The ampersand (“&”) is an informal way to shorten “and.” However, does it get used all that often, or do most people still use the longer form “and” when writing? This article will look to explain that question and let you know when you should use ampersands.
What Is The Difference Between “&” And “And”?
You should use “&” in informal writing only. You can use it formally only when connecting two names (“Johnson & Jackson”) or abbreviating a company name with “and” (“AT&T”). You should use “and” in every other formal case in written English.
There are almost no situations where an ampersand is appropriate in formal English. One of the rules to follow with formal writing is to avoid shortening any words that don’t need shortening, which is true with the word “and.”
“And” is already a short word, especially by formal writing standards. It’s best if you continue to use it as is. However, there are no reasons why “&” doesn’t work better in informal writing, and we encourage you to use it whenever it suits you informally!
Can “&” And “And” Be Used Interchangeably?
“&” and “and” are interchangeable. They both mean exactly the same thing. “&” is read as “and” because it is the shortened version of the word “and.”
When you see “&” written down, you don’t say “ampersand” (unless you’re explaining what it is); you simply say “and.” That demonstrates how similar the two words are.
You can use either one in any case, though we’d recommend you don’t use “&” in more formal situations. If you’re writing an essay or a research paper, “and” is better. The same goes for most work emails or documents.
“&” is better suited for texting or friendly emails. It’s also a useful tool to use when writing short-hand, which is a great way to take notes quickly without worrying that you’ve missed some vital information.
Is “&” Or “And” Used The Most?
We can go through some statistics of the two words which show their popularity in written English. If you’ve paid attention to this article, you’ll likely already know what those statistics will show.
According to this graph, “and” is by far the most popular choice. This graph looks at English literature over the last 200 years, which is often more formal than it is informal. For that reason, it’s rare to see “&” written.
As we’ve mentioned previously, “&” in formal writing is incredibly rare. There are a few instances where it works, which is why it’s not completely at zero on this graph.
However, those instances are so rare that it seems like “&” is never used. The following cases are the only written cases in formal writing where “&” works.
- Johnson & Smith (Connecting two names)
- American Telephone and Telegraph / AT&T (Abbreviating a company with “and” in it already)
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Addressing a formal letter to two people with the same surname).
What Is The Origin Of “&” And Why Is It Called An Ampersand?
The ampersand originated sometime in the 18th century. There are plenty of instances of it appearing earlier than that throughout history, though the meaning we associate with it today came about in the 18th century.
The “&” sign is called ampersand because it used to mean “and per se and.” This meant that the first “and” referred to the second “and.” Of course, this meaning is nonsensical today, but we altered “and per se and” to simply be “ampersand.”
You’ll notice that the original version and the version we have today are very similar in how they sound. That’s most of the reason why we chose to contract it in the way that we did.
Can I Use “&” In Formal Writing?
As we’ve previously stated, “&” is very rare in formal writing. Unless specifically stated otherwise, you’re better off using “and” as a word in itself. It works much better.
“&” is not a formal word. It’s an abbreviation and short-form symbol for replacing “and.” You should never write abbreviations with formal writing unless specifically told to do so.
The only times where “&” works well in formal writing were mentioned above. You can do so if you’re combining two names, shortening a brand name that contains “and,” or sending a letter to a married couple with the same surname.
If you’re not meeting any of those criteria and still want to use “&,” you should make sure to stick with the longer “and” to be formal and correct.
Can I Use Ampersand In CV?
A CV is a formal document. Most employers will treat it as such (unless you’re specifically going to an employer that values informality and creativity over anything else).
The best part with CVs (and most formal writing) is that there isn’t a character limit to what you can write. The difference between “&” and “and” is negligible. You’re only losing a millisecond of time by including two extra letters, and you certainly won’t hit a character limit because of that.
Do You Use “&” In AP Style?
AP Style teaches us that “&” is only used when grouping two names or shortening a company name with “and” in it. Other than that, AP Style says that “and” is the appropriate word to use in all forms of writing.
AP Style is the general stylebook you must follow when writing formally in English. If you’re not sticking to those rules, most future employers or current employers will look at your work and writing as informal and often lazy.
Are Ampersands Grammatically Correct?
While ampersands aren’t strictly formal symbols, that doesn’t mean they’re useless.
An ampersand is grammatically correct. When you write one in a sentence, the sentence still works, and people understand you’re writing “and.”
The only problem is that it’s not formal, but otherwise, you’re free to use it however you want. Just because a word or symbol isn’t formal doesn’t mean it’s not correct. The meaning is still the same, and that’s the most important thing.
You may also like: 7 Ways To Write “And” In Short Form
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.