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I've seen both B/W and B&W used to describe black and white. Is one accepted over the other? If regional, then what would I use in AmE?

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I'd say they're both perfectly acceptable in AmE. – Peter Shor May 6 '11 at 15:27
Such abbreviations are frequently used in 'product descriptions'. Such as A/C for air-conditioning, H/C for hot-and-cold, etc. These were (and still are) very often hand-written, where people avoid the ampersand because it's awkward and may easily be mis-read. I think the ampersand is a Johnny-come-lately that's gaining currency because computers tend to be a bit unpredictable about how they handle the slash character (as RegDwight points out). – FumbleFingers May 6 '11 at 15:44
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I think it would be slightly odd if there were an 'industry standard' for this one. Even odder if the general speaking / writing public both knew of that standard and actually used it.

As noted in a comment against OP, you can't check this one with Ngrams because that doesn't support the slash character in search terms.

But you can Google for

"b/w" movies which reports 6,650,000 hits, and

"b&w" movies which reports 4,570,000.

If I add the word american I get 2,960,000 as against 2,310,000. That's much the same ratio, which may imply there're no particular tendency for Americans to favour one term over the other.

I can't restrict Google to US sites only, but I can restrict it to UK only. That gives twice as many hits for b/w, which may suggest that we Brits prefer the slash form. I know I do.

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I guess in different regions/dialects people use either the phrase "Black and White" or "Black or White". So possibly, as derivative of each of these, we have B&W and B/W.

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I don't think anybody ever says Black or White when talking about a monochrome tv. – FumbleFingers May 6 '11 at 15:45
@FumbleFingers I don't see anything about TV in the question or the answer ... – Matthew Read May 6 '11 at 16:05
@Matthew Read: I hope I'm always ready to be educated. It needn't be a tv. Do you know of any dialect where people say Black or White in a context where the rest of us say Black and White? As at the time of writing, I certainly don't. – FumbleFingers May 6 '11 at 16:21
I think some would contrast black or white with shades of gray, but I was referring to the abbreviation of black and white as opposed to color – snumpy May 6 '11 at 18:41
@snumpy: As I understood from the question, since so far as I know B/W and B&W are only ever used in the sense of 'monochrome' (i.e. - not colour). I was simply making the point that B/W can't be interpreted as shorthand for Black OR White in any context I know of. – FumbleFingers May 6 '11 at 22:50

They are both valid, since they are abbreviations and no industry standard has been established for cinematography, photography, print media, or other visual medium industry.

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By "industry" are you referring to televisions, video, etc? – MrHen May 6 '11 at 19:35
Ah, thank you. I had the photography industry in mind, when writing, but you make a good point, sir. – Mike Christian May 6 '11 at 19:48
True, they are both valid. But that would be the case whether or not one of them happened to be an 'industry standard'. In the music performing / recording industry, the standard term for all circular connectors (like the one that goes from your iPod to your earphones) is a jack. But outside the industry it's normally called a plug. – FumbleFingers May 6 '11 at 23:24
I always called them jacks. :/ So, you're suggesting that standards are not always followed. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are an example of a standard that are religiously followed by all financial professionals. We're talking about everyday Joes, so it really could go either way. – Mike Christian May 9 '11 at 23:28

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