In this day and age when emojis and memes are an integral part of virtual communication, it’s tempting to write with symbols instead of words. Just because it’s more fun doesn’t mean it’s accurate.
Yes, I’m talking about the ampersand.
On a smartphone keyboard, it takes two taps to add an ampersand into the conversation and three taps to type out “and” as a word. On a desktop computer, you have to lift your fingers from standard typing position to reach the shift key and 7 key at the same time.
Simply put, using the ampersand doesn’t save you time. Unless you’re writing with pen and paper, of course.
We don’t desire to use the symbol because of efficiency. It’s more visually appealing.
But is it grammatically correct?
Most of the time, no. However, there are exceptions to the common rule. Seven, if you’re counting.
Here are seven ways you can correctly use the ampersand in your writing:
Company names often combining either two names of people or two company names use the ampersand correctly. You’ll also see this sometimes when two people collaborate on a creative work, such as Rodgers & Hammerstein, to denote that the creation was an equal partnership.
- Johnson & Johnson
- Proctor & Gamble
- Abercrombie & Fitch
Some company or organization names have evolved into abbreviations. The use of the ampersand here is to denote the “and” within the name, but notice here that there are no spaces between letters or symbol so that it’s recognized as one collective noun.
- H&M (evolved from Hennes & Mauritz)
- AT&T (evolved from the American Telephone & Telegraph Company)
- A&W (abbreviation for the last names of Roy W. Allen and Frank Wright)
Sometimes titles of books, films and songs use the ampersand. This isn’t done as frequently as I thought, probably because it makes more grammatical sense to use “and” than the symbol. To be honest, I struggled finding examples for this, but this post has a handful of examples.
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves
- Marley & Me
- Eleanor & Park
Some phrases use the ampersand instead of “and” to denote their status as a phrase instead of two nouns paired together. Smaller circles, such as a company or a club, may have common expressions internally that replace “and” with the ampersand.
- Peanut butter & jelly
- Rock & roll
- R&R (rest & recuperation)
It’s a growing trend to incorporate the ampersand in the design of logos, titles and names. While I don’t necessarily agree that this use is grammatically correct, it’s accepted based on visual representation. I recommend looking up these examples to see if you agree.
- Crown & Co.
- Swipe & Tap
- Bed Bath & Beyond
The shorthand use of the ampersand comes in handy when space is tight. If your writing medium is condensed on space, such as a small piece of paper as well as working inside tables or spreadsheets, using the ampersand instead of “and” is accepted more for convenience than grammatical accuracy.
The Phrase Et Cetera
While commonly written as etc., the phrase et cetera (meaning “and so forth”) can also be properly abbreviated as &c. to represent the abbreviated combination of et and c(etera).
When Not to Use the Ampersand
Unless noted above, don’t use the ampersand as a replacement for “and” in regular text, headings and titles. When in doubt, don’t use the symbol.