In general written text, you should use “and” rather than an ampersand (&). This includes in titles and in things like captions and footnotes (with some particular exceptions that we will discuss here).
An ampersand should be used in place of “and” only in certain situations. These fall under the following categories:
- Brands and names
- Space-saving reasons
Launch the microlearning module below to learn more about using ampersands and to test your knowledge using our interactive quiz.
Ampersands in Referencing
The ampersand has a very specific role in certain referencing systems.
Most referencing guides spell publisher names the way the publisher itself spells them (e.g. Taylor & Francis, rather than Taylor and Francis). The Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS) and IEEE take a slightly different approach (see the table above). Most publisher names with “and” in will use an ampersand.
However, it is safest to change “&” to “and” in journal and book titles (unless the style guide specifies otherwise).
Ampersands in Acronyms
There are some acronyms that are customarily written with an ampersand. When they are written in this way, you do not put a space either side of the ampersand. Some examples of these acronyms are:
- R&B (“rhythm and blues”)
- R&D (“research and development”)
- R&R (“rest and relaxation”)
- Q&A (“questions and answers”)
The same goes for business names that are acronyms containing an ampersand (e.g., AT&T, M&S, D&G, J&J).
Note that whether or not to spell these acronyms out depends on your style guide and whether the company is best known under the acronym and/or has adopted it as its primary name. For example, you would probably define J&J (Johnson & Johnson) but not AT&T (“American Telephone and Telegraph” when it was first founded in the 19th century).
Ampersands in Brands and Names
Many brands include an ampersand in their names; this should be reproduced in the text unless the style guide specifically says not to (very unlikely).
As a general rule, a brand or company name should be reproduced with the spelling, capitalization and characters (including ampersands) used by the brand itself. So “N-Dubz,” “KoolAid,” “Play-Doh,” “Toys ‘R’ Us.”
As noted previously, if an ampersand appears in an acronym, you don’t put spaces either side of the ampersand (e.g. H&M). However, if there are any words at all in the name, then you would put spaces around the ampersand (for example, “C & R Kendal”).
If there’s a chance the name or brand will be split over two lines, you should consider whether it is worth putting a non-breaking space in (ctrl + shift + space bar) to keep the ampersand and the word/initials together.
Often, acronyms may be used to save typographical space. Such instances may include:
- In tables, images, and figures
- In marketing communications (e.g., in email subject titles, social media posts, or brochure titles)
- In posters and infographics.
All these usages are absolutely fine, although you should check in the style guide (if one is provided) for any specific requirements and leave a comment explaining your changes if you feel it is required.
Ampersands in Programming
Just very briefly (as you wouldn’t normally have to worry about this while proofreading!): ampersands are used in certain ways in programming languages. You don’t need to check that they’re used correctly, but it’s worth being aware of what they are and what they do.
Here are some programming-related ampersands that you might come across while proofreading:
- In HTML, ampersands preface the code for foreign letters and special characters. In LaTex documents, for example, you may see “ ”, which indicates a non-breaking space.
- As a Boolean operator: “&&” is sometimes used to represent the Boolean operator “AND”.
- In website URLs. Some style guides specify that if you need to break a URL across two lines, you should do so after an ampersand or forward slash (/).
Ampersands shouldn’t be used in general text unless a style guide specifies otherwise. They are often found in brand or company names and in acronyms, and may be used for space-saving purposes in titles, subject lines, images, figures, and tables.