JS Tip 154: From the Writing Workshops: Using Ampersands (“&”)

Our friend Darrell Harmon of PeopleSmarts asked about using ampersands: “I see them used often and wonder when they’re an acceptable substitute for ‘and’ and when they’re not.”

An ampersand is a punctuation mark indicating “and”: &.

And no . . . they’re not an acceptable substitute for “and.”

Use an ampersand in very limited situations: 

         In abbreviations of organizations: 

Texas A&M

         In tables in which you need to save space: 

Presidents & Prime Ministers
Mad Dictators

         In proper names: 

Proctor & Gamble
Barnes & Noble
U. S. News & World Report

And that’s it. Es todo.

We suspect a lot of people see ampersands and think they’re cool. Attractive. Hip.

The problem with ampersands is they force the reader’s mind to shift from words to symbols. The reader thinks, “Oh. That means ‘and.’“ Well. Avoid the shift. Don’t force your reader to take extra steps. Use “and.”