A trip through almost any home decor store proves that the ampersand (&) is one of the most beloved symbols in the English language. After all, not too many people decorate their living rooms with wooden semicolons. Although ampersands make excellent art, they are also still useful in writing. This post shares six guidelines for how to use ampersands in business, academic, and other types of formal writing (as well as when not to use them).
1. Spell Out “And” Instead of Using Ampersands in Sentences
Using ampersands as shorthand for and in sentences is too casual for formal writing. Instead, spell out and unless an ampersand is officially part of a name, abbreviation, initialism, or title.
Too Casual: The CEO & the CFO have a meeting on Wednesday.
Just Right: The CEO and the CFO have a meeting on Wednesday.
2. Use Spaces around Ampersands in Names
Use spaces around ampersands in official names of companies, groups, and other organizations.1
Mumford & Sons won a Grammy Award in 2013.
Brooks & Dunn released the hit song “My Next Broken Heart” in 1991.
3. Don’t Use Spaces around Ampersands in Abbreviation or Initials
Don’t put spaces between ampersands and the surrounding letters in abbreviations or initials used in place of spelled-out names.2
John signed up for AT&T cellular service.
Oliver loves A&W root beer.
4. Don’t Use Serial Commas with Ampersands
Serial commas aren’t necessary with ampersands in official names of groups or organizations mentioned in sentences, titles, or headings.3
Sears, Roebuck & Co. started construction on the Sears Tower in 1971.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performed at Woodstock in 1969.
Those who follow the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association should note that APA style uses serial commas before ampersands between author names in reference list citations.4
5. Place Line Breaks after Ampersands
If a line break appears within a name containing an ampersand, ensure that the break occurs after the ampersand.5
The teenagers used Clean &
Clear face wash.
The investor bought stock in Johnson &
Visit “How to Insert Nonbreaking Spaces in Microsoft Word” to learn how to create a nonbreaking space between a word and an ampersand.
6. Maintain Ampersands in References
Ampersands frequently appear in the titles of books, periodicals, and creative works. In general, you should maintain those ampersands when citing such sources in reference lists, footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies.
However, consult your preferred style guide for further guidance because recommendations do vary between guides.
Here are a few examples of titles featuring an ampersand:
- Nightmares & Dreamscapes (short story collection by Stephen King)
- Fair & Square (album by John Prine)
- Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’ (album by Hank Williams III)
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (book by Lynne Truss)
Important Note to Legal Writers: Legal writing includes a few additional exceptions to ampersand usage that are beyond the scope of this post. If you are writing legal documents, consult legal guidebooks for correct usage.
Further Reading: How to Use a Colon
- The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 10.24; The Gregg Reference Manual, 11th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 544.e.
- The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 10.10; The Gregg Reference Manual, 11th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 544.e.
- The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 6.21; The Gregg Reference Manual, 11th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 163.
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2020), 9.8.
- The Gregg Reference Manual, 11th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 921.m