60

As a programmer, I have no problem with seeing or using "and/or" in technical documentation. For example,

I can upvote an answer that satisfies me and/or mark it as accepted.

That's perfectly good English to me. However, if I were writing a novel, or even just an essay, or — heaven forbid — a poem, "and/or" would seem extremely out of place.

My question is, what should I be using instead? (I solemnly swear I will not use that knowledge to actually write a poem.)

  • 4
    If only there was a way to submit a feature request for the language, this would be a good suggestion. The word 'aor' isn't in use yet, that would make a good substitute. – JohnFx Aug 22 '10 at 16:04
  • 26
    @JohnFx: In boolean logic, 'or' means 'and/or'. We really want to be saing 'XOR' most of the time! :) – Noldorin Aug 22 '10 at 17:42
  • 2
    @Shinto: I disagree: John and Mark are over 6 feet tall. No 'or' meaning there. Often we do mean XOR by 'or': Either John or Mark is at Harvard this fall. (I'm not sure which one, but it's not both.) – moioci Aug 24 '10 at 2:58
  • 1
    @moioci: that is completely beside the point. The point is that and/or can be replaced with "and" or "or". – delete Aug 24 '10 at 13:23
  • 6
    @Shinto Sherlock: and/or cannot be replaced by and. It can only be replaced by "or" and then you are counting on the reader to infer the inclusive sense. Sometimes it's better to be clear. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 27 '10 at 14:09

10 Answers 10

42

Here are a few alternatives to the example you provided that avoid the stroke (forward slash). Pick whichever one you like!

  1. I can upvote an answer that satisfies me, mark it as accepted, or do both.
  2. I can do either or both of up-voting and marking as accepted the answer that satisfies me.
  3. I can do either or both of up-voting the answer that satisfies me and marking it as accepted.

They are all grammatically correct, though perhaps 2. and 3. are a bit more convoluted, for the sake of logical clarity.

  • 9
    I believe that “or both” at the end of the sentence is the most practical of the three, so I vote for the first too. – ΤΖΩΤΖΙΟΥ Aug 22 '10 at 22:38
  • 2
    Yeah, I agree. 1. is definitely the most practical, 2. and 3. (while perfectly correct) are a bit artificial. – Noldorin Aug 23 '10 at 12:14
  • 5
    2 and 3 are perfectly acceptable if you write specs for w3.org – Pacerier Jun 17 '11 at 20:39
  • Here are some words that rhyme with both for when @RegDwightѬſ道 writes that poem. – Pureferret Jan 11 '12 at 16:50
  • @Pacerier: Hah, well precisely! – Noldorin Jan 11 '12 at 23:46
8

"And/or" is actually a fairly stupid expression, since the English words "and" or "or" aren't as exact or exclusive as this expression seems to imply. For example,

I like coconuts and steaks

doesn't necessarily mean "I like coconuts and steaks at the same time".

Here,

I can upvote an answer that satisfies me and/or mark it as accepted.

could just as well be

I can upvote an answer that satisfies me or mark it as accepted.

In the context of a normal piece of writing, there are very few people, except argumentative weirdos, who will take that to mean that you can't do both of those things.

If you desperately need to emphasize that both things are possible then Noldorin has answered that in detail.

  • 12
    and/or is an important expression because many times the word or implies "exclusive or". "Would you like coffee or tea?" "You may go left or right." If the writer needs to succinctly ensure that an inclusive meaning is read the phrase and/or conveys that. "You will be fined and/or jailed." In technical contexts (like laws or contracts) it is a perfectly good way of writing that meaning. In an essay or novel it is not really an appropriate style. As for your argumentative weirdos comment, I disagree that it's impossible for someone to misunderstand "I can upvote or mark as accepted". – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 27 '10 at 14:08
  • I laid those words as a careful trap for you, Mr. Shiny and New. – delete Aug 27 '10 at 15:01
  • 3
    @Shinto: The fact that people can be confused by inclusive and exclusive or makes your statement that "upvote or accept" is exactly as good as "upvote and/or accept" wrong. Language Log had a blog post about this a while back: languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=46. Lots of readers wrote in to explain that "or" is always EXCLUSIVE but they were clearly wrong. However, as a writer, if you want to ensure that your readers get your point, you can use and/or. It's not desperate. It's not stupid. And I agree that humans don't say it out loud very often. But it's still valid. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 27 '10 at 19:54
8

I don't think and/or is stupid. The reason is that there are two types of "or"s.

  • Inclusive Or: Please give me a taco and/or a burrito (I'm saying I will accept a taco, a burrito, or both.)

  • Exclusive Or: Please give me either a taco or a burrito. (I will accept a taco or a burrito but not both.)

The problem is using plain-old "or" isn't very explicit about which is meant.

  • Or: Please give me a taco or a burrito. (I will accept a taco or a burrito but maybe? not both...)

Many people need to be explicit that inclusive or is meant and not exclusive or. In my last sentence, which or is meant is ambiguous. Am I expecting to get exactly one thing? Or would both be acceptable?

But yes to answer your question we can try to phrase the inclusive or without use of and/or:

  • Please give me either a taco or a burrito or both (Hmm kind of clunky... I'm going to stick with using and/or.)

Conclusion: and/or has naturally evolved to fill an unfilled niche in English...the explicit inclusive or. Why fight progress?

  • 6
    If I ever meet you, Doug T., I'll pay you a substantial sum of money to hear you go into a Mexican restaurant and say "Please give me a taco and/or a burrito". – delete Aug 27 '10 at 16:58
  • @delete You can be at someone's house serving Mexican food or gringo food. So, it makes sense in fact. – Lambie Jun 25 '18 at 14:41
2

Linguistically this is called the "inclusive or." A single-word version of it--"vel"--exists in Latin. In certain, admittedly limited contexts, it might be conceivable to use the Latin conjunction within English writing (designated by italics).

