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Ampersands (&)

ampersand and when to use an ampersandBy Mary Morel

Reader’s question: When do you use an ampersand (&) instead of ‘and’?

Answer: You can use ampersands in titles, signage and website buttons where space is limited or the ampersand is part of an organisation’s branding.

Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC)

Use and, not ampersands in business writing, even for emails. It is more professional.

The manager and the director met to discuss the new policy.

Origin of the ampersand

According to dictionary.com. the ampersand was once the 27th letter of the alphabet. In the first century, when Roman scribes wrote ‘et’, which means ‘and’, they often joined the letters, and so the ampersand was born.

The name came latter (early 18th century) from students reciting the alphabet. Instead of saying ‘x, y, z and’, they said ‘x, y, z and per se’ (per se means ‘by itself’).

Try saying ‘x, y, z and per se’ and you see how ‘and per se’ sounds like ‘ampersand’.

When a word or phrase is formed from mishearing something, it is known as a mondegreen (‘the girl with colitis goes by’ for ‘the girl with kaleidoscope eyes’).

Learn more about punctuation

Read my other post about ampersands and menus.

Learn more about punctuation with my online course, An A to Z of Punctuation (A$39).

View the full list of Online Writing Training courses.


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