint,

Learn about spacing and typographical history. Robert Bringhurst's books should be studied along with Geoffrey Dowding's book on spacing. There is more to spacing than

kaisa's picture

I want to be bloody excellent! Whether I get there or not may be another matter...
By the way, another link to ampersands with some lovely thoughts: http://www.designobserver.com/archives/000112.html
I have Bringhurst's "Elements"; what other books of his should I be reading?

theorosendorf's picture

Here's a discussion on Blogdorf about the subject:
http://rosendorf.us/blogdorf/archive/2005/12/15/1257.aspx

~
Theodore Rosendorf
http://rosendorf.us

Joe Pemberton's picture

> > > > The ampersand is punctuation. As a rule, it doesn't belong in body > text. > > >

Miss Tiffany's picture

I think ... erm ... let's not forget that the ampersand was originally the "et" ligature and was used all of the time even before "type" came to be. I'm not sure I agree with the use of the phrase grammatically correct. Perhaps typographically correct would be better, but even then ... Well, the ampersand as we know it today comes in all beautiful varieties and not only in the curvy and curly variety. Perhaps more type designers, now that opentype gives us gazillion character options, should give us an "et" that is a little more transparent so we can use it once again in long settings of text.

calvin_grandesign's picture

I feel these rules were set in place for a reason, if not then why are they their. I live in smallish city where labor work is king, and I see so many grammatical errors in advertising and basic written communications - its like I am living in a city of preschoolers. I think this is due in part the importance education played within the lives of these people and also in part to the lack of focus people like designers and writers place on the end results of not educating people etc... The syntax for ampersand may not be as important as some grammar rules, but if we as designers do not know or follow the rules and demonstrate or educate those who are unaware, we will only perpetuate the dumb asses who somehow think they're being creative by spelling words the way they want or breaking grammar rules.. if this keeps up where will the simple rules go that define the English language? At some point my job as a graphic designer - communicating messages will become even more difficult in having to deal with the dumb-arse's who insists on his/her dumb-arse English skills. Damn it now I'm angry for no reason! Designers and writers are in a position to educate the dumb-arses and I try to do my best here... hopefully you do too! : ) peace

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