Appropriate use of the ampersand

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Peter Gurry's picture
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Joined: 30 Mar 2005 - 12:15am
Appropriate use of the ampersand
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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
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Joined: 20 Jul 2002 - 11:00am
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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."

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Héctor Muñoz Huerta's picture
Joined: 21 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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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 Gurry's picture
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Joined: 30 Mar 2005 - 12:15am
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Very interesting. Keep it coming.

Dan Reynolds's picture
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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?

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Peter Gurry's picture
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Joined: 30 Mar 2005 - 12:15am
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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.

Luke Dorny's picture
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bump

Nick Shinn's picture
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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.

Raymond Kingston's picture
Joined: 4 Sep 2006 - 12:28am
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(Grateful for the bump. This was a fun read.)

Oruç Gazi Kutluer's picture
Joined: 24 Jan 2010 - 5:28am
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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".

BarbHauser's picture
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Joined: 4 Nov 2007 - 10:21am
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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.

Eben Sorkin's picture
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Joined: 22 Jan 2004 - 4:19pm
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I like that attitude.

Me too.

mjr's picture
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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.

Nina Stössinger's picture
Joined: 19 Jun 2006 - 3:01pm
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"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.)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> in Turkish, the ampersand may also have meaning "versus"

Interesting. Any examples?

hhp

Jay O'Hare's picture
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Joined: 19 Oct 2004 - 9:03am
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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 :)

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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...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.

Michael Babcock's picture
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Joined: 8 May 2004 - 9:07am
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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.

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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Joined: 13 Jul 2001 - 11:00am
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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).

Dennis Hill's picture
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Joined: 15 Mar 2006 - 3:52pm
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...& 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!"

Oruç Gazi Kutluer's picture
Joined: 24 Jan 2010 - 5:28am
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@ 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.

Blank's picture
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Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm
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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.

Florian Hardwig's picture
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As in Tom & Jerry?

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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I wonder if "vs" (or the sound "versus") might mean
something inappropriate (or confusing) in Turkish?

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture
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I would have to see it before forming an opinion.

Dennis Hill's picture
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Joined: 15 Mar 2006 - 3:52pm
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I would have to see it before forming an opinion.

I like that attitude.

Jens Troeger's picture
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While reading the Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangements of Type I was impressed by the evenness of the text, which the author said was due to the use of the ampersand. Yet, I found that reading flowing text felt stumbly because of it. My brain always had to consciously substitute in the "and" but that is perhaps because I don't read it often enough :-)

victor ivanov's picture
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Joined: 30 Jun 2006 - 7:26am
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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
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Joined: 26 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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If you ask, you might get a small cap ampersand from Village and Kris Sowersby.

Ch's picture
Ch
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Joined: 4 Feb 2007 - 7:48pm
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i often prefer to use a +

cleaner, less filling.

James Montalbano's picture
Joined: 18 Jun 2003 - 11:00am
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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!

Oruç Gazi Kutluer's picture
Joined: 24 Jan 2010 - 5:28am
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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.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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In fact I think there's a false correlation between evenness of color and readability. Information comes only from contrast.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture
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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.

James Michaels's picture
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Joined: 6 Mar 2010 - 12:54am
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This is usually a decision for the copywriter, not the designer.

It's generally not used except in company names, citations, situations with limited space (like a chart or table), and a few other special circumstances. Not in text.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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I like using the ampersand for pairing things, like: "He uses the line & circle in all his work."

hhp

victor ivanov's picture
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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 H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> stroke it up

!

hhp

victor ivanov's picture
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Joined: 30 Jun 2006 - 7:26am
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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
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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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 H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Dude, do people need type designers or not?!

hhp

Letterguess's picture
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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.
&&&&&&&&&&&&

Steve Marston's picture
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Joined: 12 Nov 2006 - 10:11am
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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 http://here, about halfway down.

Florian Hardwig's picture
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Joined: 18 Feb 2007 - 6:41am
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Hi Steve,

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

Steve Marston's picture
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Joined: 12 Nov 2006 - 10:11am
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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!

Nick Shinn's picture
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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.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> I guess we have different thresholds of acceptability.

Not to mention nausea.

hhp

Nina Stössinger's picture
Joined: 19 Jun 2006 - 3:01pm
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"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
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So this is your h&j setting?

Nina Stössinger's picture
Joined: 19 Jun 2006 - 3:01pm
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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%.

Jack D. Frossard's picture
Joined: 15 May 2005 - 3:03pm
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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).