Of course, in math and formal logic, you can and must use "or" for "and/or." But the question remains of how to do it in normal speech.

I think the word "also" (with or without "could") adumbrates much of the same semantic ground as "and/or." Not that the expressions are interchangeable, of course.

I agree we seem to lack a good conjunction for this in English--which is odd, because the "neither/nor" side is so rich.

1

A word to use in place of and/or is simply "andor". See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/andor

I see nothing wrong with using andor. Technical writing often calls for it, and saves from writing longer andor more confusing sentences.

Using andor in that last sentence basically said: "saves from writing longer or saves from writing more confusing sentences"(because it could be short, but more confusing; or long, but not more confusing), or "saves from writing longer and more confusing sentences"(both longer and confusing).

0

Here are a few additional alternatives:

  • You may upvote satisfactory answers, and you can also mark them as accepted.
  • The non-exclusive options are to upvote a satisfactory answer, and to mark it as accepted.
  • On finding a satisfactory answer, you should seperately consider upvoting it, and marking it as accepted.
0

I’d suggest:

I can upvote an answer that satisfies me, as well as mark it as accepted.

0

and/or is not a literary or poetic collocation.

I have never ever seen and/or in a novel or poem.

Of course, there are exceptions surely. But in general and/or is a logical operator and not used in literary or poetic discourse.

So, the question as posed does not make sense in a literary or poetic environment.

logical operators

0

And/or:

Example: “I’d like a coffee and/or a coke.”

Alternatives (based on rewording):

I’d like a coffee or a coke or both.

If not a coffee or coke I’d like both.

I’d like a coffee, coke or either.

I’d like a coke together with a coffee or just one of the two.

Alternatives (based on synonyms or antonyms):

(Not for starbucks) Therewith a coke or coffee, both.

I’ll take no more than a coffee and a coke (Usable with nearly no waitress or waiter anywhere, ever, without several questions being asked as a result; therein forcing the and/or problem).

Between coffee and coke, I’d also take either.

If not a coffee and coke then either.

(Maybe mathematician) I’d like a coffee and coke, bisect otherwise.

I’d like a coffee or coke or to combine/join/ them.

I’d like a coffee, coke, or their combo.

Several more examples no doubt abound, you just have to think about verbs, conditionals, adverbs, a thesaurus (for every such instance) a dictionary for usage (setting mostly) and Google (usually Stackexchange). “Combo” is great in this particular setting, for example, but would have to carry the unwanted connotations of the setting if retooled for some other register should it be imposed for example on most any other conjunctive phrasing.

Once you get into the rhetoric of the language (idioms, phrases, etc), for example variations of phrases like to cleave twain, you’ll see how much the language has to offer and all of the implicit propositions that the and/or phrase ignores. At the same time, you’ll no doubt have renewed appreciation for the allegedly problematic and/or.

Special-usage dictionaries and bilingual dictionaries (online) as well as various such language forums may be a last-ditch effort, but look at it like this: Most of the answers have taken no more than 30 minutes. The quality of them has depended not on cognitive qualities (“intelligence”, attention, memory, etc.) nearly as much as on experience. Still, that’s just thirty minutes. If you dedicated a day to the question and about 50 very good references, I guarantee you you’d really surprise yourself. English is the richest of languages, by far, and if another language has it, it’d just be by coincidence. For example Polish might because it’s so rich in cases, Latin and Greek as well, as mentioned in part above. The main tool will be your own resolve.

  • Hello, Private Name. This seems to depart into the non-idiomatic on occasion. // Several examples don't 'abound'. // Can't a 'combo' be a mixture? – Edwin Ashworth Jun 25 '18 at 14:17
  • Sorry, I don’t follow, @Edwin Ashworth. Why do you say that several examples (of alternatives) don’t abound? I found mine in just twenty minutes without any references (on my phone). My guess is that you meant that “one or possibly two-worded,” exact synonyms don’t abound, which doesn’t address what I actually said. Maybe the verb abound is what you criticize? My second question for you is departing from idioms. The question looks only for answers to a pair of conjunctions used literally. Maybe you meant “departs from literal variations or rewording”? Not sure why you say such either. – Private Name Jun 25 '18 at 14:35
  • 'Several parrots' means 3-8 say. 'Starlings abound on the Somerset coast' means thousands. // Someone saying "I’d like a coffee, coke, or their combo", "If not a coffee or coke I’d like both", "I’d like a coffee, coke or either" or "I’d like a coke together with a coffee or just one of the two" ... in a cafe would get a lot of strange looks. It's not just your flagged example that's unidiomatic. You probably need to choose a more appropriate example, one where the register works. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 26 '18 at 11:32
  • Edwin, I think you might want to look into abound the verb. It does not mean thousands. It means a lot. I’m not sure where you’re referencing your words, but standard English is where you’d want to start. Also, I already explained in my response that of course they are just alternatives, as was requested, rather than encompassing what could have been assumed, style, convention, one-word synonyms, etc. Finally, I don’t understand what you mean by unidiomatic. My examples are not meant to be literal or idiomatic, they are meant only to satisfy what the person asked for: alternatives to and/or. – Private Name Jul 2 '18 at 9:34
  • 'Several' and 'a lot' are where you should start in your own exploration of standard English. Let me know when you find an authority saying they're synonymous. 'Several more examples abound' is unacceptable. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 2 '18 at 10:13
-1

Another solution:

salt and (or) pepper

protected by NVZ Jan 4 '18 at 14:10

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.